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Survey: Children’s Environmental Health

Great Lakes PEHSU.png

I am very pleased to announce that I will be serving my MPH internship at my first choice institution: The Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health (PEHSU) at UIC’s School of Public Health. The Center is our region’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, supported by the EPA and the ATSDR. I will be conducting an educational outreach on children’s environmental health.

In advance of this work, I am piloting a survey about people’s perceptions of their children’s environmental health in their specific neighborhoods. I would be very grateful if people would give this survey a try. I am new both to Survey Monkey and to the discipline of Public Health; please save your energies for a more complete measure someday in the future!🙂

Feel free, even if you do not have children but have an opinion about environmental health in your area, to answer on behalf of the children in your life, or in your neighborhood.

Thank you!

Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2NJVNQM 

Top Ten Ways to Avoid Childhood Cancer, Autism, ADHD, and Lower IQs from Environmental Chemicals

Top Ten Easy Ways to Avoid Childhood Cancer, Autism, ADHD, and Lower IQs from Environmental Chemicals


  1. Remove shoes before entering the home, and if exposed to chemicals at work, wash work clothes separately from family laundry.
  2. Filter home tap water and carry and store in stainless steel, glass, or BPA- and phthalate-free containers. Microwave food and beverages only in ceramic or glass.
  3. Reduce exposure to pesticides by choosing organic foods or washing thoroughly. Choose free-range meat raised without medications and avoid eating process, charred, or well-done meat.
  4. Make informed choices about purchases by consulting the Household Products Database (USDHHS 2016).
  5. Choose non-toxic and environmentally safe chemicals, eliminate landscape pesticide and fertilizer use, and dispose of toxic chemicals safely.
  6. Cut down on fossil-fuels consumption by turning off lights, driving a fuel-efficient car, and walking and biking when possible.
  7. Avoid second-hand tobacco smoke.
  8. Limit electromagnetic energy when using cell phones, check radon levels, and weigh risks of medical radiation against diagnostic benefits.
  9. Wear protective covering and sunscreen to limit ultraviolet radiation.
  10. “Each person can become an active voice in his or her community. To a greater extent than many realize, individuals have the power to affect public policy by letting policymakers know that they strongly support environmental cancer research and measures that will reduce or remove from the environment toxics that are known or suspected carcinogens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Individuals also can influence industry by selecting non-toxic products and where these do not exist, communicating with manufacturers and trade organizations about their desire for safer products” (PCP 2010, p. xx).

These tips are adapted from the President’s Cancer Panel‘s recommendations for what individuals can do to reduce their cancer risk from environmental causes. That’s President Bush, BTW, just so you know.


President’s Cancer Panel (PCP). (2010). Reducing environmental cancer risk: What we can do now. Retrieved from http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf

Petition: No Toxic Pesticides on School Grounds

Please take a moment to sign. If you regularly read this blog, you know that pesticides are linked not only to childhood cancer but to autism, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, auto-immune disease, and more.


“Nearly every American would agree that we should do everything possible to keep our children healthy and safe. Ironically, our children’s schoolyards and athletic playing fields are typically covered in poisons – a toxic mixture of pesticides used to kill fungus, weeds, and insects. There are currently no federal laws to prohibit pesticides used to improve the cosmetic appearance of lawns on school grounds.

“Of the 36 most common pesticides used in lawn care, 14 are probable carcinogens, 15 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 24 with neurotoxicity, 22 with liver or kidney damage, and 34 are irritants.

Children are especially sensitive to the harmful effects of pesticides. Children between the ages of 6-11 show higher levels of pesticides in their blood than people of any other age category. Unfortunately, their developing organ systems make them less able to detoxify chemicals than adults. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that exposure to home and garden pesticides increases the risk of childhood leukemia by 7 times. Even low levels of exposure to lawn pesticides are linked to nervous and endocrine system disruption, immune suppression, and asthma.

To read the full petition and put your name to it, please visit http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/626/012/933/?taf_id=29541445&cid=fb_na

OK, Now for the Good News:

I have made some connections with the EPA, Dr. Maryann Suero for one,  and got first word of this good news on triclosan Friday.

FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps

Rule removes triclosan and triclocarban from over-the-counter antibacterial hand and body washes


FDA News Release:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a final rule establishing that over-the-counter (OTC) consumer antiseptic wash products containing certain active ingredients can no longer be marketed. Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products…”

More at http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm517478.htm

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Here is the pre-publication notice- the list of 19 (which includes triclosan and triclocarban) begins on page 15:



Poisoning Bees

Have you heard about the millions of bees killed when South Carolina sprayed for Zika virus? Rachel Carson described this kind of poisoning in her Silent Spring: first the insects, then the birds, then small mammals, then children fall dead and silent.

