Research shows that exposure to environmental hazards such as, pesticides, traffic air pollution, solvents in paints and gasoline, and tobacco smoke can increase the risk of getting childhood cancers – yet most pediatric cancer specialists don’t know about these links. Nearly 90% of them reported getting questions from families about environmental exposures, but few were comfortable discussing them. Over 90% said that more information would be helpful in addressing these issues with patients.
“When our daughter was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumor, a kidney cancer, I wanted to know why,” said journalist Alexandra Zissou. “Could there be an environmental link? Our beloved oncologist’s work is to cure, not to sleuth. But, as an environmental health journalist, it didn’t sit well with me there was no one on staff at our hospital—one of the top cancer facilities in the country—who asked questions about home environment at intake, or gave us any specific environmental advice during or after active treatment. I was left to do my own research. Exhausted patients and caregivers rely on our doctors, nurses, child life specialists—and more—to guide us through this unique hell. I would vastly have preferred to collaborate on her care—as we were able to in every other realm—rather than arrive at my own environmental health conclusions.
Ms. Zissou concluded, “I’m thrilled to know this project is happening. I know exactly how much it will help many families.”