CHE Director to Step Down April 1

With the launch of CHE’s new website, our blog has moved to a new platform. If you haven’t yet subscribed to follow our new blog, we encourage you to do so. We apologize that a technical error prevented subscriptions previously. If you tried to subscribe unsuccessfully before, please try again. This will be our final post to this blog.

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing to let you know I plan to step down as CHE director as of April 1, 2017. It’s hard to believe I’ve worked almost 24 years on environmental health issues in different capacities. I’ve truly loved it. It’s not only been meaningful and fulfilling for me personally, but also a great privilege to engage with exceptionally bright and dedicated colleagues, learn the emerging science, catalyze strategic initiatives and work collaboratively to push the needle towards improved health and well-being in a world that faces a very uncertain future.

That said, it’s become clear to me that I would like to serve the Commons in other ways as well—in ways that will allow different core interests, experience and skill sets of mine to be expressed. Though I don’t have a specific position waiting in the wings, I’m looking to pick up where I left off in my graduate work, which was focused on the experience of girls living in Northern India on the borderline of Western and traditional Indian cultures. More broadly, I have a strong desire to engage with girls and young women nationally and globally, supporting efforts to foster ethical leadership, compassionate action and greater gender equality. I will be exploring various opportunities over the next months.

Most important at this time, however, is my commitment to skillfully transition CHE into its next phase of service before I leave. I’ve chosen to allow ample lead time to ensure that the right people and systems are in place to carry CHE successfully forward with new energy, perspectives and experience.

Along those lines, I’m very pleased to announce that my successor has already emerged. Karen Wang, PhD, is a Stanford University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and a Master of Science in earth sciences. She received her doctorate last year in strategic management from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Her dissertation focused on the changing nature of hospital-physician relationships and implications for public health. Previously she worked for Columbia University and the United Nations Development Program on program evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Karen recently moved back to the Bay Area with her husband and now seven-month old daughter. After careful mutual consideration, CHE has decided to hire Karen to serve as our next director. She will start on a very part-time basis in January and then serve full-time as of April 1, when I depart. You will no doubt hear more from her in the coming months, but we are confident she will bring critical new skills to amplify CHE’s work in this next chapter. In the meanwhile, I will be as engaged as ever meeting CHE’s goals and deliverables for the New Year, while bringing Karen up to speed.

To close I’ll simply say this decision is bittersweet. I will greatly miss getting to work more closely with extraordinary colleagues like you on issues that will always remain close to my heart. As with many major decisions, knowing it’s the right thing to do doesn’t necessarily make it the easy thing to do. Please know I very much look forward to staying in touch wherever I next land.

With deep gratitude for sharing this journey with me over the years and heartfelt wishes for the holiday season to you and your families,


P.S. If you haven’t already, please do visit our robust new website:

The Launch of CHE’s New Website!

written by Elise Miller, MEd
You want to find out what in the environment might be contributing to a health issue you or loved ones are facing. You come across this highly integrated, science-based, straightforward, streamlined, easy-to-navigate website.

On one page, it not only provides a comprehensive summary of your topic of interest, but links to calls with leading researchers, useful publications, insightful blog posts and an up-to-date news feed. In addition, everything you find is interconnected with other relevant information if you wish to deepen your understanding.

Good News: You no longer have to imagine –
CHE’s new website is here!

On our site you will find the latest research and analysis on the relationship between exposures and disease for:

You can also access:

  • 400 recorded presentations with leading researchers covering the latest science on exposures and health outcomes
  • Topic-specific news feed with links to respective scientific publications
  • A calendar of relevant meetings, conferences and other events
  • 16 topic-based ScienceServs where new studies are shared and discussed
  • Blog posts on key concerns
  • Science-based publications, including the award-winning A Story of Health
  • Scientific consensus statements that have impacted major fields of study
  • Our highly lauded Toxicant and Disease Database and much more….

NOTE: CHE’s blog location has changed! You can find it here. If you are subscribed to our current WordPress blog, you need to sign up for our new blog to receive announcements of new postings. We apologize for this inconvenience. Please let us know if you need any help making that change –

We welcome your questions, comments and feedback and hope this will prove to be an invaluable resource for you and your colleagues.


