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AAP Conference Preview: Environmental health expert to tackle tough questions :

October 7, 2016

Editor’s note: For more on educational sessions and events at the 2016 AAP National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco, read the preview issue of AAP News Today. To register for the conference, visit

Jennifer Lowry, M.D., FAAP, wants to know what questions you’re getting from patients’ families about environmental health.

Are they worried that “crumb rubber” synthetic turf installed on soccer fields could cause leukemia? Are they afraid lead might be in their water just like in Flint, Mich.? Are they asking if hormones in meat and dairy products are harmful to their children?

Dr. Lowry, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee,plans to address such questions during a session titled “Environmental Myth Busters.” The session will be held from 9:30-10:15 a.m. Oct. 24 (F3077) and again from 7:30-8:15 a.m. Oct. 25 (F4007) at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco.

“I really want this to be an open discussion about what’s out there,” Dr. Lowry said.

Sometimes, environmental issues are raised by people like Mona Hanna-Attisha, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, who discovered lead in the Flint water supply was poisoning children.

“The majority of the time,” Dr. Lowry said, “someone has just read about it on the internet because somebody’s made it up or they’ve gotten the facts just a little bit wrong and so then it blows up into this big thing.”
When the mainstream media pick up on these stories, Dr. Lowry is ready to respond. She is chief of the Section of Clinical Toxicology and medical director of the Center for Environmental Health at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

She acknowledges that the average pediatrician is in a tough spot because families often hear about environmental scares before they do, and parents’ sources of information may not always be credible.  

“I think it’s easy for the pediatrician just to go ‘Oh, that’s not true,’” Dr. Lowry said.

During the session, she will help pediatricians figure out where to go for information so they can separate fact from fiction and be informed when they speak to families.

One resource for pediatricians that she plans to highlight are the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units located throughout the United States. The units are staffed by experts in allergy/immunology, neurodevelopment, toxicology, and occupational and environmental medicine, who can answer questions and offer advice on prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment of environmentally related health effects in children.

Dr. Lowry is director of Region 7, which serves Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. The Academy serves as the National Program Office-East, supporting five of the units.

Dr. Lowry said she is looking forward to an interactive session and expects to get questions about issues that even she hasn’t heard about before.

“I’m clearly not going to have answers to all of the questions,” she said. In those cases, she will respond by saying, “This is what we can do together to figure out the answer to that one.”

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