Toxins and Children

Monday, February 23, 2009

Many American children suffer from some sort of chronic illness, including cancer, asthma, birth defects, and neurological diseases, and over the past 25 years, the rates have been increasing. In their new book Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children journalists Philip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff reveal the frightening links between the rise in children’s chronic illnesses and industrial toxins.


Alice Shabecoff and Philip Shabecoff

Comments [50]

Alice Shabecoff

for Bob Gekle from NY, comment 37

Did you read the March 2, 2009 New York Times's front page article in the business section, "Patching a Wound," which discusses the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on what's taught at the Harvard Medical School?
We are glad your medical education is the exception to the rule, and request you post or email us the name of your school so that we can tell others about it.

Mar. 04 2009 12:17 PM
Alice Shabecoff

Sarah from CT, comment 21

If you asked us, 'what is the one thing parents can do to reduce their child's exposure,' we'd answer, don't bring most of those commercial products into your house. Contrary to asking you to spend more money, you can save lots by making your own cleaners out of baking soda or hydrogen peroxide. Just try the Web.

We are grandparents who spent five years each of our lives on this research, trying to help this current generation of children and the ones to come.

Mar. 02 2009 05:33 PM
Alice Shabecoff

for anonyme, comment 13

There is now a nonprofit organization dedicated to the precepts first promoted by Dr. Price. Are you familiar with this organization? If not, contact us at

Mar. 02 2009 05:17 PM
Alice Shabecoff

for Maggie P., comment 10,

In fact, we framed our book, Poisoned Profits, as a crime story, and conclude that our laws need to be changed. One immediate change that's needed: chemicals should be tested (by independent laboratories, not the manufacturer) before released into our lives.

Mar. 02 2009 05:15 PM
Jane Davidson, MS Biotechnology from Englewood, NJ

I have come to the same conclusions about the VOC's, petrochemical and coal tar derivatives and fragrances in laundry detergents, fabric softeners and household products. The outdoor air now is a putrid smog heavily saturated with everyone's dryer fumes. Indoor air everywhereis worse. When I come home, I have to put my clothes outside, as they smell like I washed them in the stuff. As a substitute teacher, I notice that the students, most wearing perfumed clothing, are more hyperactive than ever, can't focus and can't remain seated.
Why is there no awareness of the long term effects of these nonbiodegradable toxic chemicals? As tons of them are pumped into the atmosphere from millions of dryers 24-7, they accelerate global warming. They pollute the waters, and many have xenoestrogenic effects.
These products are deceptively marketed as ecofriendly because the packaging is smaller. Everybody talks about diet, but these chemicals are hardly mentioned and not recognized by most doctors as dangerous; yet it is known that these chemicals cross the blood brain barrier, destroy all organs and systems, cross the placenta barrier, absorb directly through the skin, and contribute to every chronic disease known to mankind.
Obviously, infants and children are at the greatest risk, but for some reason nobody I talk to is aware or sees the connection. Most people don't smell anything. So where are the profits? At St. Jude's Hospital, where the innocent kids are paying the price. As I see it, I am in total agreement with you that we are destroying our very existence with these chemicals, since we are destroying our future workforce. Social Security is going to be paying a lot of disability.
I am at a loss since most people including doctors and scientists say that I am crazy and refuse to recognize anything. I guess, since most of the media is funded by these horrible corporations of no conscience, we continue to be poisoned beyond our control.

Feb. 26 2009 07:51 PM
Alice Shabecoff

for Ellen from Brooklyn, comment 4

I overlooked the 2nd part of your question, which was a very on-the-mark question about the increase in chemicals over the past decades.
Hand in hand with the increase in various chronic illnesses among children, there's been an enormous increase in the number, quantity and variety of toxic chemicals.
In 1980, 200 million pounds of industrial chemicals were manufactured or imported into the U.S.; now it's 15 trillion pounds!!! In 1960, when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, r00 million pounds of pesticides were produced a year; today it's 4.5 billion pounds!! These chemicals are made of petroleum, by the way.
Please dip into Poisoned Profits for a discussion of the increase in variety and uses.