Party Like It’s World Diabetes Day!

written by Sarah Howard
Coordinator of the Diabetes-Obesity ScienceServ

sarah-howardUsually, “diabetes” and “party” are never mentioned in the same sentence. The reasons are obvious: diabetes is a horrible, life-changing and life-threatening diagnosis. More than 400 million adults worldwide have diabetes, and more than half a million children under 15 have type 1 diabetes. One in seven infants worldwide are exposed to their mother’s high glucose levels in the womb. (Source: IDF Diabetes Atlas, 2015).

In addition, international scientists are now researching the role of environmental chemical exposures in diabetes. Convincing laboratory and epidemiological evidence has been published suggesting that exposure to “metabolic disrupting” chemicals may contribute to the development of diabetes in later life, especially if the exposure occurred early in life. (Source: Heindel et al. Parma Consensus Statement on Metabolic Disruptors. 2015.)

But if you have lived with diabetes, you are probably up to your ears in statistics and studies. Every now and then you need a break. And so, we celebrate World Diabetes Day every year on November 14, to honor the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, the man credited with discovering insulin and saving millions of lives. In 2016, this day also happened to be the 10-year anniversary of my son Teddy’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis. So clearly, it was time to party!

I have never acknowledged Teddy’s diagnosis day (or “diaversary”) in any way before, although many people do something special for their child on that day. We decided to host a surprise party for him, which would really be a surprise since he did not even know his diagnosis date, and would not be suspected anything. I had a lot of fun thinking of party ideas during the week prior, which was a welcome change from the daily grind of type 1 diabetes management.

We invited two of Teddy’s friends who have type 1 diabetes along with their families, as well as few of his closest friends and their parents—who are my reliable babysitters. Part of the purpose was to thank these babysitters, who have watched him at their house — even at sleepovers– allowing him to feel like a normal kid. We had everyone over for dinner at our house. One family babysat Teddy for the few hours prior to the party so we could set up the house and surprise him. He was indeed surprised! After dinner, we started in on the fun!

Show the diabetes piñata how you really feel

blog11-14-16shdiabetesdaydropofbloodWho loves having diabetes? No one. What better way to express your true feelings about diabetes than to whack a diabetes piñata. How can you make a piñata that represents diabetes? Well, what is diabetes? High blood sugar. So I made a paper mache piñata in the shape of blood drop (which just happens to be the same shape as a balloon), color it red, and fill it with candy. Easy! Plus, it’s a great way to get rid of Halloween leftovers!

Guess how many

IMG_20161114_085207.jpgAnyone with diabetes likely has a lot of diabetes-related things lying around. Cabinets full of things. I put some of these things in clear containers, and everyone guessed how many items were in each jar. Winners received either a “low blood sugar treatment kit” (i.e., candy) or a “high blood sugar snack kit” (i.e., cheese). I actually did count the number of syringes, lancets, pen needles, and used insulin pump batteries—all things that we happened to have lying around in abundance. I did not count the numbers of used needles (too dangerous) or used test strips (too gross), but picked random winners. And then there was the jar of empty Halloween candy wrappers. I had asked, “How many carbs?” We called it a tie, since one kid wrote “0” (“because there are no carbs in the wrappers,” which is technically correct), and one who wrote “100,000” (because that was the closest to my answer, “too many”).

Where’s the alarm?

Wait, do you hear that? What’s that alarm? Is someone high? Is someone low? Is someone’s pump out of insulin? Is there a low battery? There’s an alarm going off somewhere in the house, quick, find it! (It was my alarm clock, set to go off at a random time in the middle of the party).

Tour the diabetes museum

I have had type 1 diabetes for 17 years, and my son has had it for 10. We have a lot of old supplies gathering dust in the basement. I put them in shoeboxes on display, and even my son enjoyed looking at these things he did not even remember—like the junior insulin pen he used when he was 1 year old. He has been on a pump so long he didn’t even know what an insulin pen looked like. We had his old pumps too—you never know when these things will come in handy. In fact, it is because of these supplies that my husband has been able to make us artificial pancreases, which require the use of old pumps. (We also had his “Artificial Pancreas Lab” on display in the museum.)

What do you get someone with diabetes?

Blog11.14.16SHDiabetesDayPancreas.jpgWe got him a new pancreas. The fuzzy, stuffed kind that are available on Amazon. He slept cuddling it last night. He also learned what a pancreas looks like, apparently he had thought it was round. One friend with diabetes made him a booklet of hilarious Diabetes Memes that only those with diabetes could fully understand. My favorite gift, however, was presented by another friend, who made a shield and holy grail out of aluminum (since the 10 year anniversary is tin/aluminum). He then knighted Teddy and read this proclamation:

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
Be it thus noted that Sir Theodore Howard
Has these yon 10 years passed
Fought the good fight against
The dread diabetes type 1

May he be successful
In his continued valiant efforts
To banish the dread diabetes
With the holy grail of diabetes cures
So that over the next 10 years
We may yet again gather to celebrate
The vanquished foe

We dub thee Sir Teddy
And his heroic knights of the Howard table

Time to celebrate

With cake, decorated to look like a continuous glucose monitor. The cake says his blood sugar is 40 and going down rapidly, meaning it must be time to eat cake! But of course it has to be accompanied by ice cream, since you want some fat and protein to balance out those carbs.

And then it was over. We had a couple of low blood sugars during the course of party, and presumably a couple of highs as well, considering four of the attendees had type 1 diabetes and a lot of carbs were consumed. But we all survived. To help ensure that we keep surviving, we gave out expired glucagon kits as party favors, so our friends could practice using them. With their help, and the help of scientists studying diabetes around the globe, we are not just surviving, but partying as well.

11.29.16CallDiabetesCDC.jpgIn fact, two of my favorite diabetes scientists, Dr. Mary Turyk and Dr. Robert Sargis, will be speaking on a CHE call on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 10 am PST/ 1 pm EST. They will discuss their research on Chemical Contributors to Type 2 Diabetes. Please join us! And thank you to everyone around the world, including friends, family, researchers, advocates, and all who help make this disease more bearable. If you could all fit in my house, I’d have you over for cake and ice cream as well.

Closing the Gap on Health Disparities

kathysykeswritten by Kathy Sykes
Senior Advisor for Aging and Public Health at the EPA Office of Research and Development

This post is shared with permission from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. It was originally posted on Stylistic edits have been made.

What do health disparities, interest on the national debt, and gun violence have in common? Would you believe it’s economic impact, to the tune of $229 billion dollars? That is not small change. This figure demonstrates the magnitude of an issue that continues to burden our society.

The number comes from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which calculated that during 2003-2006, we would have saved $229 billion in direct healthcare expenditures if we had eliminated health disparities (MMWR). Surprisingly, it also happens to be the total annual cost of gun violence each year, ($8.6 billion in direct costs and $221 billion in indirect costs; Mother Jones). It also happens to be what our country spent as interest on the national debt in 2015 (National Priorities Project).

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Child Health Day: Reducing Toxic Chemicals Still Not Named as a National Priority

written by Elise Miller, MEd

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Children’s Environmental Health Summit, organized by the Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). Not only were there presentations by some of the luminaries in environmental health research and long-dedicated health advocates from around the country, there were also powerful talks given by those from communities in Alaska that have been significantly impacted by exposures to toxic chemicals. You could have heard a pin drop when several women from different tribal groups – Savoonga, Inupiaq, Nay’dini’aa Na’ and others – described their experiences about the health impacts of toxic exposures they had witnessed in their villages.

A common theme emerged as these women spoke – namely, being told by decision-makers that there wasn’t a health problem, when they knew otherwise. The result was that more children and families have had their health undermined in ways that could have been prevented. Their stories of course sadly echoed the experiences of families in Flint, Michigan, and countless other communities, where those who are most knowledgeable about a situation have often been dismissed as being over-reactive or worse.

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Commentary: 25 Years of Endocrine Disruptor Research – Great Strides, But Still a Long Way to Go

written by Laura N. Vandenberg, PhD
Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences

Laura N. Vandenberg

Laura Vandenberg (Credit:

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Health News

Cancer. Diabetes. Autism. Infertility. ADHD. Asthma. As the rates of these diseases increase over time, the public and researchers alike have focused on the role the environment might play in their cause and progression. Scientists in the field of environmental health sciences are not satisfied just to know that the environment contributes to human disease – they want to know how.

This week [ScienceSeptember 18-20], researchers, public health advocates, government officials, and industry spokespersons will meet at National Institutes of Health (NIH) to celebrate 25 years of scientific research on one aspect of environmental health: endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These are compounds that alter the way hormones act in the body, often by mimicking or blocking their actions. Just a few examples of widely used consumer products that contain EDCs are plastics, electronics, flooring, some personal care products, and furniture treated with some flame retardants.

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Kids Are Not Just Substituting E-Cigs for Cigs; E-Cigs Are Expanding the Tobacco Epidemic

September 26th is World Environmental Health Day. The theme this year is “Tobacco Control… a response to the global tobacco pandemic”, and so we offer this commentary, shared with the author’s permission. The original post is available on his blog.

stantonglantzwritten by Stanton Glantz, PhD
Professor of Medicine and Truth Initiative Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control at the University of California, San Francisco

Jessica Barrington-Trimis and her colleagues have published two important papers in Pediatrics on the link between e-cigarette and cigarette use, both based on a large longitudinal sample of Southern California youth who have been followed for many years.

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Celebrating 25 Years of Endocrine Disruptors Research

written by Elise Miller, MEd
updated September 19, 2016

Twenty-five years ago “endocrine disrupting chemicals” was hardly a household term. Now at the grocery store or while traveling, I’ve been astonished to hear “endocrine disrupting chemicals” or “EDCs” roll off some people’s tongues as though they were toxicologists, rather than parents with little background in science simply voicing concerns about possible links between chemical exposures and their kids’ health. Even mainstream news outlets refer to EDCs with only the briefest of explanations these days.

How did this happen? I certainly don’t have the space here to detail this remarkable story, but some pioneering researchers in the 1990s were central to bringing these critical issues and a revolution in scientific thinking to national and international attention. Theo Colborn, Pete Myers, Niels Skakkebaek, John McLachlan and Lou Guillette – to name just a few – began publishing and speaking to other scientists, health professionals, health advocates, philanthropists and journalists about the significance of this research. In language accessible to lay audiences, they brought home the point that certain chemicals, pervasive in our environment, could disrupt healthy biological processes at minuscule doses during key windows of development. Most disturbingly, they described how these synthetic chemicals were present in the womb and could contribute to chronic diseases and disabilities across the lifespan.

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Violence: The Connection to Environmental Health and Justice

written by Elise Miller, MEd

Violent events rock families and communities in the U.S. daily. But last week was particularly wrenching as we learned first of two incidents of extrajudicial shootings of black men by police—one in Louisiana, the other in Minnesota—followed by the killing of five police officers by an individual sniper at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Texas. The complexities and causes of each case may be unique, but at the core is an abiding racism that continues to permeate our country.

Racism is perpetuated in multiple and insidious ways, such as the widening income gap, toxic stress, poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare and to nature. Another factor intimately interconnected with these, but often overlooked, is exposure to pollutants and other toxic chemicals. We know that being exposed to heavy metals and neurotoxic chemicals can lead to cognitive deficits and developmental delays that in turn have been linked to juvenile delinquency and violent behavior. We know that many kids of color and low-income families are more likely to live in housing stock with lead paint and pipes and close to polluting industries. We know that during pregnancy poorer women are disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals associated with learning and developmental disorders. We know that working-class parents often have to take the lowest-paying jobs, many of which require regular contact with contaminants linked to cognitive and behavioral problems. We know for most of these families the only food they can afford comes pre-packaged and contains toxic chemicals that can impact neurodevelopment.

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Unprecedented Alliance of Scientists, Health Professionals, & Advocates Agree Toxic Chemicals Are Hurting Brain Development

written by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH
Science Director

Ted SchettlerAn unprecedented alliance of leading scientists, health professionals, and children’s health advocates has come together to publish a consensus statement concluding that scientific evidence supports a causal link between exposures to toxic chemicals in food, air and everyday products and children’s risks for neurodevelopmental disorders. The alliance, known as Project TENDR, is calling for immediate action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals to protect brain development for today’s and tomorrow’s children.

Neurodevelopmental disorders include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, other maladaptive behaviors, and learning disabilities.  Project TENDR’s consensus statement is available on the Project TENDR website.

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