Review of the literature reveals that environmental hazards cause adverse health effects that include sterility, infertility, embryotoxicity, low birth weight, skin lesions, neurodevelopmental defects, immunologic disorders, cancer, and fear of late effects. They have been identified mostly by astute practitioners but also by a bacteriologist, an animal experimentalist, 5 factory workers in childless marriages, and a tipsy bystander in an economically impoverished area of Baltimore. Dust on a parent’s work clothes has transported a hazard at work to a hazard at home (lead, asbestos, and chlordecone). Causality is established by showing a dose-response effect and reproducing the effect in studies of other exposed groups or by using another epidemiologic method, eg, prospective instead of retrospective study. Also, the findings should be biologically plausible and not attributable to a concomitant variable such as cigarette smoking. Contrary to front-page newspaper headlines, incidence rates for childhood leukemia are not rising. Preserving specimens for future studies has been valuable: blood from people who were exposed to dioxin in Seveso, Italy; mummified umbilical cords containing methyl mercury at Minamata Bay, Japan; and Guthrie dried blood spots to screen retrospectively for 43 genetic disorders and a specific prenatal cytogenetic abnormality in some children with 1 form of leukemia. Recommendations are given for enhancing interest in environmental hazards and their discovery by clinicians.

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