Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Best autism articles of 2012: Vaccines, environmental causes, social skills and play dates

January 6, 2013
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Activities for play dates include books, sports equipment and games. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Autism news in 2012 once again centered on the dramatic increase in autism rates. In March, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that one in 88 children has autism, up 78 percent from 2002.

Scientists increasingly learned through research that autism is largely caused by environmental and man-made factors, a departure from the view held years ago that autism’s causes were nearly all genetic.

Meanwhile, educational and therapeutic interventions continued to evolve, with a strong emphasis on play skills as a way to improve social and life skills for children on the spectrum.

Links and excerpts from 10 autism articles from 2012 are below.

Autism advocates, NIH, CDC testify to Congress about research, autism increase

Autism advocates and government officials testified in front of a congressional committee Thursday about the federal response to the dramatic increase in autism diagnoses in recent years.

One in every 88 babies born in the U.S. will develop autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control, a 23 percent increase since 2009 and a 78 percent increase since 2007. In the 1960s, autism was believed to affect one in 10,000 children in the U.S.

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee questioned representatives of the National Institutes of Health and CDC about research priorities and subsequent results. A second panel of autism advocates testified about concerns ranging from research to services for people with autism. See the video here.

Numerous congressmen on the committee harshly criticized the NIH and CDC for a lack of effective research results, while agency officials at times struggled to come up with answers. The safety of vaccines was discussed, an issue that NIH and CDC insists is not linked to the rise in autism. However, many parents still steadfastly believe vaccines are one of the causes of the disorder. Members of the House committee recounted instances in which parents told them of children developmentally regressing immediately after being subjected to vaccines.

To read excerpts from the articles on Examiner.com, click here.

Chemical safety reform expected to be on Congressional legislative to do list in 2011

January 1, 2011

America needs legislation to improve the safety of toxic chemicals, according to a coalition of advocates, scientists and health experts.

Chemicals and other environmental toxins have been implicated in diseases and disorders as varied as autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and asthma.

Two bills were introduced in Congress in 2010 to improve the safety of toxic chemicals and reform the 34-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The outdated law only authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to call for safety testing for chemicals that have already been shown to pose health risks.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act in the House and the Safe Chemicals Act in the Senate would not only empower EPA to take steps to minimize risks from chemicals proven to be dangerous, but would also require safety testing of all industrial chemicals, and require businesses to prove chemicals are safe before using them.  Currently, only 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals in existence have been tested for safety.

Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai Medical Center has said environmental causes are strongly associated with autism.

“Over the last decade, we’ve developed very good scientific information that links three or four classes of chemicals to brain injury in babies if the exposure occurs during pregnancy,” Landrigan told Examiner.com in 2010. “We’ve found that phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and certain pesticides are linked to loss of intelligence, attention deficit disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in children.”

Dr. Sarah Janssen, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Examiner.com in 2010 that chemicals play a role in autism. “There are concerns that many chemicals in the environment are linked to autism, in particular, heavy metals and pesticides,” Janssen said. “The passage of this (Toxic Chemicals Safety) act would make a major impact not just on autism but all neurodevelopmental disorders in children and adults.”

And at a press conference sponsored by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families last month, a panel of experts told reporters that toxic chemicals, already linked to autism, cancer and other health problems, have also been linked to an increase in reproductive health ailments such as infertility, early puberty, decreased sperm counts, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Tracey Woodruff, a scientist with the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco, told reporters that chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are pervasive in many plastic products, can interfere with reproductive health and normal hormone function.

When asked about the role of chemicals and other environmental toxicants in autism, Woodruff told Examiner.com that the developing brain is especially vulnerable to certain chemical substances.

“Chemical prenatal exposures can adversely affect the developing brain in some way whether affecting behavioral or cognitive function,” Woodruff said.

“Mercury is an identified neurodevelopmental toxicant, meaning that a number of studies show that exposures that occur prenatally can adversely impact neurodevelopment. Phthalates have been implicated in affecting brain development in terms of how the children behave when they’re older.”

To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.

 

Congress: CDC misled public about Washington, D.C. lead in water crisis, lead was toxic for some

June 3, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recklessly misled the public about the safety of lead levels in the water in Washington, D.C. between 2001 and 2004, according to a disturbing and damning congressional report released last month.

The Report, “A Public Health Tragedy: How Flawed CDC Data and Faulty Assumptions Endangered Children’s Health,” was conducted by the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology.

The congressional investigation found that a 2004 CDC report that was rushed to calm the fears of the public after the D.C. lead scare used flawed data to come to the inaccurate conclusion that lead levels in the water were safe. The discredited report, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), has since been widely quoted by media and government agencies across the nation to tell the public that drinking water containing high levels of lead is not a health hazard.

Environmental health problems often affect poor, minority residents disproportionately. In D.C., lead levels were worst in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, in Southeast and Northeast. See a Washington Post map of lead test results from 2003 to 2004.

More examples of how environmental problems affect disadvantaged people, and how fetuses, infants, and young children are affected most by toxicants is seen in CNN’s series “Toxic America” June 2 and 3 as Sanjay Gupta reports on environmental health hazards.

To see the rest of my article on examiner.com, click here.

I like Washington DC

December 4, 2008

With 2008 Presidential Hopeful Mitt Romney

With 2008 Presidential Hopeful Mitt Romney

I like Washington, DC.  You don’t hear that very much nowadays.  Presidential candidates, Senators and Congressmen constantly rip DC, and then try to get there or stay there.  People who call it DC tend to like it, because the locals call it DC, whereas people from who knows where call it Washington.  I saw a Bruce Springsteen concert once and he called Washington a “wicked place.”  And he was playing in Washington.  One thing I do agree about is that the number of lobbyists and lawyers upsets the balance of the city.  However, there are a lot of great things about DC.

 

DC has more museums than any other city, and most of them are free.  It’s nice to go to the zoo for free – that’s a big savings for a family.  It’s a great sports town with the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, Nationals, and DC United.  The Nationals have a new stadium and the arena where the Wizards and the Caps play is home to a lot of things to do.  There are several great universities – Georgetown, George Washington, American, and Howard, plus the University of Maryland just outside the city.    

There are a bunch of areas in the city that have great character and nightlife such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and Penn Quarter.  Next door there’s old town historic Alexandria, Virginia as well as upscale Bethesda, Maryland, with more restaurants per square mile than any city in the country.  If you’re into the performing arts, DC has the Kennedy Center and other world class venues.  DC also has an excellent subway system that is safe and efficient.  You don’t need a car to live here.   

You’d be hard pressed to find a large city with more trails than DC.  In the DC area, there are more than 800 miles of jogging and biking trails and 230,000 acres of parkland.  Because of Rock Creek Park, DC has more trees per square mile than just about any other city in the U.S.  DC is an hour and a half from beaches to the east and an hour and a half from mountains to the west.     

With DC Mayor Adrian Fenty

With DC Mayor Adrian Fenty

There’s more to DC than national politics.  There are 600,000 residents, most of whom have nothing to do with the national scene.  DC has a large international and multiracial population.  And they are taxed without representation in Congress.  So to show the two sides of DC, I put two pictures up here – one of me with a politician who bashes DC yet tried to get a job there – former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney – (a nice guy, though), and another of me with the current mayor of DC, Adrian Fenty.  Fenty is an avid triathlete who often bikes the trails of the city. 


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