The 2019 LamazeLive! conference is happening in Pittsburgh, PA on April 11th through 13th, 2019. At this event, perinatal professionals will be gathering in order to connect, learn and re-energize with our colleagues. Plenty of contact hour opportunities for certification renewal are available and an exhibit hall full of vendors with new and interesting products are waiting to be explored. The LamazeLIVE! format means that presentations are fast-paced, dynamic and jam-packed with information that is important to you and the families you work with. Early-bird registration ends March 8th, so don't delay in signing up so you can save on costs. Register today!
Virtual attendance is totally possible if traveling to Pittsburgh is not an option for you. Please consider signing up for the virtual portion of the event. LamazeLIVE! can come directly to you wherever you are. More info on attending virtually here.
Throughout the next weeks, Science & Sensibility will highlight some of the scheduled presenters and provide a sneak peek into their chosen topic. Today we meet Barbara Sattler, RN, MPH, DRPH, FAAN, a public health researcher, author and professor at the University of San Francisco who is an expert on environmental health and nursing. Dr, Sattler's presentation "Environmental Health Risks and Exposures: What You Need to Know will address the special vulnerabilities of the fetus, infants and children, as they gestate and grow. Educators can leave this session with current information and resources to share with parents in their childbirth classes, who often are concerned and have many questions around these topics. If you are interested in learning more prior to attending Dr. Sattler's session, please consider checking out this recommended website, Because Health.
Sharon Muza: Families often come to childbirth classes fearful of “eating the wrong thing” or doing something that has the potential to harm their baby in utero, or in the first days/weeks and months of their child’s life. Is this fear valid or has social media and the press created a paranoia that is more frightening than it ever has been before?
Barbara Sattler: The womb is everyone’s first environment and the sad news is that it is increasingly polluted. The fact is that many of the toxic chemicals that are in our air, water, food, and products are also found in umbilical cord blood. The definition of “toxic” is that it can potentially cause harm. In other words, it creates a “risk”. Are we exposed to more toxic chemicals these days than 50 years ago? Yes. Nevertheless, the last thing we want to do when we are working with pregnant women is to alarm them. Instead, we want to alert them and give them tools to make healthier choices, when choices are possible.
While a family may not be able to move from an area with unhealthy air, they may be able to decrease the number of indoor air pollutants in their homes through purchasing decisions. Similarly, if buying “organic foods” is out of economic reach, families can choose fruits and vegetables that are conventionally grown with less or no pesticides. But first, we need to help families assess their homes, outdoor spaces, and workplaces for the presence of potentially toxic exposures such lead, mercury (especially in fish consumption), volatile organic compounds, flame retardants, stain-resistant chemicals (often found in carpeting), pesticides, and other significant toxicants. There are a number of good assessment tools that families can use.
SM:: Is there a degree of privilege associated with being able to avoid known toxins that can harm a fetus or baby? Does money and access matter when it comes to trying to avoid toxic dangers during the childbearing year?
BS: There are so many ways in which limited resources can affect birth outcomes – inadequate diets, substandard housing (and associated environmental risks), living in closer proximity to hazardous land uses (incinerators, aerial pesticide spraying, freeways, frack sites), less access to prenatal care, and the increased likelihood of working with chemicals (factory work, janitorial services, housecleaning). So, this combination does place poor people, and often people of color, at a disadvantage from a number of perspectives. Addressing these challenges and the social injustice that is implied is the responsibility of a great many levels of government (local, state, federal) and a great many agencies. These are hurdles that more privileged families may not have to contend with. But when we look at national biomonitoring data and see how all of our bodies are awash in toxic chemicals, we also have to recognize that our national chemical policies are failing all of us and all of our children.
What would it mean to grant children in the US the “right to healthy environments”?
SM: In the United States, do you feel that governmental agencies are doing their job in educating and informing families of known risks and providing acceptable and safe alternatives to many products and foods?
BS: The quick and simple answer to this is absolutely no. If you consider how long it took our government to regulate tobacco and how much power the tobacco industry had over our lives and health, multiple that times tens of thousands of toxic chemicals that are being promoted and protected by industry and the government right now.
The chemical manufacturing industry has taken its cues from the tobacco industry’s playbook and they have been executing it well. When reputable scientists produce research about potentially toxic chemicals, the industry attacks the science and the scientist – planting seeds of doubt that prevent precautionary regulatory approaches to protect people and the environment from the toxic exposures. The revolving door of industry executives who wind up in high-level government jobs and then back to industry has created a process by which profits trump people’s health in the regulatory process.
It is not in the chemical industry’s interest to “educate and inform” us about the potential toxicity of their products nor, in most instance, are they required to do this. And our current government is failing terribly with its responsibility to protect us. Many non-profit organizations are filling this gap by providing educational materials but without regulatory reform, we will continue to have limited protection from toxic chemicals in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities.