Susan Hedman, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 Office, presented the keynote address that celebrated the work of women in the environmental field, highlighted common environmental dangers that threaten women’s health, and discussed current EPA efforts to protect women and children from unnecessary chemical poisoning.
“A Child born today will be exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation,” said Hedman. Americans use more than five billion pounds of pesticides a year, according to Hedman and the EPA. Pesticides affect women’s endocrine system, pre-natal development and contaminate breast milk, all of which are major contributors to the increase of pesticide exposure in today’s children.
A study performed by the Environmental Working Group found 287 different chemicals in newborn children. These chemicals find their way into newborns through airborne toxins such as lead, chemicals from shampoos and lotions, and foods sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. The Symposium’s Environmental Health Panel focused on several of these dangers that are specific to women and children.
Hedman also focused on oil and mercury contamination in the Great Lakes. “Just one gallon of oil is enough to contaminate a family’s supply of water for a year,” said Hedman, and “concentrations of mercury in some Great Lakes fish are beginning to rise after years of steady decline.” Mercury is known to cause neurological deficits in human beings, and today one in ten babies are born with unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, according to Hedman.
Fighting these environmental threats is a constant battle for the EPA, but victories are often won. The Clean Air Act for example, “is one of the most successful environmental laws of all time,” said Hedman. The EPA is currently studying the environmental impact of fracking, and studying seven specific chemicals for risk assessment.
Check out the WMEAC Blog to learn more about many of these issues including the rise of mercury in the Great Lakes. WMEAC also offers a Green Housecleaning Guide to protect homes from toxic chemicals.