Zika is a terrible disease for pregnant women and their babies. But we will know those afflicted by it and can count them. We will not know which children and adults suffer from cancer, ADHD, autism, or auto-immune disease as a result of their exposures.

And though bees cannot be classed with children, they are essential to many food crops and are currently in trouble. Losing pollinators is not trivial:


A picture posted on Facebook of dead bees at Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply. CREDIT: FACEBOOK 

‘Like it’s been nuked’: Millions of bees dead after South Carolina sprays for Zika mosquitoes

 September 1

“On Sunday morning, the South Carolina honey bees began to die in massive numbers.

“Death came suddenly to Dorchester County, S.C. Stressed insects tried to flee their nests, only to surrender in little clumps at hive entrances. The dead worker bees littering the farms suggested that colony collapse disorder was not the culprit — in that odd phenomenon, workers vanish as though raptured, leaving a living queen and young bees behind.

“Instead, the dead heaps signaled the killer was less mysterious, but no less devastating. The pattern matched acute pesticide poisoning. By one estimate, at a single apiary — Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply, in Summerville — 46 hives died on the spot, totaling about 2.5 million bees.

“Walking through the farm, one Summerville woman wrote on Facebook, was “like visiting a cemetery, pure sadness.”

“A Clemson University scientist collected soil samples from Flowertown on Tuesday, according to WCBD-TV, to further investigate the cause of death. But to the bee farmers, the reason is already clear. Their bees had been poisoned by Dorchester’s own insecticide efforts, casualties in the war on disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“On Sunday morning, parts of Dorchester County were sprayed with Naled, a common insecticide that kills mosquitoes on contact. The United States began using Naled in 1959, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which notes that the chemical dissipates so quickly it is not a hazard to people. That said, human exposure to Naled during spraying “should not occur.”

“In parts of South Carolina, trucks trailing pesticide clouds are not an unusual sight, thanks to a mosquito-control program that also includes destroying larvae. Given the current concerns of West Nile virus and Zika — there are several dozen cases of travel-related Zika in South Carolina, though the state health department reports no one has yet acquired the disease from a local mosquito bite — Dorchester decided to try something different Sunday.

“It marked a departure from Dorchester County’s usual ground-based efforts. For the first time, an airplane dispensed Naled in a fine mist, raining insect death from above between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The county says it provided plenty of warning, spreading word about the pesticide plane via a newspaper announcement Friday and a Facebook post Saturday.

To read more, visit https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/09/01/like-its-been-nuked-millions-of-bees-dead-after-south-carolina-sprays-for-zika-mosquitoes/?postshare=8181472845214316&tid=ss_mail 

Poisonings in the News: Nothing New at All

Have you heard about the family suing Terminix because they were permanently disabled by illegal exposure to methyl bromide? Not, mind you, that methyl bromide has been outlawed, because pesticides are presumed innocent even with irrefutable proof of human health harms. It’s just the way it was applied that was illegal. There is an irony in hearing that the settlement may amount to $87 million. Not that it’s not deserved. The two sons could have died, remaining in comas for weeks, and six months later, the father and sons still struggle to “eat, walk, and sit up on their own.”  They are trapped in a “neurological torture chamber.”

The story is similar to that of a Florida boy who was poisoned when his house was fumigated for termites. He has suffered a “catastrophic brain injury” that requires around-the-clock care.

So what is the irony in reading these tragic stories? Whereas they may seem like unfortunate, rare accidents, I and my family suffered many of the same symptoms from reckless use of pesticides, as do countless Americans every year, even if they are not able to so definitely identify the source of their illnesses. Katherine died as a result, and my son and I endure lasting health effects. Prosecution is appallingly rare compared to the damage caused. As Philip Landrigan has said, we are suffering a “silent pandemic” of neurological problems because of our widespread use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals (Grandjean & Landrigan 2006). A recent study linked mosquito spraying with a 25% increased rate of autism.

The first time I was poisoned, we were living in a basement apartment in a large complex while attending graduate school at the University of Michigan. It was only after the mandatory treatment for roaches that I realized my severe asthmatic symptoms and general malaise were a result of having wiped the toxic yellow fluid up off the counter, to avoid it getting in our food. Too late I obtained the MSDS for chlorpyrifos, an acutely toxic organophosphate that causes difficulty breathing and the neurological symptoms that are all too common with pesticide exposure. In addition, a single use conveys a doubled risk for childhood leukemia, even when the mother is exposed in the year BEFORE pregnancy, as I was (Ma et al. 2002; Eskenazi 2007; Engel et al. 2011). It took months for the symptoms to dissipate. I kept some of the clothing drenched in my closet for evidence — but to what end? Lawsuits like these are only very rarely successful. We would have been hard-pressed to prove that the application was done illegally; chlorpyrifos was approved for just such indoor use. We were never warned about the toxicity — and that would have been the only basis for a suit.

