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childhood leukania and other diseases was significantly correlated with consumption of drinking water contaminated by toxic chaical dumping.? Here in California, the towns of McFarland, Fowler, Earlimart and Rosanond have also been identified as having unusually high rates of childhood cancer. It nay never be possible to identify the causes of these cancer clusters but environmental factors are suspect.
childhood asthma is also on the rise. According to a recent study, hospital admission rates for asthma among children doubled between 1973 and 1987.' The causos of this increase are not known, but environmental factors are among those that have been Laplicated. For example, several epidemiological studies show a correlation between indices of air pollution and asthma morbidity in children.'
II. Children's Exponure te Haneul pollutants
Although nore research and better health monitoring must be done in order to understand the relationship between the rise in disease incidence and environmental degradation, we do know that children are being exposed on a daily basis -- by drinking water,
? Marshall, B., Woburn Case May Spark Explosion of Lawsuits," Solence, 234:418 (1986).
3 Richards, w., X.D., Hospitalization of children with status Asthmaticus: A Review, Pediatrica, 84:111-118 (1989).
Los Angeles Air Pollution and Asthma In Mildren, Annal of Allergy, 17:348–354 (1981).
eating food, breathing air, and engaging in other normal human activities -- to a vast array of environmental pollutants, many of which are known to cause cancer and other serious diseases.
children consume a variety of foods contaminated with toxic pesticides, many of which can cause cancer, birth defects or genetic mutations. Pesticide residues have been detected by a 1988 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) survey in over a third of all grain and grain products, in 19% of milk, dairy, products and eggs, in over 48% of fish, seafood and meats, in over 45% of fruits, and in over 38% of vegetables. Moreover, as documented in NRDC'S 1989 report, Intolerable Risk, children are being exposed above safe levels to residues of a host of harmful pesticides, many of them cancer-causing or neurotoxic, in some of the foods they consume daily. A graphic example, according to a 1989 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff report, is the daily exposure of an estimated 27,000 to 82,000 infants and children to higher than sate lavels of the acutely toxic pesticide aldicarb just from consumption of potatoes.' since that time, EPA has received new data indicating that the amount of aldicarb in the food supply is higher than previously thought and hence children are at even greater risk.
Halt of all American families rely on groundwater as the source of drinking water, but in many states groundwater is
.6 FDA Pesticide Program, Residues in food -- 1988 (1989).
7 EPA, Issue Paper -- dietary Risks Associated with Aldicarb -Draft (January 12, 1989).
contaninated with harmful substances. Forty-six different pesticides have contaminated groundwater in 26 states as a result of routine agricultural use.' Ethylene dibromide (EDB), a pesticide banned in the United States due to its carcinogenicity
and reproductive toxicity, has been detected in about ten percent
of Florida's drinking water wells, and more than a thousand wells have been closed due to the contamination.' On Long Island almost 2,000 wells have been contaminated by the neurotoxic pesticide aldicarb. Groundwater is also being threatened with
contamination by a variety of other hazardous substances through
such activities as garbage and hazardous waste disposal and
leaking underground storage tanks.
As ambient pollution of the environment continues at an alarning rate, children are also continuously exposed to harmful pollutants in other media. In 1988, for example, American industries released 22 billion pounds of more than 300 different toxic substances to air, water and land." As documented in a recent NRDC study, billions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals are released each year into the air alone." The risks posed by
8 EPA, Pesticides in Ground Water Base -- 1988 Interin Report (1988).
9 EPA, Office of Pesticides and Toxic substances, Agricultural chemicals in Ground Wateri proposed pesticide strategy (December 1987).
10 Ibid. 11 EPA, The Toxice Release Inventory -- A National perspective (June 1989). .. 12 NRDC, A who's who of American Toxic Air Polluters (1989).
breathing this toxic air pollution are compounded in many areas of the country by unhealthful levels of ozone smog, to which over 100 million Americans are subjected.
Indoor air is also an important source of exposure to toxic air pollutants for children. As many as twenty to 150 hazardous chemicals can be found in typical American hones, often in much higher concentrations than those found in outside (ambient) air. We spend over ninety percent of our time inside, seventy percent in the home; some infants and young children may spend virtually all of their time indoors. EPA recently reported to Congress that indoor air pollution (excluding exposure to radon) may cause as many as 6,000 excess (lung) cancer deaths annually."
Many family homes and other buildings occupied by children are contaminated with toxic substances, particularly carcinogens. According to EPA, as many as one in five houses may have unsafe levels of radon, a naturally occurring cancer-causing gas. EPA estimates that exposure to radon alone could cause up to 20,000 excess lung cancers per year." In addition, up to 700,000 public and commercial buildings and 44,000 schools contain cancer-causing asbestos that may require removal."
Depletion of the earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer, caused by emissions to the air of chlorofluorocarbons and
13 EPA, Report to congress on Indoor Air (1989).
14 Ibid. 15 Ibid.
other ozone-doplating compounds, is proceeding at a rapid rate, according to BPA, between 163 million and 308 million excess cancers could occur in people alive today or born before the year 2075 in the United States alone 18 nothing is done to halt ozone depletion. About 3.5 to 6.5 million of these cases would be fatal. More UV radiation would also cause an estimated 19 to 29 million additional cases of cataracts in this population. There could also be sharp increases in the number and variety of serious immunological disorders. "
also CAURO an
III. Why children are at Greatest Risk
of all members of society, children are most at risk from the harmful effects of this ambient pollution. Children's greater exposure than adults to disease-causing toxic substances is vividly illustrated by statistics on their differential exposure to cancer-causing and neurotoxic pesticides studied by NRDC in Intolerable Risk." NRDC found that children (ages 1-5) received up to twelve times greater exposure than women (ages 2230) to certain pesticide residues found on fruits and vegetables, This is because children typically consume substantially more produce than their mothers proportional to their body weight -for certain fruit juices, as much as 18 times more. Intolerable
16 EPA, Costs and Benefits of phasing out Production of CFC's and Halone in the United States, Exhibit 5-1 and 5-1(b), pp. 5-8, 59 (Review Draft, Nov. 3, 1987). 17 NRDC, Intolerable Risk: Pesticides in our children's Feed (1989).