Green Child Magazine Winter 2013 - Page 38

Radiation What Every Woman Needs to Know By Anne Michelsen If you were pregnant, would you consider stripping lead-based paint without a respirator, breathing chloroform, or working in a garage full of engine exhaust? Of course not. It’s widely known that these substances can cause cancer and other health problems, and could potentially harm your growing baby. But every day, millions of pregnant women – and their unborn babies – are exposed to a substance recognized by the World Health Organization as carrying the same risk level for cancer as chloroform, gasoline fumes, and lead. It’s a substance you can’t see, hear or feel, but it’s present almost anywhere you go. In fact, you’re almost certainly being exposed to it right now as you read these words. This “substance” is not actually matter. It’s a type of energy known as non-ionizing radiation. And recent research indicates that it’s a cause for concern – especially for pregnant women and young children. 38 Radiation: a growing concern Radiation isn’t always dangerous. Most of the radiation we receive is naturally present in the environment. Some is actually beneficial: heat and light are both forms of radiation necessary to support life. However, our average annual radiation exposure is increasing dramatically – 172% between 1996 and 2006, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, ncrponline. org. Much of this excess radiation exposure occurs at home, in the workplace, and even in the doctor’s office. And some forms of it can significantly impact our health, and the health of our unborn children. Fetuses and young children are especially susceptible to the effects of radiation. Their immune systems are immature, and the rapidly growing and dividing cells in their developing tissues and organs are more readily disrupted than those of an adult. Radiation exposure has been linked to a wide variety of ill effects in children, including delayed growth, small