Environmental health risks to keiki discussed at state symposium

Keeping our keiki healthy — that was the theme of a symposium hosted by the state Department of Health symposium Saturday.

It focused on children’s environmental health risks, many of which are not immune to Hawaii.

Childhood obesity, lead exposure in children, and exposure to chemicals in pesticides were all hot topics at the event.

Dr. Richard Jackson of the UCLA School of Public Health told KHON2 the statistics for obesity in America are staggering.

“The average American adult is about 25 pounds heavier than they were 25 years ago,” he said. “About 12 percent of all adults in America now have diabetes.”

That’s why Dr. Jackson said it’s important for adults and children to be active.

Despite our location, that’s not always the case for people living in Hawaii. “Clearly if you live down by the beach, there’s plenty to do,” he said, “but for a lot of people, you’re either sitting in the car or you’re sitting at home.”

He said cities need to design communities that encourage a physically fit lifestyle. “People can’t resist it if you give them beautiful, safe places to be physically active.

Obesity isn’t the only issue affecting children here and across the mainland.

“We used to think there was a certain below of which children were safe from lead but we’re starting to realize there really is no safe level for lead,” Dr. Timur Duranni of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital said. “The biggest causes for children tends to be in homes that were built before 1979 that have paint that have lead in them.”

We’re told pregnant women who avoid exposure to lead and to certain chemicals in pesticides lower the risk for their unborn children.

Dr. Mayra Zlatnik, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine, says “we advise pregnant women to try to eat organic if they can.”

Overall, doctors said the best ways to keep kids safe are doing things your mom taught you. “A well balanced diet, hygiene and nutrition are all important pieces for helping to raise children in a healthy manner,” Dr. Durranni said.

The symposium for medical professionals was part of Gov. David Ige’s statewide initiative to address community concerns about chronic exposures to pesticides, Vog, lead, mercury and other environmental hazards affecting our keiki.

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