Celebrating 25 Years of Endocrine Disruptors Research

written by Elise Miller, MEd
Director
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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Top 10: 3rd Quarter 2015

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.

  1. FIGOInternational 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.
  2. 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.
  3. PlanetaryHealthSafeguarding 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. cumulativeImpactsThe 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Your Health the Week of May 25th

written by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

Improving air quality

school busesTwo items this week relate to actions that can improve air quality. The first from Living On Earth reports on efforts and positive outcomes in Pennsylvania to reduce exhaust by cutting down idling by school buses: School bus pollution is dangerous, and efforts to control it are still uneven. Given the number of school buses and the known health hazards from diesel exhaust, no-idling efforts can make a big difference in children’s health.

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Your Health This Week

Nancy Heppwritten by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

CHE has been publishing a news feed for several years. We also take a subset of those news stories, journal articles, and announcements that specifically address Your Health — information that you might find useful in safeguarding or improving your own health or that of your family — and publish those as a separate feed. Readers can subscribe to either feed via RSS, but this post initiates a regular series that summarizes and highlights recent Your Health items and trends.

Bringing attention to specific resources and findings does not mean CHE endorses or validates them. We highlight the emerging science and its implications for Your Health, knowing that the science will continue to evolve.

New video: Reducing EDC exposures

link to the videoEDCs, which have been associated with diabetes, some cancers, learning disorders, and harm to reproduction, have been in the news increasingly in the last few years. A short video from Women in Europe for a Common Future provides an overview of the issues and information for pregnant women on how to protect themselves and their children from EDCs.

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Making the Bottom Line Healthier for All: The Economic Argument for Reducing Exposures

written by Elise Miller, MEd
Director

What does it cost us to have more people than ever suffering from chronic illnesses? Last week a highly respected health economist in Europe, along with a number of scientists specializing in endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), released a groundbreaking report indicating that the EU is spending at least $175 billion (US) a year on chronic diseases related to EDC exposures. This was the first analysis of its kind to focus on the costs of neurological effects, obesity and diabetes (related to the disruption of metabolic function), and male reproductive disorders.

from the EU reportAnd this is of course not just a European concern. Over the past decade or two, leaders in environmental health have provided various estimates on the environmentally attributable fraction of costs for various health endpoints, such as ADHD, childhood cancers, and asthma, in the US. All of these analyses, even the most conservative ones, have indicated that society would save billions of dollars every year in health care costs and lost wages if we reduced exposures to certain chemical contaminants. As the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences noted in response to the EU report, “If you applied these [health care] numbers to the US, they would be applicable, and in some cases higher.”

quote from Lizzie GrossmanLizzie Grossman made this point even clearer in her breaking article: “To put $175 billion in perspective, it is more than the combined proposed 2016 budgets for the US Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, National Park Service, and Environmental Protection Agency combined.”

Another way of thinking about this is even if the estimated health care costs related to exposures to EDCs were only about half of that, say $90 billion, we could quintuple the budgets for Head Start and Child Care and Development Fund in the US with those savings alone. That would mean a lot more kids could get a far better start in life—and of course, a lot fewer adults would be suffering from preventable diseases.

On the federal level, the politics are so mired and convoluted that a bill to protect citizens more effectively from exposures to the tens of thousands of untested chemicals that are on the market has yet to pass Congress. The latest draft of the measure to reform the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), circulated to lawmakers earlier this week, continues to have some serious flaws according to many colleagues. This means that it’s not at all clear how the Senate hearing on this version will go next week.

But there is good news on the market front. On Monday, it was announced that Ashley Furniture, the largest furniture retailer in the US, has agreed to stop using toxic flame retardants (which are EDCs) in their products. This is of course a huge win for consumers and shows that leading companies can move away from using chemicals that impact human health without harming their bottom line—and perhaps even increasing it. Plus, health will improve more broadly because people won’t be exposed to flame retardants—in turn, reducing health care costs across society. And that brings us back to the seminal report I mentioned at the beginning on health costs in the EU linked to EDCs.

