- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop says a new book documents that there is no scientific evidence to validate the claim that children are more at risk from trace levels of environmental chemicals than adults.
The book, "Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals?" was published by the American Council on Science and Health.
Dr. Koop, who was surgeon general from 1981 to 1989 and is now a senior scholar in the Koop Institute at Dartmouth College, says this in the book's foreword:
"As a parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent myself and as a pediatrician and former U.S. Surgeon General I am personally and professionally committed to programs and policies that protect and enhance the health of our nation's children."
But Dr. Koop says he has been concerned in recent years that in the "understandable quest to protect children, our society's priorities have been inverted."
"This inversion has caused us to attempt to eliminate purely hypothetical risks to children, while the real risks to children prevail, almost unattended," he writes.
Dr. Koop says some people advocate banning or removing even the slightest traces of environmental chemicals, such as approved pesticides, food additives and environmental contaminants, such as dioxins and PCBs. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a chemical once widely used in electrical transformers but no longer used in the United States.
Daland R. Juberg, editor in chief of the book, writes: "Taken together, the picture with PCBs remains controversial and confusing. Because of its persistence (in the environment) and one-time widespread use, perceptions abound that it represents a particularly toxic material to humans, which is not supported by scientific evidence."
Mr. Juberg said PCBs are a chemicals to which infants and young children are potentially exposed either in utero or during early life via breast milk." But he said there are methodological questions and limitations to the studies that have looked at fetal and neonatal susceptibility to PCB toxicity. As a result, he said, it's impossible to conclude that PCBs alone exert adverse effects on early development.
Dr. Koop said he would place exposure to trace levels of PCBs and the other agents he mentioned in the "hypothetical risk category." He said it bothers him that some are advocating restrictive and costly … regulatory policies when the science indicates they are unnecessary.
Dr. Koop said the book "further exposes a pattern in which activists manipulate parents' very legitimate and appropriate concerns for their children's health, in an effort to promote legislation, litigation, and regulation that are not supported by the science."
Among these activists, according to the American Council on Health and Science, are the Center for Children's Health and the Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense.
In a series of newspaper ads, the Center for Children's Health presented what it described as a "body of evidence linking toxic chemicals to a wide variety of health problems in humans, from learning disabilities and brain injury in children to certain cancers in both children and adults."

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