Children’s Health and Environment Education Program

The If You Love Our Children: Children’s Health and the Environment program is an educational project that explores the complex web of connections between environmental degradation and its impact on children’s health, while highlighting what community activists, health professionals and other citizens are doing to bring about personal, social, and policy change. It will be used widely as a resource in community, labour and health professional outreach, awareness and educational programs and for national television broadcasts.

The need for this project is illustrated by a leading expert in the field of children’s health and the environment, Dr. Philip Landrigan, MD, M.Sc., Director, The Centre for Children’s Health and the Environment: Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Global Forum II, 2001) who notes:

“It is now clear from studies in animals and children that subtle changes in concentration of normally occurring chemicals such as hormones – as well as the presence of toxic agents like lead, mercury or PCBs – can produce profound and permanent changes in the developing nervous system. These changes can lead to decrements on mental performance, alterations of the reproductive system, cancers and other conditions…We must increase our understanding of the neurotoxicity of chemical agents now in the environment, and we must adopt public health policies that limit the exposure of fetuses and children to environmental chemicals.”

Are we performing a vast experiment on children and indeed the future gene pool? “By default, we are conducting a massive toxicological experiment, and our children are the experimental animals” Needleman, H. quoted in T.Schettler et al. in In Harms’Way. Toxic Threats to Children’s Development. Boston , Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2000:103

Today, there is growing public debate about the environmental harm children are being exposed to in Canada and elsewhere. The If You Love Our Children project will raise awareness; explain the issues in everyday language and present safe alternatives to harmful substances in the air, water, food and soil. Some young people, who are engaged in protecting children’s lives and ecosystems will be profiled in the project as will be health professionals, researchers, and activists who will contribute to our knowledge of this challenge and offer hope for creative responses/actions to this modern day scourge.

The purposes of the project include:

  1. to identify and explain risks children and future generations face from environmental exposures;
  2. to mobilize knowledge and opinion for personal, social and structural change;
  3. to offer positive strategies for personal action and the generation of social and public policy regarding environmental health, toward the creation of a cleaner safer, more just world for present and future generations.

A three-phase project

Phase one was the financing of the documentary. Phase two includes the research, writing and production of accompanying educational materials and versioning into French. Phase three involves organizing community education/film outreach, training trainers workshops, participation in various community programs, conferences, seminars, etc.

The Women’s Healthy Environments Network (WHEN) is spearheading fundraising efforts for this program. The scientific advisors are members of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment ( CAPE ).

Similar to the experience with Exposure: Environmental Links to Breast Cancer, now available in eight languages, it is anticipated that diverse cultural groups will wish to help to create materials suitable for their particular Canadian immigrant as well as home countries’ educational support.

Preview video available

A 12-minute educational  “clips” video has been created to help create awareness of the issues. Both the If You Love Our Children “clips” video and Exposure video are available from the WHEN office.

Fundraising continuesThe support arrangement with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) required external fundraising of 51% to augment their share of 49% of the total budget. Funds are urgently needed now for Phases 2 and 3.

Please consider making a donation to this program, for which you’ll receive a charitable tax receipt. Any amount is appreciated; no amount is too small or too large.Please make your cheque out to WHEN – the children’s environmental health project and send it to :
215 Spadina Ave, Suite 400

Toronto , ON M5T 2C7

The NFB producers are most inspired by this project and see it as an important application of their renewed mandate of film as a tool for education for change.

It is anticipated that Phases 1 and 2 of the project will be completed in 2006.