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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.


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What emerging environmental hazard should be next on the policy agenda?

Posted by Molly Rauch, MPH on November 4, 2010

The field of environmental health is crowded with problems demanding our attention. It is impossible to devote clinical, research, and advocacy energies to all of them at once. Clinicians, public health professionals, and environmental scientists have to choose which health threats take priority. They have to focus on the signal above the noise.

This month our experts explain what environmental hazard takes priority for them, and why.

The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Responses: Arlene Blum, Theo Colborn, Devra Davis, Steven G. Gilbert, H. Patricia Hynes


Rebecca Jones said ..

I second the idea that we have to embrace the precautionary principle. What good is it to ban BPA in plastics if our electronics are shedding BFR's in the house dust our children crawl in? If we uphold the notion that we hold certain things to be priceless--clean air, clean water, safe food--then a cost can be levied on those who impede on their value.

December 30, 2011
L Knobeloch said ..

Potential environmental and public health risks associated with nanomaterials and cell phones are obvious issues that need to be addressed. Pesticides, radon, toxic metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury; unsafe prescription and OTC drugs; various forms of natural and man-made radiation; tobacco and alcohol abuse; contaminated drinking water and poor nutrition are ongoing concerns that need additional attention.

June 16, 2011
Ruth Lachman Sueker said ..

I live in Pennsylvania and we are currently very concerned about the environmental dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas that is already impacting citizens in our state. Please refer to the N.Y. Times recent investigative reporting on this urgent issue, and two websites of Pennsylvania citizens: and Any representatives of PSR who are interested in supporting our work my contact me at

March 16, 2011
Shiloh said ..

Echoing some already mntioned -Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). Pharmaceuticals in drinking water. Petroleum diesel emissions> GMO chemicals, such as Glyphosate.

March 10, 2011
Rosemary Kean said ..

Monsanto is permanently damaging our food supply by releasing gene modified seeds and herbicides into our environment, the effects of which are not understood.

February 25, 2011
Doni said ..

I think we have to be conscious of what we place on our bodies (our skin, the largest organ of the body may be very absorptive of some kinds of lipid molecules especially as we age and our skin is less moist)- the caution being petroleum distillates in products. Not only do we need to be conscious of the pesticides in our vegetables and fruit but we probably need to cook our own fresh (ideally organic) food, staying clear of even 'good' restaurants. After watching the horrible PETA videos, I foreswore all chicken and keep to a smaller fish/more vegan mediterranean type diet. Fresh wild salmon is also a good bet. Keeping one's body more alkaline seems to help rid at least some toxins that we ingest by air, water, food and skin products.

February 25, 2011 said ..

Meth lab clean up contractors in the U.S. estimated that as many as 2.5 million homes in the U.S. have been contaminated with methamphetamine and the chemicals used to make it. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of the toxins in these contaminated homes, but there is no shortage of adults who have experienced serious health problems as a result of their exposure - including death. Disclosure, testing, and clean up laws - in states where they've been implemented - have failed to protect innocent men, women, and children from meth lab toxins. Everyday, innocent people are getting sick or dying as a result of their exposure to these toxic chemicals, yet few studies have been done about the harm these chemicals are doing. Research is desperately needed! Dawn Turner

February 15, 2011
Greg Smith said ..

How about the cumulative risk and harm caused by motor vehicle emissions in the United States? 1000 tailpipe pollutants identified -- so far -- in the EPA's master list. Roughly 100 identified -- so far -- by the EPA as being or suspected of being toxic and/or carcinogenic. Many are endocrine disruptors. Some cross the placenta. Etc. Any examination of this issues would need to assess not only community exposure, but driver-passenger exposure as well. In-cab concentrations can be 10 times higher than ambient concentrations. Yet these impacts are almost never fuller or fairly assessed and disclosed in environmental impact statements or other studies upon which major public decisions are -- allegedly -- based.

January 8, 2011
Daniel Lee said ..

Antibiotic resistance genes (primarily generated as a result of discharges from agricultural processes) as environmental pollutants. "The presence of antibiotics, even at sub-inhibitory concentrations, can stimulate bacterial metabolism and thus contribute to the selection and maintenance of antibiotic resistance genes," posits researcher Amy Pruden. "Once they are present in rivers, antibiotic resistance genes are capable of being transferred among bacteria, including pathogens, through horizontal gene transfer." The WHO and CDC concur with her on the importance of this public health threat.

December 18, 2010
M. Kelly Sutton MD said ..

Fluoride needs a close look, b/c the products used are often industrial waste, not the fluoride source in studies. Secondly, GMOs. This is huge. Email for ongoing list of unintended consequences. It's rare to find a serious look at GMOs' impacts. Thanks for the work you do!

December 16, 2010
Therese Cushing said ..

We need to focus on the precautionary principle, or we'll forever be chasing the many new chemicals being allowed to market. We also need to refocus the public's anguish over cancer. Currently it is focused on the pink ribbon campaigns for an elusive "cure". People don't realize that cancer is environmentally caused. We need to refocus, on prevention.

November 7, 2010
Kathleen Smith said ..

WIth respect to some issues I think the best way to ban them is inform the public who will then vot eiwth their dollars. Very little headway was made on BPA and Trans Fats until the public stopped buying thing that contained them. I think that's the way to approach the unsavory chemicals in cosmetics/shampoos/etc. I suspect there's a way to impact PBDEs/flame retardents and PFOA/teflon products this way too, but it's only the very informed who tend to even consider these issues. EMFs are hard - they are such a big part of how our society is structured these days. I'm still struggling with what to do about this one, personally.

November 7, 2010
David Greene said ..

Radon Gas kills and estimated 21,000 a year from lung cancer and realted diseases. A Radon Belt follows thwe Ohio Shale accross the central U.S. New housing and construction should avoid the most contaminated areas and protect homes built in radon areas. Another isse is contamination to surface and under ground water supplies from landfills and brownfields. Ground water contamination and toxic flows should be monitored and all superfund sites closed. We are currently being exposed to over 3,000 chemicals that contribute to a variety of health and problems and death. Bisphenyl A and a variety of chemicals that mimic human estrogen are also destroying health. We must strictly regualte existing chemicals and eliminate toxic chemicals (non toxic alternatives exist) to eliminate the toxic overload in our environment.

November 5, 2010
Trudy Gleason said ..


November 5, 2010
CHA Brewer said ..

Both 1- Arsenic in chicken feed and 2- unidentified chemicals added to H2O in hydro fracturing for gas are toxins I want to know more about and BAN

November 4, 2010
Jay Albrecht said ..

The unregulated cancerous chemicals in shampoos, lotions and other "beauty" products

November 4, 2010

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