This interview features Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN, Executive Director, Nurses Alliance for Healthy Environments, Mount Rainier, Maryland.
KH: We are the only national nursing organization focused primarily on the intersection of health and the environment. I am also a nurse midwife and my interest in environmental health stems from a greater awareness of how the environment affects reproductive health. It’s kind of woven into my entire career as a nurse-midwife.
Q: What are the key points providers should be aware of regarding environmental exposure and women’s health?
KH: in any area of healthcare, [or] What is your occupation, whether you are a nurse, an advanced clinic, or a nurse, most of us have poor environmental health education. It is a vastly underutilized area with tremendous opportunities to prevent disease and help patients achieve better outcomes. Seeing what can be done can have an amazing impact on a patient’s health.
Q: What are the most prevalent environmental issues for women’s health today?
KH: One of my main areas of interest right now is on climate change. There is a growing consensus that climate change is the most pressing public health issue facing us today. On the contrary, it is also the greatest opportunity. Because there are so many different aspects of health that we can touch upon when tackling climate change. Associated with climate change are air pollution, extreme heat, widespread areas of vector-borne disease, and water-related problems such as floods, droughts and wildfires. There are various factors, and they change depending on the era. newborns, the elderly, [or women of] Different reproductive ages have different health effects. [not only] Not only their age, but also if they have chronic diseases. For example, in air pollution, we know that air quality decreases as temperatures rise. More hot days means more days with poor air quality.yes [for] Patients with respiratory or heart problems are more likely to be rushed to the emergency room if they are outdoors on days with poor air quality or if indoor air quality is poor. increase. [with] respiratory problems or heart problems.
As a medical professional, I believe I have a moral obligation to discuss with my patients how to reduce their radiation exposure. Taking air pollution as an example, there is a tool called airnow.gov where you can sign up to receive alerts by phone or email so you are notified the day before a bad air quality day. The air may be bad tomorrow. Depending on the type of state you have, there are a few things you’ll need to do.
Climate change is a big issue, so we need to get involved in advocacy as well. Individual action is very important, but we need to talk to elected officials and policy makers to help them connect health with climate change. [let them know that] When they are taking these climate measures, they are really improving the health of their constituents.
Q: What are the key findings from the benchmark Body Burden study?
KH: About 15 years ago, the first comprehensive body stress studies began to form. There they were testing different bodily fluids such as blood, urine and breast milk for different industrial chemicals. At that time, I started [because] That was the first time we had a lab test that we could actually run and evaluate. [those chemicals were] body fluids, and the human body. So when he first piloted his tests on about 15 adults, they found that they had measurable amounts of different chemicals in their bodies. They then partnered with the American Red Cross to test the cord blood of about 20 infants shortly after birth and found that the cord blood immediately after birth contained about 285 different chemicals. So this means that these infants were exposed to measurable amounts of chemicals during pregnancy (we don’t know exactly at what point during pregnancy they were exposed to these various chemicals). indicates that Many of these are related to health effects, including neurological problems such as autism and ADHD, and developmental problems. I don’t think it’s the whole picture of why these different illnesses and diseases are happening, but I think it’s part of why we’re seeing it.