Feb. 25 2009 03:03 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

Dr Sears and Dr Bock are unreliable (in Dr Bock's case, extremely so).

Consulting a book like that as the sole source - or as a source at all! - for information and advice about vaccination science and medicine is an astonishing thing to have done.

Feb. 25 2009 01:00 AM
Alice Shabecoff

RZ from NYC, comment 11.

As we mentioned, the European Union is pioneering some good steps to minimize our exposure to toxic chemicals. If you google REACH, you'll find the program to test chemicals before they are released on the market.

We also found out that some of the Scandinavian countries have removed a number of the toxins still in wide use in the U.S. Do you want me to find a website where you might track down specifics?

Feb. 24 2009 06:09 PM
Alice Shabecoff

for Jennifer, comment 5.

Our book concludes with two appendices of very practical information for parents to minimize your child's exposure to toxins.

With regard to the question of vaccinations, we consulted a book Healing the New Childhood Epidemic, by Dr. Kenneth Bock (a pediatrician), published by Random House. He addresses ways to ensure vaccinations are safe.

Feb. 24 2009 06:06 PM
Alice Shabecoff

to Deborah from NYC, comment 19

With regard to vaccines, we drew on material from Healing the New Childhood Epidemics, by Kenneth Bock, publisher by Random House. We regret that autism-vaccinations became a focus of our interview with Leonard Lopate. This is just a small part of what our book covers; we hope you will read it because we think it will offer a pediatrician a lot to mull over.

Our research and writing was guided by a group of leading environmental health scientists. They are listed in the acknowledgments section of our book.

Feb. 24 2009 06:02 PM
Alice Shabecoff

for Holly from Kinnelon, NJ. comment 9.

We have found information stating that computers (as well as TV housing, and items made with PVC or polyfoam) are impregnated with a kind of flame retardant called "polybrominated", a petroleum-based chemical that detaches from a product as the product disintegrates over time. This chemical is said to disrupt the fetal hormone system.

Feb. 24 2009 05:50 PM
Alice Shabecoff

to Bob Gekle from NY, comment 37.
It is great to hear about the practices of the medical school you are attending that insulate students from those with non-self-interested intentions. Do you want to tell us its name so that we can pass it along to anyone who seeks such a good place to study?

Feb. 24 2009 05:40 PM
Alice Shabecoff

I promised to respond to anyone who posted a comment following our interview on the Leonard Lopate program this Monday at noon.
However, I'm having technical problems doing so.

I tried to respond to the first 3 commenters, using this form. My responses have not been added.

Please let me know how to proceed. You can phone me at 617-566-3966.


Feb. 24 2009 05:32 PM
Bob Gekle from NY

Currently, I am a medical student in the 4th year, about to graduate.

I would just like to add a different perspective about a claim that was made on yesterday's show.

I would just like to say that I disagree about the claim made yesterday to the extent that "medical school is controlled by the pharmaceutical companies, and everybody knows that".

At my school it is quite the contrary.

All of the lessons about medications do inform us about how potentially toxic and lethal they can be, and about what to consider when prescribing them.

Lectures are given by independent pharmacologists and physicians who are not allowed to take so much as a free pen from a sales rep, nor partake a study funded by a pharmaceutical company.

At my institution, it is considered sacrilige to call a drug by its brand name; generics only is the rule.

Furthermore, my school has banned pharmaceutical sales reps from setting foot in any of our affiliated hospitals. I hope that clears up some misconceptions.

Please do not speak about something which you are not an expert.

This is not to say that I disagree with your general message. In fact, I don't. Although the evidence for an association with vaccines and developmental disorders is not conclusive at this point. I think that there need to be more completely objective and unbiased studies evaluating the risks. However, at this point, the evidence seems to suggest that it is MUCH safer to have your child vaccinated than not.

Robert Gekle, MS-IV

Feb. 24 2009 11:51 AM

PL Hayes - we don't need annoying "certain uncertain" voices like yours for guidance either - you contribute nothing to this discussion! It is abundantly clear that children are suffering as are families and that vaccination schedules have accelerated so enjoy yourself in the ivory tower.