The economic argument for minimizing exposures to toxic chemicals is a powerful one because it is grounded in evidence-based science. Naysayers can continue to try to make the case that these exposures are not really harmful to health and that removing them would undermine the economy. But it’s clear that companies like Ashley Furniture aren’t going to wait for politics to catch up with the science to do the right thing. Here’s to more companies and decision-makers in every sector of society realizing that a healthy bottom line can in fact be healthier for all.

Electromagnetic Fields: The Chemical Connection

written by Elise Miller, MEd
CHE Director

Elise Miller, MEdAs you probably remember from your high school biology class, our bodies function using electrical impulses to communicate between cells, such as telling your heart muscles to contract or signaling your brain that you just stubbed your toe. Since everything relies on these signals, any breakdown or disruption in your body’s electrical system can become a real problem.

We also know that certain toxic agents, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), can alter our bodies’ hormonal messaging systems (which, by the way, uses electrical signals to communicate). When exposures to these chemicals, even in tiny amounts, happen during critical windows of development, then a wide range of health problems can result over a person’s lifetime.

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The “Junk Science Threat” to Free Trade

CHE Partner Paul Whaley
Editor, Health & Environment blog

Excerpted with permission of the author.

In January this year, MEP Julie Girling contributed an opinion piece to the Wall Street Journal (Girling 2014) in which she decried “the EU’s expanding embrace of ‘precautionary’ regulation” of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), equating this to a “junk science” approach to policy-making.

Since this piece promulgates a number of misconceptions about the legal and scientific underpinnings of precautionary policy-making, which need to be resolved if we are to do as Girling wants and move “toward a common approach to these issues”, it is worth deconstructing some of the points she presents.

Continue reading on the Health & Environment blog.

Top 10 Selections: April 2013

For our third quarterly Top 10 list, we again selected 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. Report: Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Science, Precaution, Innovation from the European Environment Agency.
    As stated in the promotional text for this report: “The case studies across both volumes of Late Lessons from Early Warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximizing innovations whilst minimizing harms.” This report explores weaknesses in regulatory science and expands on histories of past environmental and public health mistakes. It includes new substances with potential for harm and several false positives. All is drawn together to provide a framework in which precaution guides policy.
    See more information about the partnership call CHE hosted on this report: Late Lessons from Early Warnings: A Retrospective Look at Learning about Precaution.
  2. The need to look at mixtures in assessing safety.
    Two items this quarter address the need to look at interactions among exposures when determining risk of exposures. First is Research Brief 217: Majority of Women Exposed to Multiple Pollutants, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). According to a new analysis of thousands of US women of child-bearing age, almost 83% of women aged 16 to 49 meet or exceed median blood levels of one or more of three environmental pollutants—lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—that are known to harm brain development of fetuses and babies. Most women exceeded the median blood level for two or more of these pollutants, even though “scientists do not yet know whether co-exposure to all three chemicals is more harmful than each chemical alone.” With exposures this pervasive, it is imperative that risks be assessed and policies adopted to protect fetuses and children. The second item is a statement from NIEHS on this topic:  Unraveling the health effects of environmental mixtures: an NIEHS priority. NIEHS recognizes that it “is imperative to develop methods to assess the health effects associated with complex exposures in order to minimize their impact on the development of disease.” NIEHS draws from its background in both supporting and conducting combined exposure research to state that this topic will continue to be a priority at the Institute.
  3. America’s real criminal element: lead  and Correlation between exposure to lead and violence is being taken seriously across scientific world.
    “New research finds that lead is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic. And fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.” This line of investigation has deep repercussions socially. With substantial costs not only to individuals and their families, but to our entire society, from crime, lowered educational attainment and attendant problems. There is new impetus to prevent or to find and remediate lead in housing, in soil, and in consumer goods. Beyond the social significance, though, this story is a great case study in epidemiology and criminology.
  4. New report: U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health.
    This report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine investigates potential reasons for the US health disadvantage and assesses its larger implications. No single factor can fully explain the US disadvantage:  It likely has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions. This report packages the ecological model of health which CHE encourages our partners to consider when investigating environmental effects on health.
  5. Further impacts from smoking tobacco.
    Three studies provide new thinking around an old problem, in case anyone still needed a reason to reduce tobacco use.

