written by Dick Clapp, DSc MPH
CHE Partner and member of the ATSDR Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel
A recent scientific report has shed some light on chemical exposures and breast cancer, this time on male breast cancer in Marines who had spent time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Last month, the online journal Environmental Health published a study titled “Evaluation of contaminated drinking water and male breast cancer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: a case-control study,” by Perri Ruckart, Frank Bove and co-authors at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The study was based on information about 71 male breast cancer cases in Marines and 373 controls that were in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cancer registry and diagnosed between 1995 and May of 2013. For those subjects who were at Camp Lejeune, it was possible to assign exposure levels to various drinking water contaminants based on previous models developed for mortality studies published earlier.
written by Elise Miller, EdM
In 2000, a bipartisan Congressional vote established the National Children’s Study (NCS). This birth-cohort study was intended to follow 100,000 US children from the prenatal period to age 21 in order to better understand the impacts of chemical exposures and other environmental factors on children’s health and development. Fourteen years and $1.3 billion dollars later, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pulled the plug on NCS last December citing design flaws and feasibility challenges. At the end of last month, however, NIH launched a major new study, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), asserting that it will build on NCS while correcting for what didn’t work.
We present the ten most significant news or research stories in environmental health of the last quarter, in CHE’s view. The first three items are statements from major scientific or health organizations summarizing large bodies of research and drawing conclusions about the interaction of our environments and our health. These reports join a growing list of statements and documents (see compilations of consensus statements and of resolutions and scientific statements on CHE’s website).
Additional items in this list present notable new research, new policy developments, new focus or new thinking on their respective topics.
- International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemical: The global health and economic burden related to toxic environmental chemicals is in excess of millions of deaths and billions of dollars every year, including impacts on health and quality of life. On the basis of accumulating robust evidence of exposures and adverse health impacts related to toxic environmental chemicals, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) joins other leading reproductive health professional societies in calling for timely action to prevent harm.
Read CHE’s Blog post on the statement, written by a statement author, and join CHE’s call on the statement on October 30th.
- Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s second scientific statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals: The full Scientific Statement represents a comprehensive review of the literature on seven topics for which there is strong mechanistic, experimental, animal, and epidemiological evidence for endocrine disruption, namely: obesity and diabetes, female reproduction, male reproduction, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer, thyroid, and neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems.
- Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health: A growing body of evidence shows that the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to the health of the environment, but by its actions humanity now threatens to destabilize the Earth’s key life-support systems.
See the infographic that accompanies this report.
- California bill leads nation with significant steps to limit antibiotic overuse in meat production: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the top health threats facing the nation. This action puts California at the forefront of efforts in the US to limit the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in meat production and protect the efficacy of precious antibiotics.
- Pesticide exposure linked to diabetes development: New studies, including a meta-analysis, appear to show that there is a link between exposure to pesticides and the later development of diabetes, researchers reported at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
See more about the meta-analysis: Analysis of 21 studies shows exposure to pesticides is associated with increased risk of developing diabetes.
Although this meta-analysis and other studies were presented at a conference and have not been published, we felt this topic merited inclusion in the Top 10 because it reinforces the growing number of peer-reviewed studies that suggest a link between diabetes and pesticides.
- Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: the challenge ahead: Our analysis suggests that the cumulative effects of individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals acting on different pathways, and a variety of related systems, organs, tissues and cells could plausibly conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies.
See news coverage on this report from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): Exposure to low levels of chemical mixtures linked with cancer and Low-dose mixtures and cancer highlighted at NIEHS symposium, plus CHE’s teleconference call on the report: Theories of carcinogenesis: assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment.
- Association of child poverty, brain development, and academic achievement: Poverty is tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain associated with school readiness skills, with the largest influence observed among children from the poorest households.
See a news report on the study, drawing from an interview with the study senior author: Effect of poverty on brains may explain poor kids’ lower test scores.
As the author notes, this study “closes the loop and adds the missing piece” regarding the connection between poverty, brain development and academic achievement, finding that the effects are mediated by a smaller hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes and that the decrease in volume of the latter two structures explained as much as 15% to 20% of the achievement deficits found. Of note is that children facing numerous other risk factors for poor brain development were screened out from this study. The impacts of poverty, nutrition, conflict, disease and other stressors in addition to exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation each may have individual and synergistic effects on brain development. This study brings focus to the role of poverty on brain development and achievement, but because children living in poverty often face other adverse conditions concomitant to poverty, the full effects of poverty are likely even greater than reported in this study.
- Two articles on health effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking): Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and oil and natural gas operations: potential environmental contamination and recommendations to assess complex environmental mixtures and Environmental and health impacts of ‘fracking’: why epidemiological studies are necessary. These articles make the case for concern over serious impacts on health and call for more research, including regarding the endocrine-disrupting potential of chemicals used in the process.
- The scandal regarding Volkswagen’s programming cars to avoid emissions control. A flurry of news reports on this situation were published. We present two focusing on human health impacts: Scientists say car emissions rigging raises health concerns and How many deaths did Volkswagen’s deception cause in the US? Because 11 million cars worldwide may be affected, and because diesel-fueled cars account for just 3 percent of passenger vehicles in America but closer to 50 percent in Europe, the health impacts of VW’s intentional undermining of clean air standards could be enormous.
- The Center for Public Integrity’s series on occupational exposures and health. CPI’s reports published a long list of articles describing the health impacts of occupational exposures on workers and their families, the failure of current safeguards, the push to weaken even those, and recommendations for reform.
From CBC News, this article appeared today: Synbiota biohacking kits let you do genetic engineering at home.
From the article:
A Canadian company is trying to make it possible for anyone to be a “biohacker” and make custom genetically modified organisms in their home kitchen.
Homemade GMOs may sound scary to some, but Toronto-based Synbiota thinks making genetic engineering technology available to ordinary people will lead to new products that we haven’t yet dreamed of.
To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.
written by David Tuller, DrPH, and Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH
In recent years, a growing body of research has documented that the in utero environment has a critical impact on future health and development. A strong body of evidence shows that prenatal exposure to toxic chemicals can usher in a host of adverse effects in childhood and across the lifespan, as well as in subsequent generations.
Now the world’s leading organization of reproductive health specialists, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), is urging medical professionals to demand stronger government regulation of toxic environmental chemicals. FIGO’s call to action resonates with the theme of this year’s World Environmental Health Day—Children’s Health and Safety and the Protection of Their Environment.