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Alison Rhodes, "The Safety Mom"

National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.
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Environmental Toxins

Fetuses, infants, and toddlers, as well as older children and teens are particularly susceptible to environmental insults due to their rapid rate of growth, development and reproduction of cells. This vulnerability makes children a specific focus of environmental health research on the effects of lead, chemical dump sites, pesticides, PCBs, benzene, environmental estrogens, and outdoor and indoor air contaminants. Scientists want to know which substances pose significant health risks, how to identify susceptible children, and how to intervene to prevent illness.

The following are some of the studies conducted or financed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, which focus on children:

Lead Poisoning
Lead (commonly found in old paint, household dust, soil, pipe solder and some ceramics) has long been known to cause severe health problems at high doses, including muscle and abdominal pain, mental impairment, paralysis, and even death. Recent studies supported by the NIEHS suggest that a young person's lead exposure is linked not only to lower IQs and lower high school graduation rates but to increased delinquency. Preliminary data from two other grantees' studies indicate that young girls exposed to lead store the metal in their bones. This lead can be released when they become pregnant years later, exposing their fetuses. Until recently, however, we have not appreciated the devastating effect of low exposures early in life.

Basic research financed by the NIEHS has shown the adverse effects of lead on children's IQ and physical development at levels previously considered safe. Based on these and other findings, public health officials declared lead the number one environmental hazard to American children and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the acceptable blood lead level.

Research by the NIEHS grantees has helped identify sources of lead in the environment, design public health prevention efforts, and develop treatment to remove lead from exposed children, a process called chelation.

To help improve treatments, the NIEHS supported the study of dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) as a chelating agent. Known generically as Succimer and the trade-name Chemet, DMSA binds with the lead, hastening its removal from the body and can be administered orally without hospitalization, an improvement over previous intravenous therapies.

Succimer is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat lead levels that exceed 45 micrograms per deciliter of blood. However, adverse effects of lead are evident at levels between 10 and 25 micrograms per deciliter, making treatment necessary for these lower concentrations.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen


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