Feb. 24 2009 11:06 AM
Johnny S

This was one of the worst interviews I've ever heard you do and I'm a fan. These guests professed to know little about the studies they cited, you fed them softball questions and never challenged their faulty conclusions. I expect much more from you. Awful.

And the Ps popping! It was painful to listen on so many levels!

Feb. 24 2009 09:32 AM
Patricia Hume from Charlotte, NC

Thank you for mentioning "Trade Secrets". One needs to know that when researching chemicals in the home and workplace there are two government files. There is a public file and a confidential business file. Have fun getting NIOSH, OSHA or the CPSC to give you a peek at the later. That is where you will find the trade secrets or the poison profits.

Feb. 24 2009 08:49 AM
Skei Saulnier from Brooklyn NY

I'm the mother of a 16 month old and read Dr. Sear's Vaccine Book before deciding on what vaccine schedule to follow. Dr. Sear's recommends longer time between vaccines and notes that vaccines with aluminum should be spaced out a month apart. The amount of aluminum in some of these vaccines is alarming. I know that as a mother I am going to do what is best for my child which mainly includes educating myself to the best of my ability and finding a balance in everything I choose for her until she has the ability to choose for herself.

Check out this link where the CDC's Julie Gerberding talks about a link between a reaction to vaccines paired with a mitochondrial disorder can create a situation where the brain doesn't work normally..... seems like that would make it a link between vaccines and autism.....

Feb. 23 2009 10:28 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

Alice Shabecoff (#29), I commented in #1 and #2 and also in #14 and two paediatricians have commented here too. The evidence in science is never certain and listening again has only made your intermittent claims to certain or near certain knowledge appear even less reliable (and now quite ironic).

When speaking to a general audience it is inappropriate to emphasise uncertainty without quantifying it and contextualising it and when it comes to the almost certainly bogus vaccine/autism link, doing so is perverse and irresponsible. You compounded that error with a completely unfounded suggestion that an altered vaccine schedule would be better and with confused and misleading commentary and speculation on thiomersal and mercury and other vaccines.

Feb. 23 2009 07:02 PM
Alice Shabecoff

response to Amy, comment 4
We didn't come across any scientific studies looking at the effect of mercury, hormones or pesticides in the parents' diet on autism specifically. But science does know that these toxins harm the fetal brain and nervous system; that's why pregnant women are told to avoid mercury in fish. In our appendix, we recommend parents-to-be take special care about what they eat.

Feb. 23 2009 05:13 PM
Alice Shabecoff

In response to Betty Anne from UES, comment 3:
We have no information about thyroid increases. But we did find one of the nation's leading experts; you can tell him you got his name through us:
It is Dr. Tom Zoeller, at the University of MA:

Feb. 23 2009 05:03 PM
Alice Shabecoff

For PL Hayes, who wrote in comments 1 and 2.
Indeed, the statistic is one in three children suffer from the chronic disorders of neurodevelopmental problems (including autism and ADHD), birth defects, lead poisoning, cancer and asthma -- all the statistics we quote are based on federal govt files (and referenced in our footnotes). Not even mentioning obesity or diabetes.
Rather than seeing our conclusions as doom and gloom, see them as we do: now that science understands what is doing the damage, we can take steps to make changes. That's far better than panic were the cause and thereby solution still unknonw.
Please listen again to our comments about the link between autism and vaccinations. We clearly state the evidence is not certain; but we also point to other toxicants where a link has been demonstrated, such as mercury from coal-fired power plants and pesticides.

Feb. 23 2009 04:58 PM
MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick from Mount Vernon, NY

I had the chicken pox, the mumps, and the measles as a child......I am now 41 and have suffered no lasting ill-effects from any of these childhood diseases.

However, my son, who is eight, non-verbal, still in diapers....diagnosed at age two as autistic.....will most likely end up in a residential institution, dependent on medication for the rest of his life.

Which scenario is preferable?

I think the current vaccine schedule is just too aggressive, especially when combined with infant systems that have immature neurological and immune systems.

Vaccinate, yes, but use common sense and don't inject toxins into children without regard for the long-term effects on their neurological systems.

