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Executive Message

Children’s Health: Sustaining Our Future

Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas

There was a time in history when it was commonly assumed that the lives of one generation would be no different than the lives of the next—that the status quo would be maintained. But over time, people came to understand that we could work to make our children’s lives better than our own. We realized that the future for them might be brighter than anything we could imagine for ourselves. This was a major paradigm shift in thinking.

Advancements in science and technology catalyzed this shift.  As we came to realize our potential in every sector from energy to medicine to materials and information technology, we began to set our sights on a future that would leave our children with longer and better lives than our own.

But there was a second shift in thinking. This time we came upon realization that many of the same technologies and advancements that were meant to improve the lives of future generations were also adversely impacting them with unintended consequences.

By introducing new substances and technologies the world had never seen, we gained tremendous power to change the future. But with this power came great responsibility.

Now we must ask ourselves this important question: have we been appropriately addressing this responsibility?

Have we incorporated an understanding of these unintended consequences into the design of new products and technologies? Have we included toxicological effects, endocrine disruption and reproductive developmental toxicities into our standards of performance? Have we sought to ensure that the lives of our children will not be made worse by the actions we take to protect them?

October is Children’s Health Month—an opportune time to ask ourselves these vital questions. Not just because our children must live in the world we create for them, but because their developing biological systems are uniquely susceptible to the effects of poor environmental planning, design, and management.

Today we have the opportunity to couple our expertise in understanding the problems we face with an ability to design next generation chemicals that reduce hazard through the principles of green chemistry.

We must combine the best of our intellect and action to design a tomorrow that is sustainable for our children.  We must direct our highest degree of knowledge toward producing products and technologies that won’t impair reproduction or development.

It’s time to bring all we have to bear on the design of a sustainable tomorrow.

Paul T. Anastas
Assistant Administrator
Office of Research and Development

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