    1. Passive smoking can dramatically increase the risk of developing severe dementia Breathing in someone else’s cigarette fumes increases your risk of severe dementia, according to researchers. The study is the first to find a significant link between passive smoking and the neurological disease.
      See the study: Association between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and dementia syndromes
      Between the widespread exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and the substantial costs to society of dementia, this is a huge public health issue. If reducing exposures to tobacco smoke can decrease the incidence or severity of dementia, the benefits to society could be enormous, in addition to the improvement in quality of life for individuals and their families.
    2. Cigarette smoke may increase microbial virulence
      A new study expands the potential health effects to a new front, showing that acute in vitro exposure of Staphylococcus aureus to cigarette smoke promoted biofilm formation and adhesion to human cells.
      See the study: Cigarette smoke increases staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation via oxidative stress.
    3. Cutting smoking saves more in health bills than lost tax: EU
      The cost and health benefits of getting people not to smoke—and better still, not to start—more than outweigh the taxes the tobacco industry pays to governments, the European Commission said Monday.
  6. Pollution crisis in China.
    A long series of news reports on air and water pollution, the resulting unrest in the population, and the government’s response describes a society’s struggle with chemical contamination in China.

    1. Chinese struggle through ‘airpocalypse’ smog
    2. Beijing air pollution soars to hazard level
    3. Beijing orders official cars off roads to curb pollution
    4. Chinese take fight against water pollution to social media
    5. Chinese Internet users scream for clean air act
    6. Eye-stinging Beijing air risks lifelong harm to babies
    7. Water pollution: a Bay of Pigs moment in China
    8. China’s toxic harvest: a “cancer village” rises in protest
    9. China steps up toxics controls
    10. Waiting to exhale in China
    11. A new environment for fight against pollution
    12. In China, breathing becomes a childhood risk
  7. Global data and meta-analayses of prenatal exposures and birth outcomes.
    Two large studies showcase the effects of environmental exposures on pregnancy outcomes.

    1. Environmental risk factors of pregnancy outcomes: a summary of recent meta-analyses of epidemiological studies
      The meta-analyses found statistically significant negative associations between environmental tobacco smoke and stillbirth, birth weight, and any congenital anomalies; PM2.5 and preterm birth; outdoor air pollution and some congenital anomalies; indoor air pollution from solid fuel use and stillbirth and birth weight; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) exposure and birth weight; disinfection by-products in water and stillbirth, small for gestational age, and some congenital anomalies; occupational exposure to pesticides and solvents and some congenital anomalies; and agent orange and some congenital anomalies.
    2. Maternal exposure to particulate air pollution and term birth weight: A multi-country evaluation of effect and heterogeneity
      A growing body of evidence has associated maternal exposure to air pollution with adverse effects on fetal growth; however, the existing literature is inconsistent. The objectives of this study were to quantify the association between maternal exposure to particulate air pollution and term birth weight and low birth weight (LBW) across fourteen centers from nine countries and to explore the influence of site characteristics and exposure assessment methods on between-center heterogeneity in this association. Maternal exposure to particulate pollution was associated with low birth weight at term across study populations. This study helps clarify previous disparate findings on air pollution and birth weight. Taking into account differences in location and methodology, these findings support the association between maternal particulate matter exposure and low birth weight.
  8. US report urges deeper look into breast cancer’s environmental links.
    A new federal advisory panel report makes a forceful case for more research into environmental causes of breast cancer, which was diagnosed in 227,000 women, killed 40,000 and cost more than $17 billion to treat in the United States last year. For years, the focus in breast cancer has been on early detection and treatment, and this move toward prevention shifts the focus upstream.
    See the report: Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention and information about CHE’s partnership call on the report.
  9. UN, WHO panel calls hormone-disrupting chemicals a ‘global threat.’
    An international team of experts reported today that evidence linking hormone-mimicking chemicals to human health problems has grown stronger over the past decade, becoming a “global threat” that should be addressed. There’s still much research needed, but this moves the conversation about health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals onto a bigger stage.
    See the report: State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and other coverage: European Parliament vote on EDCs conveys urgency of protecting health.
  10. Transgenerational effects of prenatal exposure to environmental obesogens in rodents.
    Three studies were published this quarter:

