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Top 10: 1st Quarter 2015 April 6, 2015

Posted by Nancy Hepp in science pick.
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This quarter’s selections include a discussion of the role of bad luck in cancer, the continuing saga of federal chemical policy reform, the costs of hormone-disrupting chemicals, a couple of success stories, and plenty of research on the impacts of several common toxics on health. cover of A Story of HealthFind out more about many of the Top 10 topics in the new A Story of Health illustrated multimedia eBook developed by CHE and other partners. Through the lives of fictional characters and their families we investigate the multiple environmental factors that influence asthma, developmental disabilities and cancer. Each story features the latest scientific research about disease origin and prevention, key concepts on environmental health, and links to a wide range of additional resources and hundreds of scientific papers.

  1. The “bad luck” of cancer
    A study and its media reporting caused quite a stir among scientists and advocates, with conversation continuing for weeks.

    1. The study: The bad luck of cancer
    2. An initial media report: Most cancer types ‘just bad luck’
    3. Reiterated a few days later in the New York Times: Cancer’s random assault
    4. Response from Silent Spring Institute: Is cancer just bad luck? We don’t think so.
    5. Response from CHE: Cancer, Stem Cells, and Bad Luck
    6. Response from the International Agency for Research on Cancer: Most types of cancer not due to “bad luck”: IARC responds to scientific article claiming that environmental and lifestyle factors account for less than one third of cancers
    7. Reply by Science Magazine: Backlash greets ‘bad luck’ cancer study and coverage
    8. Response from Medscape: Why the ‘cancer due to bad luck’ story needs revision
    9. Response from Natural Resources Defense Council: No, cancer is not mostly bad luck—the role of environmental factors
  2. Chemical policy legislation introduced
    Two new bills have been introduced in Congress to update and reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Substantial conversation and analysis has ensued, including these items:

    1. Udall introduces bill to reauthorize Toxic Substances Control Act
    2. 697 – Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act introduced by Senator Tom Udall
    3. 725 – A bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act, and for other purposes Introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer
    4. Safer Chemicals’ Igrejas discusses competing Senate TSCA reform bills
    5. Eight key questions on chemical safety reform (Environmental Working Group)
    6. How best to strengthen chemical regulations (New York Times)
    7. Reducing Our Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Stronger State Health Protections at Risk in Efforts to Reform Federal Chemical Law (Center for Effective Government)
    8. The bizarre way the US regulates chemicals—letting them on the market first, then maybe studying them (Washington Post)
  3. Environmental contributors to autoimmune diseases
    While research into the role of environmental contributors to autoimmune diseases is not new, the specifics of contributors and their effects is difficult to pinpoint. We applaud these new discoveries:

    1. Mercury in seafood may raise risk of autoimmune diseases in women: study: To explore risk factors for autoimmune disorders, the study authors focused on government data that looked at women between the ages of 16 and 49 between 1999 and 2004. The study: Mercury exposure and antinuclear antibodies among females of reproductive age in the United States: NHANES.
    2. Environmental estrogen bisphenol A and autoimmunity: Here, we review the role of a specific environmental factor, bisphenol A (BPA), in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. BPA belongs to the group of environmental estrogens that have been identified as risk factors involved in the development of autoimmune diseases.
    3. World Trade Center workers at increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases: A new study has found a strong link between prolonged work at the World Trade Center (WTC) site following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the development of various autoimmune diseases including arthritis and lupus. The study: Nested case-control study of selected systemic autoimmune diseases in World Trade Center rescue/recovery workers.
    4. Maternal intake of fatty acids and their food sources during lactation and the risk of preclinical and clinical type 1 diabetes in the offspring: Maternal consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, during lactation may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes.
  4. Chemical exposure linked to billions in health care costs
    Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious health problems costing at least $175 billion (US) per year in Europe alone, according to a study. The four reports, plus two CHE calls, from the study:

    1. Estimating burden and disease costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union
    2. Male reproductive disorders, diseases, and costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union
    3. Obesity, diabetes, and associated costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union
    4. Neurobehavioral deficits, diseases and associated costs of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the European Union
    5. March 24th call: A High Price to Pay: Burden of Disease and Costs of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union
    6. April 28th call: A High Price to Pay: Obesity, Diabetes, and Associated Costs of Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union
  5. Concerns about glyphosate and other herbicides
    Gyphosate, known by trade names Roundup, Accord, Rodeo and Touchdown, was under fire this quarter by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and several new studies. IARC also classified several other herbicides as to their carcinogenicity.