The second time I was poisoned unaware was when I was pregnant for the second time, with David. This time, it was city-wide mosquito spraying, and it was only long afterwards that we realized that my symptoms were likely tied to those exposures. We were never notified so that we could close the windows. Although we can never be sure, we think it very likely he suffered cognitive losses as a result. Research shows that children with the top quintile of organophosphates in their cord blood are 7 IQ points lower than those children in the bottom quintile, which is not zero (Bourchard et al. 2011; Rauh et al 2011). Not only that, but the pesticides I was exposed to would have continued to reach him through breast milk (Anderson & Wolff 2000). A mother’s exposure truly becomes her child’s, just when that child is most unprotected.

The third notable time we were poisoned, and I say notable because we doubtless experienced continual low-level poisoning from our city mosquito abatement program, was the Fall we pulled up carpets in our house, unknowingly exposing our children to the pesticide dust that must have accumulated there. Both three-year-old Katherine and baby David were acutely ill with organophosphate poisoning, misdiagnosed as asthma. They could scarcely breathe and had to get albuterol treatments and steroids just to get through it. Both had horrible dark circles under their eyes, and David had rampant canker sores, likely because of a depressed immune system. Katherine never recovered from her dark circles, she steadily paled and lost weight, and by Spring I was taking her to the doctor every couple of weeks for her constant low-grade fever, every night, 101 degrees. I was thought a hypochondriac, or guilty of Munchausen by proxy. Finally, after Katherine struggled just to play at the park, where huge purple bruises bloomed on her shins, I demanded a CBC to decide if it were leukemia or anemia. I hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t.

The fourth time we were poisoned — and not the last because pesticides are ubiquitous, unavoidable, no matter how hard we have tried — was the  terrible time we realized what had caused our many illnesses. We realized that Katherine would likely die as a result of her re-exposure. She had just successfully weathered her first bone marrow transplant, her last chance at survival. But I knew as I lay on the kitchen floor. As much as the neurotoxins coursing through my body, I was paralyzed by the knowledge that the mosquito spraying had caused her cancer and relapse and that this new exposure would likely depress her immune system enough to allow the cancer to come back. By then, I had done the research and figured my initial exposure had caused her leukemia. I could not believe it when Clarke Environmental (yes — horrible name) sent over the MSDS and we found that this, too, was chlorpyrifos.


Like the children affected in these recent exposures, I struggled to sleep or eat. Food wouldn’t stay down, and I lost all appetite. My hands shook, and I felt oddly weak. I woke at 5 every morning with my heart racing. While that certainly would have been consistent with the emotional stress, it is also a distinctive symptom of organophosphate poisoning. My heart skipped beats, as it had after my first poisoning. After that, I could always tell when I had been exposed. Worst of all, my children manifested with the asthmatic symptoms (a result of acetylcholinesterase reuptake inhibition) and dark circles under their eyes. They too were obviously suffering symptoms. I struggled to get people to take me seriously — all except Katherine’s oncologists, who were all too familiar with the literature linking childhood cancer with pesticides and other environmental chemicals. A lawsuit was ruled out because “there were not enough sick and dead children.”


There is absolutely no debate left: we are constantly poisoning our children, not just in these rare instances where a dramatic effect is definitely linked to a certain exposure. We are causing higher rates of childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, lowered IQs, endocrine disruption, birth defects, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease (PANNA 2013, Roberts & Carr 2012). When are we going to decide that the cost is too high, that companies making and using pesticides and other toxic chemicals should not be presumed innocent at the expense of the real innocents — our children.



Anderson HA, Wolff MS. Environmental contaminants in human milk. 2000. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol 10 Suppl 6:755-760.

Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, Vedar M, Calderon N, Trujillo C, Johnson C, Bradman A, Barr DB, Eskenazi B. 2011 Aug. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children. Environ Health Perspect 119(8): 1189-1195.

Engel SM, Wetmur J, Chen J, Zhu C, Barr DB, Canfield RL, et al. 2011.   Prenatal exposure to organophosphates, paraoxonase 1 and cognitive development in childhood. Environ Health Perspect 119:1182-1188.

Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman A, Harley K, Barr DB, Johnson C, et al. 2007.   Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment in young Mexican-American children. Environ Health Persp 115(5):792-8.

Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. 2006. Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals: A silent pandemic. Lancet 368:2167-2178.Landrigan PJ, Sonawane B, Mattison D, McCally M, Garg A. 2002. Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk and Their Impacts on Children’s Health: An Overview. Environ Health Perspect110(6):A313-A315.

