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Another Cry for Primary Prevention April 9, 2014

Posted by Nancy Hepp in Newsletter introductions.
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Elise Miller, MEd
CHE Director

How many of us have sat with loved ones in the throes of cancer? No doubt way too many. My cousin just passed away two days ago from lung cancer, having never smoked in her life. She joins several other family members and close friends who have died of one form of cancer or another in the last few years. Unfortunately, all of you likely have similar stories to share, and not just about older people in your lives, but about those younger and younger—including those who exercise regularly and have healthy diets.

One would think this untenable situation would catapult our society into action—it would move us to do whatever it takes to implement primary prevention strategies, not just look for cures. But instead the President’s Cancer Panel report on environmental contributors to cancer sits on the proverbial shelf collecting dust. As do other seminal reports that provide clear analyses of the science linking chemical contaminants and other chronic diseases and disorders as well as how to address these issues—such as Endocrine Society’s statement on endocrine disrupting chemicals, the joint opinion issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) on environmental chemicals and reproductive health, and the National Academy of Sciences “Science and Decisions” report which offers concrete recommendations to contend with the inadequacies of current risk assessment practices—to name just a few.

Not only are we slow to respond collectively to the knowledge we already have regarding human health, we also regularly learn that some advances in our field, such as removing bisphenol A (BPA) from water bottles or taking triclosan out of cosmetics, turn out not to be lasting victories for public health. Instead, the synthetic chemicals used as replacements are found to have potential human health impacts as well—usually after the new product is already out in the marketplace [see Avon plans to remove triclosan from products, but what will replace it?, The Guardian].

I could of course go on and on, but my point here is not to plunge us all into despair with a litany of multiple and interrelated woes that can undermine our health. Instead, when anyone close to us dies of a disease that might have been preventable, I think it’s useful to pause and reflect on the reality in which we live. And for me, that time of reflection then serves as a springboard for my renewed commitment to voicing the truth—whether that is about the mounting environmental health science linking certain exposures to chronic disease and disability, the need for chemical policy reform, the promise of green chemistry, the interplay of the social and environmental determinants of health, or the exceptional persistence of communities fighting for their rights to clean water, air and food. The comforting news is that my voice is not alone, but is inspired and amplified by the concerted efforts of colleagues like you.

As we experience the often devastating effects of chronic disease and disabilities on those near and far, may our collective cry for primary prevention finally be heard. Thank you for all that you do to move us towards this goal.

Top 10: July 2013 July 11, 2013

Posted by Nancy Hepp in science pick.
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For the second quarter of 2013, we collectively selected ten topics from several dozen candidate news articles, journal articles, policy decisions and reports that have had a significant impact or are likely to have a significant impact on thinking and action in the field of environmental health. We consider these selections to be the biggest contributors toward new insights, toward changing the conversation or expanding the scope of the conversation on a topic to a new audience or awareness, or toward defining a new trend. Comments are welcome.

The selections, in no particular order:

  1. Chemical policy reform
    A significant development in federal chemicals policy reform occurred in late May when  Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a new, bipartisan bill called the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA). The introduction of the CSIA took many by surprise. Senator Lautenberg, who had been a champion for chemical policy reform for many years, passed away about a week later. CHE has compiled a selection of responses to this bill as well as links to other relevant sites for additional information: Chemical Policy Reform.
  2. Autism: New insights
    Several new studies have provided further understanding of environmental and genetic contributors to autism spectrum disorders. We list what we view as some of the most significant of these studies:

    1. Autism study finds link to environment, even in womb: A new study of twins suggests that environmental factors, including conditions in the womb, may be at least as important as genes in causing autism. See the study abstract: Genetic heritability and shared environmental factors among twin pairs with autism and related studies: Quantitative trait loci for interhemispheric commissure development and social behaviors in the BTBR T+ tf/J mouse model of autism and Methylomic analysis of monozygotic twins discordant for autism spectrum disorder and related behavioural traits.
    2. Study links autism with antidepressant use during pregnancy. See the study abstract: Parental depression, maternal antidepressant use during pregnancy, and risk of autism spectrum disorders: population based case-control study.
    3. Epilepsy drug in pregnancy tied to autism risk: Women who take the epilepsy drug valproate during pregnancy are three times more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder, suggests new research based on close to 700,000 babies born in Denmark. See the study abstract: Prenatal valproate exposure and risk of autism spectrum disorders and childhood autism.
    4. US kids born in polluted areas more likely to have autism. See the study abstract: Perinatal air pollutant exposures and autism spectrum disorder in the Children of Nurses’ Health Study II participants.
  3. EHN special report: ‘chemicals of high concern’ found in thousands of children’s products
    An Environmental Health News analysis of thousands of reports from America’s largest companies shows that toys and other children’s products contain low levels of dozens of industrial chemicals. See the database: Children’s Safe Product Act Reports.
    (more…)

Chemical Policy Reform: A Major Spike in the Action on the Federal Level June 12, 2013

Posted by Nancy Hepp in breaking news, Newsletter introductions.
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Elise Miller, MEd, Director
with Davis Baltz, Co-coordinator of CHE Special Projects

While CHE’s primary mission is to bring attention to the emerging environmental health science, how that science is translated into public health policy is of course crucial to improving public health broadly. Along these lines, some unexpected and important developments have taken place on federal chemical policy reform over the last few weeks.

Senator Frank Lautenberg

On May 22, 2013, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009 or CSIA) with broad bipartisan support. The introduction of the new bipartisan bill was closely followed by the passing of Senator Lautenberg, who died on June 3 of viral pneumonia at age 89. He has been widely remembered and lauded as a champion for public, environmental, and occupational health.

Senator David Vitter

Though CHE, as a whole, does not take a stand on any specific legislation, we wanted to ensure our full membership—on state, national and international levels—is aware of this significant and quickly evolving process.

(more…)

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