    1. International Agency for Research on Cancer: carcinogenicity of several herbicides: A monograph published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has branded the herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The insecticides malathion and diazinon received the same classification (Group 2A) while the tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B) based on convincing evidence that these agents cause cancer in laboratory animals. The preliminary report: Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate.
    2. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies: A recent study on cows fed genetically modified Roundup®-Ready feed revealed a severe depletion of serum manganese (Mn). Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, has also been shown to severely deplete Mn levels in plants. Here, we investigate the impact of Mn on physiology, and its association with gut dysbiosis as well as neuropathologies such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and prion diseases.
    3. Study links widely used pesticides to antibiotic resistance: A study published by mBio has linked glyphosate and two other widely-used herbicides — 2,4-D and dicamba — to one of the most pressing public health crises of our time: antibiotic resistance. The study: Sublethal exposure to commercial formulations of the herbicides dicamba, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, and glyphosate cause changes in antibiotic susceptibility in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium.
    4. Drinking well water and occupational exposure to herbicides is associated with chronic kidney disease, in Padavi-Sripura, Sri Lanka: The current study strongly favors the hypothesis that CKDu epidemic among farmers in dry zone of Sri Lanka is associated with, history of drinking water from a well that was abandoned. In addition, it is associated with spraying glyphosate and other pesticides in paddy fields.
  6. Nation’s biggest furniture retailer drops flame retardants
    Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest furniture retailer, is purging flame retardants from its product lines, the strongest evidence yet that the toxic, ineffective chemicals are on the way out of household couches and chairs. This is a success for public health.
  7. Developmental origins of health and disease: a paradigm for understanding disease cause and prevention
    The evidence in support of the developmental origins of the health and disease paradigm is sufficiently robust and repeatable across species, including humans, to suggest a need for greater emphasis in the clinical area. As a result of these data, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular morbidity, and neuropsychiatric diseases can all be considered pediatric diseases. Understanding the origins of disease is the first step in prevention.
  8. Effects of arsenic
    From blood pressure and heart disease to gestational diabetes, hypothyroidism, chickenpox, early childhood growth, infant mortality and neurobehavioral effects, arsenic is much under investigation. Because arsenic exposure is widespread and often natural in origin, these effects are quite concerning.

    1. Blood pressure and heart disease:
      1. Blood pressure changes in relation to arsenic exposure in a US pregnancy cohort: In our US cohort of pregnant women, arsenic exposure was associated with greater increases in blood pressure over the course of pregnancy. These findings may have important implications as even modest increases in blood pressure impact cardiovascular disease risk.
      2. Blood pressure, left ventricular geometry, and systolic function in children exposed to inorganic arsenic: Early-life exposure to inorganic arsenic was significantly associated with higher blood pressure and left ventricular mass and with lower ejection fraction in our study population of Mexican children.
      3. Association between lifetime exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water and coronary heart disease in Colorado residents: Lifetime exposure to low-level inorganic arsenic in drinking water was associated with increased risk for CHD in this population.
    2. Diabetes
      1. A nested case-control study indicating heavy metal residues in meconium associate with maternal gestational diabetes mellitus risk: The present work implies that exposure to some of the selected metals (noticeably arsenic) may contribute to maternal gestational diabetes mellitus risk during pregnancy.
      2. Arsenic exposure, arsenic metabolism, and incident diabetes in the Strong Heart Study: Arsenic metabolism, particularly lower monomethylarsonate percentage, was prospectively associated with increased incidence of diabetes.
    3. Hypothyroidism
      1. Association of hypothyroidism with low-level arsenic exposure in rural West Texas: The prevalence of hypothyroidism was significantly higher in Hispanics or non-Hispanic whites of this rural cohort than the national prevalence. Measures should be taken to reduce arsenic in drinking water in order to prevent hypothyroidism in rural areas.
    4. Varicella zoster virus, cause of chicken pox and shingles
      1. Arsenic exposure and prevalence of the varicella zoster virus in the United States: NHANES (2003-2004 and 2009-2010): In this cross-sectional analysis urinary arsenic was inversely associated with VZV immunoglobulin G seroprevalence in the US population. This finding is in accordance with clinical observations of zoster virus reactivation from high doses of arsenic.
    5. Pregnancy/infant outcomes
      1. Association of arsenic with adverse pregnancy outcomes — infant mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis: Arsenic is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and infant mortality. The interpretation of the causal association is hampered by methodological challenges and limited studies on dose-response.
      2. Association between maternal urinary arsenic species and infant cord blood leptin levels in a New Hampshire pregnancy cohort: These results suggest in utero exposure to low levels of arsenic influences cord blood leptin concentration and presents a potential mechanism by which arsenic may impact early childhood growth.
    6. Neurobehavioral outcomes
      1. Neurobehavioral effects of arsenic exposure among secondary school children in the Kandal Province, Cambodia: Arsenic-exposed school children from the Kandal Province of Cambodia with a median hair As level of 0.93 µg/g among those from the highly contaminated study site, showed clear evidence of neurobehavioral effects.
  9. BPA and neurodevelopment
    1. BPA exposure linked to autism spectrum disorder, study reports: A newly published study is the first to report an association between bisphenol A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study: Bisphenol A exposure in children with autism spectrum disorders.
    2. Bisphenol A exposure and behavioral problems among inner city children at 7-9 years of age: These results suggest BPA exposure may affect childhood behavioral outcomes in a sex-specific manner and differently depending on timing of exposure.
    3. Autistic features associated with prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors: Exposure during pregnancy to a combination of fire retardant chemicals and phthalate chemicals, which are present in the average home, may contribute to autistic-like behaviors in offspring, according to a new Canadian study.
  10. Cleaner air linked to bigger, stronger lungs in Southern California children
    Cleaner air has for the first time been linked to bigger and stronger lungs among school-age children, according to findings from a two-decade study in Southern California. This is another success story. The study: Association of improved air quality with lung development in children.

Another Cry for Primary Prevention April 9, 2014

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

Elise MillerHow 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.

(more…)

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…)
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