Ma X, Buffler PA, Gunier RB, Dahl G, Smith MT, Reinier K, Reynolds P. 2002. Critical windows of exposure to household pesticides and risk of childhood leukemia. Environ Health Perspec110(9):955-960.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). 2013. A generation in jeopardy. PANNA. Retrieved from http://www.panna.org/resources/publication-report/report-generation-jeopardy

Rauh V, Arundjadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, et al. 2011. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196-1201.

Roberts JR, Carr CJ. 2012. Policy statement: Pesticide exposure in children. American Academy of Pediatrics 130(6):e1757-1763.





“This summer, the Aedes aegypti mosquito will begin its proliferation throughout much of the southern and eastern United States, and fears about the Zika virus, which the insects can carry and transmit, will no doubt reach a fever pitch. But a major outbreak of Zika is unlikely in the continental U.S. (though “local outbreaks” affecting a few dozen people are projected to occur), just as the country doesn’t see widespread outbreaks of dengue, also carried by Aedes aegypti, outside of a few individual cases. That’s due, in part, to a sturdy and aggressive program of mosquito control in the country. But as all eyes turn to mosquito prevention, new research released Saturday finds a connection between one common method of mosquito control—spraying insecticide from planes—and heightened incidence of autism in children born where it occurs.

“Outside of a posting on a government website, or perhaps notifications by mail, you might not know it, but in many places in the U.S. (including nearly every ZIP code in New York City) larvicides are sprayed from planes on neighborhoods to combat mosquitoes. When Steve Hicks, a physician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, looked at rates of autism diagnoses in eight ZIP codes where aerial spraying of pyrethroids, a common class of insecticides, happens in the summer months, and compared them with those in 16 surrounding ZIP codes where mosquito control is done primarily through pellets distributed on the ground, he and his team found a 25 percent higher rate of autism among the plane-sprayed group.

“Of the 19,000 kids living in the eight ZIP codes sprayed by planes, there were 159 cases of autism (0.84 percent). In the 16 control ZIP codes, 298 out of 44,000 children (0.67 percent) were diagnosed with autism. Overall, both rates are lower than the national average for autism, but Hicks says that could be due to the fact that his team relied on data from children who came through SUNY Upstate University Hospital, a regional medical center, potentially leaving out children who were diagnosed by their family doctors and never went to the regional center.

A Beechcraft airplane sprays an insecticide over Dallas to curb the spread of West Nile virus on August 20, 2012. LM OTERO/AP

A Beechcraft airplane sprays an insecticide over Dallas to curb the spread of West Nile virus on August 20, 2012. LM OTERO/AP

“The research stemmed from an earlier major study known as the CHARGE Study (Childhood Autism Risks From Genetics and the Environment), which found that if pregnant mothers in their third trimester were exposed to pyrethroids and two other common pesticides their children were much more likely to be diagnosed with autism.

“The ZIP codes in the latest study are all northeast of the city of Syracuse, New York, near an area called Cicero Swamp, where, as the name suggests, mosquitoes carrying viruses like West Nile or eastern equine encephalitis could easily proliferate.

“I want to be careful not to cause a scare that we should be abandoning these pesticide spraying practices,” Hicks says. “We know that autism has a genetic component. It’s not something that’s caused solely by environmental risk factors,” he explains. But twin studies “estimate that 50 percent of autism is genetic, and about 50 percent is things we’re exposed to in our environment. In a child who is genetically predisposed, there might be one environmental trigger that could push them over the edge into a diagnosis.”

“Hicks speculates that the aerial spraying of pyrethroids is not as localized or precise as other mosquito control methods. “If you think about the physical act of spreading pellets on the ground, you’re doing it in a controlled manner. You know exactly where they’re landing. From a plane, they have to travel hundreds of meters to the ground” and could be subject to drift in the air.

“The local department of health in the Syracuse area issues advisories about the spraying, but Hicks is concerned about how residents respond to those warnings, or if they even see them at all. “No one that I know of has ever surveyed people in the area to ask if they cover their garden, or their child’s play set, or if they do stay indoors” while spraying is underway, he says.

“But Hicks adds that further research is needed to know whether the increased rate of autism is due to the spraying itself or due to a presumably higher exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses. After all, experts are already warning that Zika may cause an increased risk for mental health problems.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a big upswing in ADHD, autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia,” Ian Lipkin, the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, told The New York Times in February. That gives Hicks pause when looking at his findings. “We need to go and look if these children with autism have antibodies to these viruses in their blood,” which would indicate a latent exposure, he says.

To read more, visit http://www.newsweek.com/autism-insecticide-mosquito-spraying-453645