    1. Transgenerational inheritance of increased fat depot size, stem cell reprogramming, and hepatic steatosis elicited by prenatal obesogen tributyltin in mice
    2. plastics derived endocrine disruptors (bpa, dehp and dbp) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations
    3. Hydrocarbons (jet fuel JP-8) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations

    This is a new finding in both obesity research and in transgenerational research. These studies all show the ability of environmental chemicals (not only endocrine disruptors, but also jet fuel) to promote obesity in three generations of rodents.
    See information about CHE’s working group call on these studies: Transgenerational Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Environmental Obesogens in Rodents.

CHE’s Top 10 Environmental Health Stories from Mid 2012

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment initiates a quarterly Top 10 series with this offering of journal articles, news stories, policy recommendations and actions from the last few months.

Given that we all are inundated with dozens of stories—often compelling new science and ideas—every week, if not every day, discerning which ones seem most significant and influential is challenging. This is why we decided to start this service—to help us all figure out which ones seem particularly important to track over time.

Though choosing a “Top 10” is more of an art than a science, we selected these items because we consider them “game-changers” in one way or another: they all have had a significant impact, or are likely to have a significant impact on thinking and action in the field; they’ve changed the conversation on a topic or expanded the scope of the conversation to a new audience or awareness; and/or they are likely to be pivotal in defining a new trend. We have also listed some that reflect a high level of energy and activity in a particular arena. Though the science may still be relatively new or controversial, the level of focus suggests it is worthy of our attention.

We realize articles in addition to the ones we selected could arguably be included. We also may have missed some new publication or story that, in retrospect, will appear to be seminal. We invite comments and look forward to a rich conversation around this.

Finally, we have chosen to focus on stories instead of issues. There are many additional issues of great importance than we could have captured in this brief analysis, but these are the stories we believe are currently making an impact on environmental health thinking and conversations, both for professionals and for the general public.

CHE intends to publish our next quarterly Top 10 in mid January 2013.

Now for this first Top 10, in no particular order:

  1. Chicago Tribune series on flame retardants
    CHE selected this story series because the depth of the investigative reporting was impressive, the conversation as a result of the series was far-reaching (Watchdog Update: Pressure grows for limits on flame retardants), and the repercussions have been significant:

    1. California is reconsidering its 37-year-old regulation on flammability in sofas, easy chairs and baby products in homes (Key agency moves to scrap rules that made toxic flame retardant common in U.S. furniture);
    2. Bipartisan support has emerged for national restrictions on flame retardants (see Changes in chemical safety law getting bipartisan support and Legislators urge ACC to expel firms);
    3. The EPA has promised to look at banning harmful flame retardants (EPA vows investigation of flame retardants, which Tribune investigated and EPA identifies substitutes for toxic flame retardant chemical); and
    4. The Senate passed the Safe Chemicals Act out of committee (Historic vote: oversight of EPA authorities and actions to control exposures to toxic chemicals). Similar bills have been introduced many times over the last dozen years or more, but this is the first time it passed out of committee. While there is no stated connection between the Tribune series and the Senate vote, the news series appeared to elevate general national conversation around chemical regulation, and all of the individuals who testified as part of the Senate hearing specifically mentioned flame retardants in their testimony.
  2. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and public health protection: a statement of principles from the Endocrine Society
    This position statement from a major medical society guides research and regulation of chemicals that disrupt endocrine function and interfere with the function of other biological systems in the human body. In the paper, the Endocrine Society proposes a simplified definition of an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) as an exogenous chemical or mixture of chemicals that interferes with any aspect of hormone action. The position statement also lays out recommendations for more protective regulation of EDCs including addressing low-dose effects of EDCs.
    Also see