Feb. 23 2009 01:48 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I thought the reason children were vaccinated for rubella was that that's who pregnant women were most likely to catch it from. Even if the vaccine has now been given for so long that most women of childbearing age in this country are immune, women immigrating from some other countries may not be & may still need to have their exposure to rubella reduced by having all children, not just girls, immunized. (I don't know if there's any reason the vaccine can't be given to adults--if it can, that may make the question moot.)

It goes the other way w/whooping cough, which has been making a comeback lately. It's most dangerous to babies who haven't had the full series of vaccinations, but they catch it from adolescent or adult contacts, often before the symptoms show. The childhood vaccinations wear off, so adolescents & adults should make sure to get booster shots. The CDC has info on this at (Sorry if I'm repeating something mentioned on the segment--I may have missed it.)

Feb. 23 2009 01:36 PM
MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick from Mount Vernon, NY

Vaccines, per se, may not cause autism. What about the preservatives and additives, though?? What about the combination effect of injecting a child with six or seven vaccines at once when their system may not yet be mature enough to excrete these toxins?

Parents, like myself, who see an essentially normal, and typical child change, almost overnight, after receiving their one-year vaccines (as was our experience)and who then go through the nightmare of an autism diagnosis....know best.

Walk a mile in my shoes before you decide what is best for my children.

I certainly won't sacrifice another of mine on the altar of herd immunity in order to satisfy either Offit's or Big Pharma's profit motives.

Feb. 23 2009 01:23 PM

Amy the pediatrician you know it has gone so far that there are many who don't trust what the medical establishment tells them and whether or not you like it, you are not in charge of their choices - 'informed consent" is. The medical establishment has lost credibility largely because of its behavior. I am surrounded by physicians in my family but what I get at my hmo are generally robotic who have neither curiosity nor opinions about glaring things I present with. But they're quick with the script tablet! Did you know that a lung point is faster than a poisonous inhaler at relieving asthma symptoms for me? I don't even bother any more. I've found other ways to solve my problems. (Unless I break my leg or something) Mankind survived (poorly) for centuries without any help from what we call health care today! People have a right not to accept your word without question!

Feb. 23 2009 01:21 PM
Joanna from Manhattan

I feel that parents should have a final say on which vaccinations are given to their children. I have a 1 year old, and in NY State, I cannot send him to kindergarten or school without him having all required vaccines. I have selectively vaccinated my son thus far for diseases which he does have a chance of actually contracting and which would be detrimental to his health. However, I cannot believe that a vaccine for something like Chicken Pox which is by far not a life-threatening disease in the 21st century US, is required by NYC schools. This society is underestimating the value of one's own body experiencing a disease and therefore developing natural antibodies for it. I plan on testing my son's blood to see if perhaps Mumps and Measles antibodies transferred to him from me through breastfeeding. BTW - I had both as a child.

Feb. 23 2009 01:09 PM
Jessica from Manhattan

I am amazed that there are no regulations about the use of products with solvents in them, and in fact all of products that warn of potential harmful effects and to use in a well ventilated area (including latex house paint). The problem is that everyone nearby is subjected to those fumes. In the building where I work and the building where I live, I am assaulted at least a few times a month by others use of these products. My reaction to inhaling these toxins is an asthma attack at worst. I have tried to educate my supers in both buildings but they just don't get it. I wonder whether stricter regulation about use wouldn't be a more effective way to reduce the profitability and use of these toxic materials.

Feb. 23 2009 01:08 PM
Lori from Montclair, NJ

Thank you, Leonard, this is such an important issue. I always say that I do not understand a parent that is NOT also an environmentalist.

My nephew has a mild form of autism. I won't get into the thimerosol debate here but if it's strictly "genetic" then how come there is NO family history of autism (or undiagnosed conditions with similar symptoms)? Look at the levels of mercury in the air in New Jersey. How do people think that these issues have NO impact on our developing children?

Feb. 23 2009 01:07 PM
sarah from ct

I am really angry about some of what your guests said today. As the mother of an infant, I feel like your guests are coming up with more ways to make moms feel guilty about not doing enough to keep their children safe. And how do you explain to a mother who is struggling to keep her finances in order that she has to toss out all the stuff she's got and buy all new toys, clothes, furniture...? It's elitist.

