As a parent, you want to do everything right and give your baby the best possible start in life. Fifty years ago, our parents had a good understanding of their responsibilities. They were our lifeline and provided us with food, clothing, shelter, education, and of course love. Like parents throughout history, they did whatever was in their power to keep us safe and protect us from harm.
But in today's society, what does it really mean, to "keep our children safe, protect them from harm"?
The responsibility of raising -- and protecting -- our children has become a lot more complicated. Even with our best efforts, it is no longer enough to provide the basics and lots of love if you want to raise a healthy child. The threats to our children are not always so obvious, but they are serious threats nonetheless.
In 1998, when my husband and I opened the gates to the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer, we witnessed on a daily basis the many challenges kids face trying to cope with their disease. But as the years went by, we also began to notice the number of children battling not only cancer but also other serious health issues. Many of these kids are suffering from multiple illnesses like asthma, severe allergies, obesity, and neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions like ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and autism spectrum disorders.
The children at the ranch were a small sample of what is happening throughout the country. As I have written many times, chronic childhood disease and developmental disorders are increasing at a disturbing rate. Pediatric cancers have steadily increased 1 percent annually over the last twenty years. The prevalence of childhood asthma has increased by 60 percent in a twenty-three year period and affects nearly 1 in 13 children. We're seeing epidemic levels of diabetes and obesity. Serious developmental disorders, like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is being diagnosed at an alarming rate of 1 in 150, and 1 in 6 children have a developmental and/or behavior disorder. One out of every eight babies is born premature, a rate that has increased 31 percent in only 12 years. Rheumatoid arthritis has become the third-most-common childhood disease among infants. And childhood allergies are skyrocketing. These diseases and disorders will continue to infect our children unless we confront their root cause.
More than 80 percent of major diseases, including childhood cancer, diabetes, and asthma, are caused by environmental toxins and more than a third of diseases diagnosed in children under the age of five are caused by environmental exposures, and therefore theoretically preventable. I have always found this fact to be particularly troubling.
If most childhood diseases are preventable...why are so many on the rise? The simple answer is because toxic chemicals are everywhere and not enough attention is being given to prevention.
As a society, the way we live has undergone radical changes over the past few decades, and so has the environment we live in. Harmful toxins have become more and more present in our homes, schools, even the playgrounds. These toxins encompass every aspect of our lives; the air we breathe, the water we drink, the clothes we wear, even the toys our children play with. We spray our homes and lawns with pesticides, eat fish contaminated with mercury, and drink milk laced with hormones. We sleep on mattresses treated with bioaccumulative flame-retardants and scrub our kitchens -- and our faces -- with irritating chemicals. We're inundating ourselves and our kids with toxic chemicals twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and most of the time we don't even know it!
While we are enjoying many conveniences, time saving products and services that make life easier than ever before, over the past thirty years these changes in our lifestyle, diet, and environment have taken a dramatic -- and tragic -- toll on our children's health.
Hardly a day passes where we are not confronted with another news report on a study that shows how environmental toxins can compromise the health, development and well being of our children. Scientists are beginning to recognize that many of the products that we have been using for decades and assumed safe for our children, are in fact not. But what these stories fail to offer is real solutions for reducing toxic exposures. And too often, they give us conflicting information. What's a parent to do?
I cannot begin to count how many times I heard a parent of a sick child tell me "if I only knew then, what I know now." Obviously, not enough parents are hearing the warnings about how environmental exposures compromise the health of their children.
It was my experiences with the sick children at the ranch and the birth of my own son, Wyatt that made me more determined than ever to help educate others about dangerous environmental exposures and the preventable diseases they cause.
In 2001, I founded the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center where our mission is to identify, control and ultimately prevent exposures to environmental factors that may cause adult, and especially pediatric cancer, as well as other health problems with our children. In addition, we strive to enhance health by educating our children, their parents and the public-at-large about the carcinogens and other environmental factors that occur all too commonly in our lives... and to serve as a voice that can realistically help shape policy decision and impact the environment and our well being.
It was with this mission in mind that I began writing the Green This! Series and have now finished Growing Up Green...so that busy parents can consider some of the important information often lost in a brief one day news story, ask questions, and make educated decisions about issues that may affect their children's well being.
Knowing that children are being raised in an increasingly toxic world, I wanted to provide parents with easy access to information that focuses on not only having a healthy child but also provides simple practical advice aimed at reducing toxic exposures so that your child can stay healthy.
We cannot control everything... but we can control many things in our own environment. Making wise decisions are crucial to protecting our children and keeping them safe. And when it comes to reducing toxic environmental exposures that harm our children, all of us have more power, more control then we might think.
In Growing Up Green!, I address specific issues concerning children in every age group -- from infants to adolescents and beyond with the objective of preventing rather that simply treating childhood illnesses. Knowing that children are being raised in an increasingly toxic world, the book focuses on not only having a healthy child but also provides information aimed at reducing toxic exposures so that your child can stay healthy.
100% of author's profits from this book benefit Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer.
For information about Growing Up Green! Baby And Child Care -- Volume Two in the best selling Green This! Series click here.