    1. Experts say protocols for identifying endocrine-disrupting chemicals inadequate
    2. Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses
    3. International Workshop: Low Dose Effects and Non-Monotonic Dose Responses for Endocrine Active Chemicals: Science to Practice, held in Berlin September 11 – 13, 2012
  3. Fracking
    Heightened attention has been given to scientific studies and news stories in the US and in Europe regarding health and safety concerns around hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. Of particular concern is the negative repercussions fracking can have on the quality of our drinking and irrigation water, for air and soils, for human health and regarding earthquakes and climate change. See, for example:

    1. Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health
    2. Polluted water fuels a battle for answers
    3. Nurses promote healthier energy choices
    4. There goes paradise
    5. ‘Fracking’ could get UK approval
    6. Fracking: boom or doom
    7. Fracking poses risk to water systems, research suggests
    8. Unconventional natural gas development and infant health: evidence from Pennsylvania
    9. The fracking of Rachel Carson
    10. Three studies from the European Commission on environmental impacts and risks of energy resources.

    CHE applauds this ongoing discussion, the continued investigation of adverse effects, and the spotlight on public health and safety.

  4. Environmental Justice, led by a series published by Environmental Health news (EHN)
    As Marla Cone, editor-in-chief of Environmental Health News, stated in an interview about the series, the reporters were instructed “to give their stories a strong sense of place and a compelling voice of the people—but also to be well grounded in the science.” As a result, this series is not only piercing and thought-provoking, documenting “the triple whammy of race, poverty and environment converging nationwide to create communities near pollution sources where nobody else wants to live”, but also prescient. Published two months before the Chevron refinery explosion in Richmond, California, the first article quotes a resident of North Richmond: “People still wonder when the next big accident is going to happen.” It happened on August 6th. The community was not taken by surprise, and there are many, many similar communities throughout the country wondering when, how and how much they will be impacted by neighboring factories, refineries, waste dumps, transmission lines and other toxic sites. A related article, Slow and underfunded, EPA program falls short in toxic site cleanups, also addresses many of the same core problems, as applied to brownfields. These quotes from this article sum up CHE’s reason for this selection: “The shortcomings are due to limited funds, a lack of federal oversight, seemingly endless waits for approvals and dense bureaucratic processes that make it difficult for poor and sparsely populated neighborhoods to compete against larger and middle-class communities that have the means to figure them out, an investigation by six nonprofit newsrooms has found… As a result, poor Americans are both more likely to live with polluted sites and less likely to be able to attract a means to turn them around, despite the existence of the brownfields program.”
  5. Studies of transgenerational effects of chemical or nutritional exposures in laboratory animals, in all likelihood acting through heritable epigenetic mechanisms. This is a relatively new field of research that is gaining a lot of traction. The science is still evolving, with many studies needing to be replicated and consensus reached regarding the methodology. However, several recent studies show apparent passing of traits and effects down one or more generation without DNA mutation, such as through heritable DNA methylation changes. Although further research is necessary to confirm these effects in animals, to determine the real-world implications in humans, and to better understand the mechanisms involved, these epigenetic effects provide greater reason for reducing or eliminating toxic environmental exposures in our lives.
    1. High-fat or ethinyl-oestradiol intake during pregnancy increases mammary cancer risk in several generations of offspring
    2. Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses
    3. Environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of ovarian disease
    4. Transgenerational actions of environmental compounds on reproductive disease and identification of epigenetic biomarkers of ancestral exposures
    5. Gestational exposure to bisphenol A produces transgenerational changes in behaviors and gene expression
    6. Dioxin (TCDD) induces epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease and sperm epimutations
  6. Father’s health and exposures contribute to a child’s health and development
    The idea that the effects of a father’s exposures before or close to the time of conception can affect the health of the child is building evidence, as in this article: Father’s occupation can affect health of newborn. It’s been accepted for decades that the mother’s exposures, health status and environment can affect fetal growth and development, but the idea that a father’s exposures before and around the time of conception may alter the baby’s health and development is much more recent. This study found a correlation between the father’s occupation and birth defects. While not designed to determine a causal relationship, this is a step toward identifying the contributions of the father’s exposures to fetal health. Also see

