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The Big Air 3: Allergies, Autism and Asthma

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

I should say read more about it. There are more and more reports and articles showing the link between air pollution and health conditions, diseases, and delays.

Here’s the latest in how air pollution and chemical exposures are linked to allergies, autism and asthma, three particularly vexing health problems that are fueled by air pollution and increasing rapidly in children.


Are your allergies bad this year? Turns out you are not alone. Many health experts are pointing to climate change making allergies worse for many people. A combination of a warm winter and an early spring, have brought out more pollens much earlier in the year.

According to Leonard Bielory, an allergy specialist with the Rutgers Center of Environmental Prediction, and an attending physician at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Allergy and Immunology,

 ”Pollen is an important trigger for both allergic reactions and asthma attacks. The longer and more intense exposure to pollen, especially when combined with pollutants, intensifies the severity of allergic reactions and asthmatic responses.” ~ The Star-Ledger

Please read the rest of this post at Moms Clean Air Force. 

Sunday Reading (antibiotics in eggs, BPA and obesity, fired for breastfeeding)

(First posted at Non-Toxic Kids)

I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend.  What are you reading?  In addition to the second Hunger Games book, borrowed from a student, these articles are what I am reading tonight.

New research strengthens the link between BPA, obesity, and Type 2 diabetics, according to this article at Huffington Post.“When you eat something with BPA, it’s like telling your organs that you are eating more than you are really eating,” says Angel Nadal, a BPA expert at the Miguel Hernandez University in Spain.

The result is a spike in insulin, which can lead to weight gain and diabetes, according to research published last week in PLoS ONE.
Noteworthy parts of the article point to how BPA is showing negative health outcomes even at low levels, much like lead. Indeed this article and research explains how this chemical is most concerning for pregnant women and developing fetuses.  The article says:

“The fetus is not only exposed to BPA but also to higher levels of insulin from the mother, making the environment for the fetus even more disruptive,” says Nadal. “This is a very delicate period.”

Predictably, the American Chemical Council continues its stance that the chemicals is harmless, despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary.  When will Americans say enough is enough and protect people from this hormone altering chemical for good?
And in the another reason to buy only locally, humanely raised and organic meats (or going vegetarian) file, is this article also at the Huffington Post.  It details the half measures of new FDA rules regarding antibiotics used in livestock, and the power of Big Ag.
While banning the practice of injecting eggs with antibiotics (did you know they that that??  I didn’t!), the FDA stopped short of meaningful regulations on the use of antibiotics in livestock farming.  According to the article:

“More than 70 percent of antibiotics go to livestock, not people, says the bill, and they are used on more than 83 percent of grower-finisher swine farms, cattle feedlots, and sheep farms and found in 48 percent of U.S. streams.”

I wrote here about the promise of regulations of a certain kind of antibiotics, but it looks like that has been watered down even more.  Big pharmaceutical companies deny any connection between the use of antibiotics in factory farming and the growth of antibiotic resistance in humans even while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hospital-associated infections, which are likely to be antibiotic resistant, cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.

This is a confusing topic but also illustrates the growing power of corporations over public health when the almighty dollar is involved.  When will people realize that our health is priceless, and that corporations, no matter how much we want them too, can’t regulate themselves?

And lastly, an article about the firing of Donnicia Venters because she discussed wanting to express milk at work so she could continue breast feeding her baby.  This article shares the stunning comment of the judge who decided there was no discrimination involved in this case because:

“The law does not punish lactation discrimination,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who is male, ruled in a three-page order. Dismissal because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition is illegal, Hughes noted, but “lactation is not pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.”

First of all, how is it possible that in 2012, the law does not punish lactation discrimination?  With doctors and medical professionals the world over showcasing the health benefits of breastfeeding, and the skyrocketing rates of obesity and other conditions breastfeeding is shown to decrease?  I know our society has come a long way, but this reminds me how much farther we have to go. When a women is not even protected in her job from firing based on her choice to continue breastfeeding her baby, we as a society should be ashamed.
Secondly, how is lacatation not a childbirth related medical condition?  I’d have to agree with Venter’s lawyer on this one:

“Under the law that prohibits discrimination on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition, lactation is a related medical condition to pregnancy and childbirth,” argued Timothy Bowne, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attorney. “There are no people that we know of who lactate who haven’t given birth recently.”

We need national legislation protecting all women from being fired for wanting to express breast milk at work, and clearly, a new definition of lacatation if that is what it will take.  That’s why I am supporting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act which will:

*Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.

*Protects breastfeeding mothers by ensuring that executive, administrative, and professional employees, including elementary and secondary school teachers (in addition to non-exempt employees covered by the previous amendment), have break time and a private place to pump in the workplace.

Join me and send a message to Congress with Momsrising. What’s your take on any of these stories?

New Mercury and Air Toxics Rule Released Today (breathe deep, American families)

(first posted at Non-Toxic Kids)

Can you hear it?  If you listen very, very closely, you might hear a huge sigh of relief from parents everywhere, across America.

Parents of children with asthma.  They will likely have to take fewer trips to the emergency room.

Pregnant mothers, trying to make the right choices to limit their exposures to harmful mercury and other toxins.

Parents of all children, everywhere, who think about the power plant in the next town, or the next state.  Parents worrying about the air where they work, or nearby where their children go to school, and the exposures their family faces everyday from just living.

Today was a monumental day in the fight for clean air. According to the EPA:

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.”

Can you hear the sigh of relief now? I know that I am deeply thankful that this long awaited rule will have such positive health outcomes for our nation’s children, for our economy, and for our collective future.  Tonight I am thankful for each and every person who worked on this issue:  President Obama, Lisa Jackson, the EPA, but also every member of the Moms Clean Air Force, and the deep and wide coalition of environmental, public healthbusiness, religious and medical groups who supported this important new rule.

Luckily, due to an early release day at school, I had the chance to watch the press conference live.  I learned that Lisa Jackson herself has two sons who struggle with asthma.  She shared how she spent a Christmas, 15 years ago, in the hospital with her son after an asthma attack.  There are real people behind these statistics whose lives are dramatically altered by preventable air pollution.

We know the devastating effects of these toxins on developing bodies, but let’s review it.  According to the Environmental Defense Fund:

“Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants, and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

Many of the other toxic pollutants also controlled by the new rules — such as chromium, arsenic, dioxin and acid gases — are known or probable carcinogens and can attack the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys.”

The Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is a giant leap toward protecting America’s families from pollution and toxins in our air. I couldn’t think of a better holiday present.  Tonight, I am thankful and hopeful.  What about you?