DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey and women's health expert Dr. Linda Birnbaum led a forum on the causes, impacts and possible mitigation of the environmental effects on women at Mercy College on Monday, July 28.
A dozen Westchester mayors, state Assembly members, council people and village trustees joined an audience made of mostly of women as Lowey, D-Westchester/Rockland, introduced the program, titled “Silent Dangers: Environmental Impacts on Women’s Health,”
Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, spoke about the growing health issues -- lupus, autism (in births), breast cancer and others diseases -- attributed to environmental and chemical effects, and the importance of research grants from NIEHS and the National Institutes of Health.
“You can’t change your genes, but you can change your environment,” Birnbaum said. “Gaining a better understanding of how the environment affects our health will lead to healthier lives. NIEHS’ work is centered around important environmental health research, focusing on prevention as opposed to expensive treatment."
According to Lowey, every $1 of NIH grant money results in $2.21 of economic growth. Westchester and Rockland counties have received about $490 million in NIH grants, making the total economic benefit to the Lower Hudson Valley more than $1 billion, Lowey said.
“Investments in environmental health research lead to lower health care costs, greater economic growth and improved quality of life,” said Lowey. “I’ve seen firsthand NIH’s impact on improving health through better outcomes and have fought hard to nearly triple its funding from the subcommittee that funds the agency. These research dollars provide enormous health and economic benefit to the Lower Hudson Valley, particularly for those women who are fighting breast cancer, trying to better understand their child’s autism or coping with asthma.”
Birnbaum also detailed the growing concerns, specifically the increase in autism and asthma, which affects 6.2 million American children.
"Ten years ago, autism incidence rates were 1 in 150. Today, that number is 1 in 68, with higher rates of incidence for boys," Birnbaum said.