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Children's Diseases Linked to Chemicals on Rise, Professor Says

Chronic childhood diseases linked to exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment have been surging upward, costing the U.S. almost $55 billion a year.

That was the opening message 150 scientists and doctors heard Wednesday at a daylong symposium on children's environmental health at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Philip J. Landrigan, professor and chairman of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, outlined the challenges facing those working to combat the rise of birth defects, asthma, neuro-developmental disorders and other major diseases of children in the United States and other industrial nations.

"The environment is a powerful determinant of human health, and there's no group more vulnerable or susceptible to adverse influences in the environment than kids," Landrigan said, explaining that children experience greater exposure to chemicals pound-for-pound than adults.

He said there are 3,000 high-volume chemicals used today; for roughly half, there is no basic toxicity information publicly available.

For the past six to eight years, national surveys have found these chemicals present in our blood and urine, he said.