In 1996, 2 exposure incidents sparked a movement to better understand children’s environmental health. In both incidents, children were exposed to significant toxicants in unexpected ways. In one, the organophosphate insecticide methyl parathion was applied illegally in indoor settings.1 In another, elemental mercury residue was detected in apartments converted from a fluorescent bulb facility.2 These incidents, and others like them, alerted physicians and government agencies to the collective lack of training and experience in the field of pediatric environmental health.
To address the situation, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Environmental Protection Agency created the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) program. The program, which is now jointly operated by the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Pediatrics, maintains sites in 10 regions3 and seeks to enhance education and promote consultation and referral related to reproductive and children’s environmental health.
This past fall, PEHSU updated its Web site at www.pehsu.net, which provides information, training, and resources for health professionals and the general public. The Web site provides news, fact sheets, and online education regarding environment-related pediatric and reproductive health issues. It also provides a tool for finding a local expert in the PEHSU national network, should a family physician need to refer a patient for more extensive assistance.
We believe that family physicians will find the PEHSU program resources informative, educational, and relevant to their practice.
Carl R. Baum, MD, FAAP, FACMT, Medical Director
Dana Turner, MPH, CHES
Amanda Allen, MS
1. Esteban E, Rubin C, Hill R, et al. Association between indoor residential contamination with methyl parathion and urinary para-nitrophenol. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 1996;6:375-387.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mercury exposure among residents of a building formerly used for industrial purposes—New Jersey, 1995. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1996;45:422-424.
3. Wilborne-Davis P, Kirkland KH, Mulloy KB. A model for physician education and consultation in pediatric environmental health—the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) program. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007;54:1-13.