Feb. 23 2009 01:07 PM
Amy from NYC from NYC

As a pediatrician I can tell you that vaccines catagorically DO NOT cause autistm. This has been proven in mulitple large scale studies published in peer reviewed journals. A recent vaccine court case came down decisively in favor of vaccine safety. The vaccine schedule (which involves giving multiple vaccines at many pediatric visits) was designed by scientists/physicians/epidemiologists to provide the best and safest coverage. "Spreading out" vaccines over a period of time would leave more babies susceptible to vaccine preventable infections, and in my experience, leads to more missed shots. I hate to see a reputable show like yours perpetrating myths about vaccines. Read Paul Offit's book, Autism's False Prophets, if you are intersted in all the details of the many studies that have proven vaccines' safety. P.S. Thimerisol (a mercury containing preservative) has been removed from all childhood vaccines since 2001. Autism rates have not decreased since then, since thimerisol was never a cause of autism. But for parents who are concerned about mercury all pediatric vaccines come in individual single dose vials and do not contain mercury.

Feb. 23 2009 01:06 PM
Deborah from NYC

I am a parent and a pediatrician. Some important notes: 1) There is no proof that vaccines cause autism. When looking at studies for or against an association its important to carefully examine the studies to determine their validity.
Childrens vaccines are now produced without mercury
2) Mumps is included in the MMR vaccine and is exclusively to protect men from the sequelae of mumps orchiditis- which is infertility.
What we are trying to establish is something call herd immunity which then lowers the risk for non immunized members of the population
3) We do see measles regualarly in NYC. In tne past few years we have also seen mumps and even polio in the USA. I would not want my children exposed to these diseases.

Did the authors consult with the medical and science community during their research?

Feb. 23 2009 01:03 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

Jennifer (#5), you would be welcome to register and post on the forums if you are really worried and looking for rational, honest and scientifically informed answers to your questions about vaccine safety.

Feb. 23 2009 01:02 PM

PL Hayes you really need to read Weston Price. you really do. Vaccines are not our only salvation. Even a modicum of doubt is enough for me to say no to something. Doctors I know say all day long they hear "please, no drugs" - there are otehr ways to look at this besides forcing chemicals on people that they don't want in their own bodies.

Feb. 23 2009 01:01 PM
MaryAnn McCarra-Fitzpatrick from Mount Vernon, NY

My son is eight, autistic, non-verbal, and still in diapers. He has to be on medication to control his rages and tantrums (and, yes, we have gone the alternative route with diet, supplements, and he has received intensive ABA, Speech, and Occupational therapy for the past six years.....without much, if any improvement).

He had twenty shots in his first year of life. I was born in 1967 and, by comparison, had about seven vaccines throughout the course of my life, to date.

The childhood vaccine schedule has increased 260% since 1983.

Why are doctors so concerned about lead when they expect parents to accept vaccines that contain formaldehyde, tin, and aluminium (since metals cause neurological damage)???

After the disaster with Vioxx Merck has been pushing to get Gardasil added to the list of recommended/required vaccines for girls.

I also find that Merck is no longer producing the single shot measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. This deprives parents of choice.

I am expecting a baby in eight weeks and there is no way I am going to allow him/her to have five or six shots at once.

We have been struggling with our son for the past six years....with little success. I am going to do everything within my power to make sure this child is not damaged.

When 1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism 1 in 150 families is being destroyed....parents, siblings, and so forth. Why do we allow Big Pharma to do this to us??

Feb. 23 2009 12:59 PM
pascale kerlegrand, MD from nj

boys and men need to vaccinated against rubella because if they contract the illness (which is a mild illness) they will be infectious to every pregnant women they come in contact with. This will have devastating consequences in the fetus.
I'm surprised the guests didn't immediately respond with this comment when asked why rubella vaccine is needed in men and boys.

Feb. 23 2009 12:56 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

“Spacing out vaccines would be better”

False. Dangerously, ignorantly false. There is no need to since there is no reason to believe that the triple vaccine is harmful in the first place, coverage would fall and exposure to the diseases would be for longer.