    1. The study referenced in the article: Paternal occupation and birth defects: findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study
    2. Why fathers really matter
    3. Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father’s age to disease risk and a CHE commentary on this study: Paternal age, de novo mutations and autism risk
  7. American Thyroid Association (ATA) issues policy statement on minimizing radiation exposure from medical, dental diagnostics‎
    While some risks of diagnostic medical radiation exposures have been acknowledged for decades, there has generally been an assumption that the benefits of diagnostic exposures outweigh the risks. New thinking is challenging that assumption. The American Thyroid Association’s policy statement formalizes concern that has been growing about the cumulative risks of exposures and about the increasing use of alternate technologies such as computed tomography, in this case as related to the thyroid gland. “Increased radiation exposure among both children and adults is of primary concern to the ATA because the thyroid gland is among the most susceptible sites of radiation-induced cancer,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Thyroid Association. See also the statement: Policy Statement on Thyroid Shielding During Diagnostic Medical and Dental Radiology and Medical radiation soars, with risks often overlooked.
  8. CDC updates guidelines for children’s lead exposure
    This change from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follows several years of advocacy from environmental health researchers. It  is at least the fourth time the CDC has lowered the acceptable blood-lead level since 1975 in response to new evidence that ever-lower exposures continue to harm health and development. The acknowledgement that exposures considerably lower than the previous acceptable level—10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL)—cause cognitive impairment and other adverse health outcomes will help alert parents and health professionals that screening and corrective action are necessary. The CDC has now set the reference level at 5 µg/dL and will re-evaluate it every four years. See also New health issues tied to low-level lead exposure, describing evidence that even very low levels of exposure to lead are associated with kidney damage and hypertension in adults and hearing impairment, reduced growth and delayed onset of puberty in children.
  9. ACOG District IX Clinicians’ Guide
    This clinician’s guide is the first document produced by an American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) regional office recommending that physicians screen patients for environmental exposures, provide anticipatory guidance on risk reduction, and become involved in health policy. CHE views having a major medical society regional office, especially a society focused on pregnant women and infant development, formally recommend environmental health screenings is a tremendous step forward.
  10.  Preventing dementia: two new lines of research
    Combined, these new approaches represent a sea change from past years that there was nothing individuals could do to prevent dementia.

    1. Exercise and dementia: four new studies
      Quite a number of recent studies show that exercise can affect cognitive function late in life. From first assuming that there was no way to prevent dementia, we came to think that exercising your brain will keep it fit. Now evidence shows that exercising your body may also keep your brain fit. This is a breakthrough for improving quality of life for seniors and their families.
    2. Insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease
      See, for example, Can Alzheimer disease be a form of type 3 diabetes?, Link between metabolic disorders and Alzheimer’s disease examined, Link between brain insulin resistance, neuronal stress in worsening Alzheimer’s disease and a collection of journal articles from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, plus a study showing a link between glucose control and dementia (but not necessarily Alzheimer’s): Diabetes, glucose control, and 9-year cognitive decline among older adults without dementia. All these studies add to the conversations about Alzheimer’s and dementia an understanding of the role of food, nutrition and insulin in cognitive well being. If insulin resistance does play a role in Alzheimer’s, further possibilities for preventive action and treatment may be possible, since insulin resistance can be influenced by nutrition, obesity, environmental chemical exposures, exercise and more.

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.

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