Here’s one measure of how much the issue of toxic contaminants’ effects on health and development — especially in children – has gained traction: A continuing education program aimed mostly at psychotherapists is devoting a day-long course to the subject this weekend in Boston.
It’s titled “Toxic Environmental Threats to Children’s Development: What We Know and What We Can Do.” The Saturday program will include presentations by several nationally prominent experts in environmental medicine, not exactly standard fare for psychiatrists and psychologists.
But increasingly it should be, says Dean Abby, director of continuing education at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, who helped organize the course. In an interview with Environmental Working Group, he noted that science has advanced in ways that now make it possible to study the often-subtle effects of chemical and other exposures on our bodies and on children’s vulnerable bodies. It’s important to make connections between those exposures and the behavioral and emotional problems that get treated by mental health professionals, he says:
It’s the same thrust that has come in the last 25 years in developing a scientific understanding of the mind-body connection. It just made sense to try to push the envelope a little bit, since developmental issues concern us. We train school psychologists particularly, who work in an environment where they see all kinds of developmental threats and problems whose source is hard to pin down.
The course is co-sponsored by the Boston Institute for the Development of Infants and Parents (BIDIP) and the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society. It is open to the public for a fee about half of what professionals, who can earn credit toward continuing education requirements, must pay. Among those who have registered in advance are parents and day care professionals. Said Abby:
Anybody today who’s not looking at this stuff with a bigger and broader perspective is missing something critically important. It’s designed to force people who have concerns about these questions to codify their thinking.
The invited speakers are pediatrician Philip Landrigan, M.D. of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine; toxicologist Bernard Weiss, Ph.D. of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; neurologist David Bellinger of Boston’s Children’s Hospital; Megan Sandel, M.D. National Medical Director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership in Boston; and Barbara Brenner, executive director of San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action.
EWG, a leader in documenting the effects of toxics such as bisphenol-A — and in the fight to reform the federal government’s regulation of chemicals — wishes it could be there.