“Using no preservatives would be better”.

Why? Thimerosal, which is a harmless /compound/ of mercury, not mercury itself (are you afraid of being poisoned by the chlorine in your salt?) isn't even used anymore and when it was it *wasn't harmful*.

Yes, I am angry now.

Feb. 23 2009 12:54 PM
Jennifer from NYC

Thanks Leonard!

Feb. 23 2009 12:53 PM

PL Hayes - you sound pretty suspicious to me! So you live in a bubble? Read Michael Pollan. I am sure that between him and the two being interviewed there are enough journalistic credentials. Better yet, read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price - copyright 1939. His work goes beyond vaccinations to fake vitamins and white flour and it is all solid science, a lifetime's worth. We were inept a century ago and we are even more pathetic today (we can't even reproduce properly, compared so so called primitives relegated to the most inhospitable territories.)

Feb. 23 2009 12:50 PM
RZ from NYC

You guests mentioned that the European Union has a much better regulatory system compared to ours. Are there regulatory systems in other countries that we can look at for better ideas?

Feb. 23 2009 12:49 PM
Maggie P. from Manhattan

This is absolutely a huge problem - what will the future of humanity look like if we allow our ever expanding industry to poison our babies!? I was born in Poland with a mutation of my left hand (2 of my fingers are missing the others are disfigured). We were told that it was caused by pesticides that were regularly sprayed in the predominantly agricultural area where we lived. When we started asking more questions - like who is responsible for this and how they can be stopped, all doors were shut in our faces. Yes, a pregnant woman can take steps to protect herself, but often it is just out of her hands. How can this be stopped on a larger scale so that we don't end up with a population w/ special needs and handicaps!? This should be a CRIME!

Feb. 23 2009 12:48 PM
Holly from Kinnelon, NJ

Can your guests comment on the proliferation of increased use of computer/electronic equipment used in schools, ie: Smartboards, etc. Recent study from Univ. Of Birmingham, England states dangers of all the off gasing of these products used in schools. Please comment!

Feb. 23 2009 12:46 PM
william from Manhattan

My mother was diagnosed with a terminal and debilitating disease as a result of taking the flu shot. She is being compensated for her illness after it was proven many years later that it was a result of the flu-shot. It is still not public knowledge that the flu shot can be lethal.

Feb. 23 2009 12:41 PM
Jennifer from NYC

You can go to Giggle baby stores - they do all this research before they will sell a product

Feb. 23 2009 12:40 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

The Huffington Post is not a science journal. David Kirby (the author of that article) is a notorious anti-vaccine scaremongerer and even if what he claims is true - which is unlikely - science is not decided in law courts and vaccines - with thimerosal or not - do not cause autism. They are the /only/ substances we know which *don't*.


Feb. 23 2009 12:39 PM
Jennifer from NYC

Are we safe vaccinating our children or not?!? I have a 16 month old and I have been vaccinating him - but now I am very nervous about it. I keep hearing so much conflicting information. Can you ask if it is safe Leonard? Thanks

Feb. 23 2009 12:38 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

What about the diets of the parents and linkage between that and the recent increases in autism? The amounts of mercury and other toxins in fish as well as pesticides and other chemicals that are used to grow food, hormones in meat and eggs, chemicals in tap water, etc........

20 years ago, were there as many chemicals in our food supply?

Feb. 23 2009 12:38 PM
Betty Anne from UES

Can you ask the guests if they have seen a rise in thyroid conditions over the years?

Feb. 23 2009 12:35 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

Oh dear! The thimerosal canard. They don't seem to care about distinguishing between what's true and what's not, what could be harmful and what we know is almost certainly not. Very disappointing.

Feb. 23 2009 12:21 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

I thought the book's claim was 1 in 3 rather than 1 in 73. ( ) and the trouble with going so OTT like that (assuming that review - and others like it - is fair) is that it can inspire cynicism and apathy rather than fear and action so that any real problems exposed by the authors' investigations risk being ignored. (Although I admit it's probably not so great a risk given how easily scared most people seem to be by /any/ “chemicals”).

Feb. 23 2009 12:04 PM

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