Fifteen Years: Remembering Katherine


Fifteen years ago today, my eight-year-old daughter Katherine died of a preventable leukemia caused, we have every reason to believe, by mosquito spraying with chlorpyrifos, without permission or notification. Most parents cannot imagine what it is like to wake up and find their beloved child dead beside them. Let's fight to make sure fewer parents ever do.

This week, as part of my MPH internship, I begin working with the Great Lakes Center for Children's Environmental Health to distribute educational materials to Pediatrician and OB/Gyn offices in the Chicago Region. Anyone should feel free to email me ( for copies to take to their own providers. If only we had known that this pernicious practice still existed -- of broadcast spraying deadly pesticides down streets, in homes, coating every object and piece of vegetation -- we would have stopped it. We did stop it, too late for Katherine. And mosquito spraying is only one route for exposure. But right now, you and I can work to help prevent children's exposures today and tomorrow, exposures that often cause cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, and auto-immune disease. Pesticide exposures even contribute to the obesity epidemic. If we can reduce the average person's exposure to tobacco smoke, with long-lasting health benefits for all, we can do the same thing for exposure to toxics.

I laid flowers on my daughter's grave tonight -- including one of hers, pink, her favorite color -- but that is not how I will remember her. I will remember my daughter by working every day to right the terrible injustice that killed her, that deprived her of all these years she should have had with us. That is what, in her precocious wisdom, she would have expected of me.

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Resources for Providers

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU)

PEHSU’s Pediatric Environmental Toolkit

Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health

USCF: Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment: Clinical Practice

National Environmental Education Foundation: Health

EPA: Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings

Midwest Pesticide Action Network

American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on Pesticides

President’s Cancer Panel 2010: Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk

TENDR Consensus Statement

CDC Biomonitoring Project

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA): Generation in Jeopardy or

Environmental Working Group (EWG): Dirty Dozen, Cosmetics, Ten Americans or or

CDC / ATSDR Environmental Health and Medicine Education: CME credit

Healthy Fish Choices: CME credit

Green Kids Doc Blog

Poisoning Children Blog