Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

When to Question Environmental Health Tests and Therapies for Your Child

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as part of the Choosing Wisely® campaign, has released a list of common medical tests, therapies and practices related to children and environmental health that may be unnecessary.

The AAP Council on Environmental Health compiled the list of issues, some of which are based on myths about the causes of autism that lack evidence and may be harmful. It encourages families and their pediatrician to carefully consider and question these procedures and treatments for children.

Tests and procedures that may not be needed

The Council's executive committee recognizes there are unique considerations and options as it concerns children. The recommendations, available here, includes:

  1. Do not routinely test urine for metals and minerals in children with autistic behaviors. Toxicologic exposures have not been conclusively associated with the development of autistic behaviors in children. Testing for metals and minerals may be harmful if treatment is guided on the basis of these results.

  2. Do not order hair analyses for "environmental toxins" in children with behavioral or developmental disorders, including autism.

  3. Do not order mold sensitivity testing on patients without clear allergy or asthma symptoms (particularly those with chronic fatigue, arthralgia, cognitive impairments, and affective disorders). For those with allergy or asthma symptoms who have not responded to steps that reduce allergen exposures, mold sensitivity testing may be performed by an allergist pulmonologist, or any other qualified provider, but should not routinely be performed in the primary care setting.

  4. Do not order "chelation challenge" urinary analyses for children with suspected lead poisoning.

  5. With the exception of certain heavy metals (eg, lead), do not routinely use measurements of environmental chemicals in a person's blood or urine to make clinical decisions.

Addressing harmful chemical exposures

"Every day, we come into contact with chemicals that are in our food, air, water, soil, dust, or the products we use. Not all of these are bad or cause for concern, and ultimately, it's stronger regulatory practices that are most important for minimizing our exposure to harmful chemicals," said Aparna Bole, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health.

"Tests or treatments that claim to diagnose childhood diseases based on chemical measurements may be misleading or based on a false premise. Pediatricians can help address parents' concerns about chemical exposures, and we encourage parents to talk with their pediatricians before pursuing any of these tests."

The list, Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question, is available through the Choosing Wisely website. Choosing Wisely® is an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, which seeks to promote conversations between clinicians and patients in choosing care that is supported by evidence; does not duplicate other tests or procedures already received; is free from harm; and truly necessary.

At least 80 medical specialty societies have published more than 500 recommendations of overused tests and treatments as a result of the Choosing Wisely initiative, launched in 2012.

Talk with your pediatrician

If you have questions about environmental health tests, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.

More information

9/8/2021 12:00 AM
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us