Pediatricians examine impact of environmental disasters on children's health

April 30, 2011

DENVER - Environmental disasters can affect children's health in unique ways, both physically and psychologically. In two sessions at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo., experts in pediatric health care from the U.S. and Japan will examine the toll of two recent disasters on children's health: the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan; and the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a session from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m. MT Saturday, April 30, experts will review how the disaster in Japan has affected children's health, what pediatricians are doing to help children in the wake of the disaster, and how the radiation risks compare to past nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

"The children and families of the Tohoku area of Japan face enormous challenges, including displacement, physical and psychological trauma, and the threat of radiation exposure," said Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician and expert in environmental health from Mount Sinai School of Medicine who is co-chairing the special session on the Japan disaster.

The April 30 presentations include:

  • "Overview of Health Impact of Tsunami and Earthquake in Japan: Focus on Physical Effects and Displacement" - Yoji Sasahara, MD, PhD, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and Tohoku University Hospital, Miyagi, Japan

  • "Radiation Exposures in Children from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan - Lessons from Chernobyl and How It Compares" - Daniel Hryhorczuk, MD, MPH, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Ill.

  • "Psychological Impact of the Disaster in Japan" - Hisako Watanabe, MD, PhD, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

    On Tuesday, May 3, pediatricians will examine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its complicated and still-unfolding impact on children's health. "Children were exposed to a complex, evolving mixture of chemical compounds," said Catherine Karr, MD, PhD, FAAP, of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at the University of Washington, who helped assemble the panel. "For some of these compounds we have robust information on toxicity, but for others we know very little about their impact on children's health."

    The session from 2 to 4 p.m. MT on Tuesday includes presentations by leading scientists and pediatric environmental health specialists:

  • "Vulnerability of Children To Disasters: What We Need to Know Now" - Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, Natural Resources Defense Council and University of California, San Francisco, Calif.

  • "The Evidence Base for Understanding the Risk of Human Health Impacts of Oil Spills" - Aubrey K. Miller, MD, MPH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. • "Monitoring and Surveillance of the Health Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill on Children" - Robert J. Geller, MD, FAAP, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga.

  • "Communicating Environmental Health Risk to Pediatric Providers and Parents" - Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY.
    The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) are four individual pediatric organizations who co-sponsor the PAS Annual Meeting - the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians and other health care providers who are practicing in the research, academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the health and well being of children worldwide. For more information, visit Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter at

    American Academy of Pediatrics

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