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Issues Of The Environment: New Report Highlights Environmental Health Risks For Michigan Children

Jan 22, 2020

Michigan Environmental Council program director Tina Reynolds
Credit Michigan Environmental Council / environmentalcouncil.org

Pollution found in our air and water can lead to serious health issues.  A new report from the Children’s Environmental Health Network explored such risks, especially for children.  Michigan Environmental Council program director Tina Reynolds discusses the report with WEMU's David Fair in this week's "Issues of the Environment."


Overview

  • Cancer, autism, asthma and attention deficit disorder afflict Michigan children at a greater rate than the nationwide average, according to a recent report.  The new children’s environmental health profile provides a report card that details some of the possible connections to environmental problems. 
  • The reports emphasizes the importance of protecting children from environmental threats, she said.  Exposure to harmful agents from a young age can harm the health of children who “breathe, eat and drink more, in proportion to their body size, than do adults, and because their bodies and brains are still developing.”
  • Michigan, for example, 1.5 million children live in countries with unhealthy ozone pollution.  The EPA notes that children with asthma are more likely to suffer from flare-ups and need medical attention in areas where ozone pollution is common. 
  • Rates of ADHD and ADD in Michigan children were 10.2%, compared to the national average of 3.8% ADHD and ADD.  Exposure to lead and other chemical toxins has been shown to increase the prevalence of ADHD and ADD in children.  Michigan releases or disposes of a high portion of the overall amount of toxic chemicals in the United States.  (92.7 million of 3.9 billion pounds of toxic chemicals releases). 
  • The report puts much of the data related to environmental health and children's health into a metric by which states can be compared to one another and to the national average. It is useful for informing policy decisions regarding public health and environmental regulations at the state level. 
  • This report also highlights some of the crossovers between child poverty, poor environmental health, and higher rates of environmentally-related health issues in children.
  • High child poverty within Michigan is still a major concern.  Nearly 20% of Michigan’s 2.2 million children live in poverty, according to the network’s report. Poverty significantly harms the health of children and their families, the report says.  Children of color and young children are disproportionately poor and may be more susceptible to adverse health outcomes.
  • Tina Reynolds, the program director of environmental health at the Michigan Environmental Council, says that the reports shed light on important health issues, such as the higher asthma rates in Michigan, said it could also be a very helpful tool for parents.  (For example, parents might choose to take extra care to limit their children’s exposure to toxins in their home environment after understanding that many children in Michigan are exposed to adverse levels of lead or other toxins based on geography in the state.)

About the Report

Cancer, autism, asthma, and attention deficit disorder afflict Michigan children at a greater rate than the nationwide average, according to a recent report.

The Children’s Environmental Health Network profiled the environmental health of children in Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina as indicators of environmental hazards.  The network plans to compile similar reports for the remaining 47 states as more funding is secured.

Eight key indicators are identified for the three states: safe drinking water, air quality, warming temperatures, toxic chemical releases, neuro-developmental disorders, asthma, pediatric cancer, and blood lead levels.

Tina Reynolds

Tina Reynolds, Environmental Health Program Director, focuses her time on critical environmental health issues including ending childhood lead poisoning, healthy food access, clean outdoor air, Green and Healthy Homes, asthma, promoting active communities and building relationships within the medical community to work on shared priorities.  She has extensive experience in the law and state public policy development.  She holds a law degree from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.  She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan.  She has worked as a law clerk, as an environmental policy analyst for the Michigan House of Representatives, as a legislative assistant for the 53rd House District (Ann Arbor) and as legal counsel for the 18th State Senate District (Washtenaw County).

Reynolds is coalition manager of the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH) and chairs the Healthy Kids Healthy Michigan (HKHM) Healthy Food Access Policy Action Team.  Reynolds is also an active member of the Detroit Green and Healthy Homes Collaborative, the Detroit Lead Partnership, the Detroit Lead Enforcement Work Group, the Mid Michigan Asthma Coalition, Michigan Energy for All, HKHM’s Steering and Legislative committees, the HKHM Active Communities Policy Action Team, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) work group, and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association’s Green Health Care Committee.  In 2019, Gov. Whitmer appointed her to serve on the Health Endowment Fund Board.  She is the first person with a background in environmental health to serve on the board.  Reynolds grew up in Keego Harbor.

Michigan Environmental Council

Michigan Environmental Council -- a 501(c)(3) charitable organization -- is a coalition of more than 60 organizations created in 1980 to lead Michigan’s environmental movement in achieving positive change through public policy solutions. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu