Science Pick: Premature Aging and Waste Landfill Sites.

Ted Schettler
Science Director

See the article in Gene: Telomere shortening in women resident close to waste landfill sites

In this study, scientists from the University of Naples collected blood samples from 50 apparently healthy pregnant women living in an area of Italy with a large number of waste dumps and from a control group of 50 healthy women living in an unpolluted area. The purpose of the study was to compare the length of telomeres on the ends of chromosomes in the cells from women from the two areas.  Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten successively with each cell division.  Short telomeres are associated with cell senescence, diseases of aging, and cancer. Oxidative stress in the cells may explain how exposure to pollution causes shortening of telomeres.    

After controlling for age of participants, telomeres on the chromosomes of white blood cells from women living in the polluted areas were determined to be significantly shorter than those from the control group. Moreover,  teleomere length became progressively shorter the closer participants lived to the polluted area. Although this study did not include a direct measure of exposure to pollutants in individual participants, the results are highly suggestive of a causal relationship between exposure and shortened telomeres. 

Previous studies have shown also reduction of telomere length associated with exposure to air pollution from traffic and other sources. These findings may help explain the increased risk of premature diseases of aging and cancer in populations exposed to various kinds of environmental pollution.

Phthalates and Diabetes: Is There a Connection?

Sarah Howard
Coordinator of the CHE Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group

If you saw the news on Friday the 13th of April, you may have seen mention of a new study on phthalates and diabetes (see WebMD, the Huffington Post and Fox News

The actual study is on PubMed, with a statement by lead author Dr. Monica Lind at Uppsala University.

What did Dr. Lind and her colleagues find? That three of the four phthalate metabolites they measured were associated with diabetes in elderly Swedish adults—even after adjusting for obesity, smoking, exercise, and other factors linked to diabetes. People with higher phthalate metabolite levels had about twice the risk of diabetes as those with lower levels. In this study, the phthalate metabolites linked to diabetes included MMP, MEP, and MiBP, all of which are metabolites of phthalates used in personal care products. Taking the research one step farther, the authors found that MMP and MEP were related to insulin resistance, while MiBP was related to poor insulin secretion. (The phthalate MEHP, a breakdown product of the common plasticizer DEHP, was not related to diabetes or the other health effects). These four phthalate metabolites were detected in almost all study participants.

Continue reading

What Do World Health Day, CHE’s Healthy Aging Initiative, and Bruce Springsteen All Have in Common?

In recognition of CHE’s 10th anniversary, colleagues who have been particularly instrumental to shaping CHE this past decade will be invited to write an introduction. This month’s introduction is by Maria Valenti, who serves as the national coordinator for CHE’s Healthy Aging and the Environment Initiative.

They are all about aging well.

April 7th was World Health Day, an annual observation to mark the founding of the World Health organization (WHO) in 1948. The theme this year is “Good health adds years to life.” According to a statement issued by the United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, this theme “conveys an important message: promoting health throughout life improves one’s chances of remaining healthy and productive in one’s later years.”

This statement could have been lifted from the pages of the report Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging co-authored in 2008 by Drs. Ted Schettler and Jill Stein, myself, and Ben Rohrer. CHE’s relatively new Healthy Aging and the Environment Initiative was founded on this same premise, a life-course approach to health, which recognizes that the path to healthy aging is paved with healthy pregnancies, childhoods and mid-lives.

It is ever more important to consider the health of those who are aging as the number of this population swells dramatically, nearly doubling in the US over the next two decades. Soon, worldwide, for the first time in history, there will be more people aged 65 or over than children under 5.  

Continue reading

FDA to Consumers: We’re still thinking about it. Sorry you’re still eating it.

This essay is reprinted with permission from the author, Gina Solomon, a CHE partner and senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. You can read the original post on Switchboard, NRDC’s blog.

FDA is kicking the BPA-lined can further down the road in an announcement today that the Agency plans to keep studying this issue while consumers continue to be exposed. Specifically, the Agency’s response to NRDC’s petition is: “FDA has determined, as a matter of science and regulatory policy, that the best course of action at this time is to continue our review and study of emerging data on BPA.”

The FDA response to NRDC comes as a result of a petition NRDC filed years ago asking the Agency to ban BPA for food-contact uses, and a resulting lawsuit when FDA failed to offer any response at all. The FDA was legally required to respond to the petition, and did so today with another punt.

Continue reading