Champions of Children’s Health

More than 700 attendees showed their support for children’s environmental health at The Mount Sinai Medical Center’s sixth annual Greening Our Children luncheon, held on Monday, May 20, at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich in Connecticut.

Proceeds from the event—which featured a guest appearance from actress and author Jessica Alba—will be used to support Mount Sinai’s Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) and the Laboratory for Molecular Environmental Chemistry at Mount Sinai. The CEHC and laboratory are led by Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, Dean for Global Health, the Ethel H. Wise Professor of Community Medicine, and Professor of Pediatrics; and Robert O. Wright, MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine, and Pediatrics, at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The CEHC, founded by Dr. Landrigan in 2007, conducts research to identify the environmental causes of childhood diseases. Studies under way include an autism and learning disabilities discovery and prevention project; research into how environmental and genetic factors lead to breast cancer; and how exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, perchlorate, and other endocrine-disrupting toxins affect children’s health.

At this year’s event, which drew a record number of attendees, Dr. Landrigan told the audience: “The next frontier for CEHC is analyzing samples to assess the timing of chemical exposure, as children’s health is not just affected by the dose of chemicals but by how long a child has been exposed to them.”

Dr. Landrigan presented Ms. Alba with the Champion for Children Award for co-founding The Honest Company, which sells cleaning supplies, along with bath and baby products that are free of toxic chemicals.

“I’m not sure if many of you know this about me, but I suffered from multiple health issues as a kid, including severe asthma, bouts of pneumonia, kidney surgery, appendicitis, and tonsillitis, and spent many nights in hospital rooms,” Ms. Alba said in her acceptance speech. “So I was determined to create the safest and healthiest environment for my little ones—and not just for my family but for everyone.”

She said she was moved to start The Honest Company when she broke out in welts after washing her daughter’s clothing in a popular laundry detergent. “I called my mom and said, ‘There’s no way this is safe for babies.’” Ms. Alba said she relied on Dr. Landrigan’s research in her efforts to create safe products.

A renowned leader in the field of environmental health, Dr. Landrigan has published more than 500 scientific papers. Over the years, his research has led to national and local legislation governing the removal of lead from paint and gasoline, and banning BPA from baby bottles and children’s cups. Dr. Landrigan’s textbook on children’s environmental health—the first on this subject—will be published in October.

The new Laboratory for Molecular Environmental Chemistry at Mount Sinai, headed by Dr. Wright, will enable the CEHC to conduct rapid analyses of toxic chemicals, something no institution other than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has the ability to do.

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