Children’s Environmental Health: A discussion of the latest science and evidence-based advocacy with Dr. Ruth Etzel

Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK)

About the call:

Children’s Environmental Health:

A discussion of the latest science and evidence-based advocacy with Dr. Ruth Etzel, recorded 3/12/14.

Over the past four decades, the prevalence of autism, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and birth defects have grown substantially among children around the world. Not coincidentally, more than 80,000 new chemicals have been developed and released into the global environment during this same period. Today the World Health Organization attributes 36% of all childhood deaths to environmental causes. Because children are exquisitely sensitive to their environment, exposure during their developmental “windows of susceptibility” can trigger cellular changes that lead to disease and disability across the life span. Join Dr. Ruth A. Etzel, co-editor of the Textbook of Children’s Environmental Health for an update on the mounting scientific evidence linking pediatric disease with environmental exposures.

This call is presented by ACAT’s Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-Alaska). Recorded March 12, 2014.


Ruth A. Etzel, M.D., Ph.D. 

Dr. Etzel is Professor of Epidemiology at the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  She is no stranger to Alaska.  She first came to Bethel in 1979 for a short-term stint as a medical student and later would return from the lower 48 to Bethel just for the month of January to cover Dr Ron Brennan’s pediatric practice while he prepared to run the Iditarod.  She adopted one of Dee Dee Jonrowe’s sled dogs and raised it in Atlanta, Georgia.  She moved to Anchorage in 2001 to take a position as Medical Director of Research at Southcentral Foundation, where she stayed until 2008.

When she left Alaska, she moved to Switzerland, where she was Senior Officer for Environmental Health Research at the World Health Organization from 2009 to 2012.

Dr Etzel received the national Children’s Environmental Health Champion Award from the U.S. EPA in 2007 for outstanding leadership in protecting children from environmental health risks.

The new book that she co-edited with Dr. Phil Landrigan is the Textbook of Children’s Environmental Health.

Learn about her work as the New Director of Integrative Health Sciences Core at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and the Children’s Research Institute


Textbook of Children’s Environmental Health, Oxford University Press, Edited by Philip J. Landrigan and Ruth A. Etzel

Testimony of Ruth A.Etzel, MD, PhD, FAAP on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, April 28, 2009

Ruth A. EtzelDevelopmental Milestones in Children’s Environmental HealthEnviron Health Perspect. 2010 October; 118(10): A420–A421. doi:  10.1289/ehp.1002957

Alaska Senate Bill 151: Toxic-Free Children’s Act

Senator Olson Introduces “Toxic-Free Children’s Act” to Protect Alaskans – Senate Bill 151 bans the sale of children’s products with certain toxic flame retardants

JUNEAU- Senator Donny Olson, D-Golovin, has introduced Senate Bill 151, the “Toxic-Free Children Act”.  SB151 bans the sale of children’s products containing toxic flame retardants known as “Tris.”

“Children are Alaska’s most precious resource. From the point of conception through the first years of development, they are especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure to toxic chemicals,” said Senator Olson.  “Alaskans know well the devastating impacts of fetal alcohol exposure and it is 100 percent preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy.  Protecting developing children from exposure to toxic chemicals is not as simple.” Read more.

ACAT News Release |  Track the Bill | SB 151 Text | Fact Sheet SB 151 Toxic Free Children’s Act

California law change sparks debate over use of flame retardants in furniture. Flame retardants are commonplace in most upholstered furniture to help prevent house fires. But studies have linked the chemicals to cancer and fertility problems, prompting California to change the state’s furniture flammability standards. PBS NewsHour  Watch at

“Flame retardants in building insulation: a case for re-evaluating building codes” was published in the prestigious British journal Building Research and Information.

A study with Heather Stapleton identifying the toxic flame retardants in most of the couches in America was published in Environmental Science & Technology

Novel and high volume use flame retardants in US couches reflective of the 2005 PentaBDE phase out. Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Dec 18;46(24):13432-9. doi: 10.1021/es303471d. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

A paper finding that 80% of baby products tested contained halogenated flame retardant chemicals was the top paper of 2011 in Environmental Science & Technology:

Identification of flame retardants in polyurethane foam collected from baby products. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Jun 15;45(12):5323-31. doi: 10.1021/es2007462. Epub 2011 May 18.

Related Actions:

Petition congress to fix the Chemical Safety Improvement Act

Related Events:

See ACAT’s Event Calendar.

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