Within a few short months, and with the help of our dear friend, Olivia, and a small group of committed friends and family, we established The Colette Chuda Environmental Fund, to conduct research into the causes of childhood cancer in relation to the environment. We knew that millions of dollars — now billions — had been spent trying to find cures for cancer, but very little effort was placed toward prevention.
We conducted many research studies, which led to major scientific epidemiological results. We proved that carcinogenic substances trapped in airborne particulates could traverse the blood barrier of pregnant women and affect the developing fetus in the womb environment.
Dr. Frederica Perera, a leading scientist at Columbia University, was one of the first recipients of a grant from The Colette Chuda Environmental Fund.
The science mounted. In cities like Krakow, Poland, evidence revealed that environmental exposures to vulnerable sub-populations put children’s health at risk. Other parts of the world benefited from the early epidemiological studies we conducted. We later proved that children who suffer from early exposures have a greater predisposition to disease; however, the onset of certain childhood cancers could be prevented, if the exposures to harmful chemicals could be avoided.
Knowing that the science was critical to, if not the most important motivation for, establishing a grassroots movement, we decided to build an impossible dream. We would pull together a coalition of groups and committed citizens who would rally behind this basic principle: By educating parents, we would protect children and, hopefully, eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in the environment.
The Children’s Health Environmental Coalition (CHEC) was born in the summer of 1992, at the Snake River Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A very dear friend, Elizabeth Sword, had offered her family’s ranch retreat as a meeting place. It was the perfect destination and location, set beneath the Grand Tetons, a pristine and inspirational gift.
The following year, 1993, the National Academy of Science (NAS) presented findings on how pesticides were affecting the diets of infants and children. Dr. Philip Landrigan, who is referred to as the “Father of the Children’s Environmental Health Movement,” and who is a leading pediatrician and scientist based at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, joined us at the ranch for our second annual meeting to reveal the findings.
Jim and I had invited guests, who brought tremendous experience and expertise in pediatrics, science, media, and government. Those early meetings under the magnificent Tetons would later become the foundation from which we would create Healthy Child Healthy World’s mission and goals. Together, we carved a vision for the future. Each individual dedicated their time and resources. Today, our founding Board members comprise an Honorary Board of great distinction.