• CHE Partnership Calls
• Working and Regional Group Updates
• Tools, Announcements and Resources
• February Science News
Dear CHE Partners:
On February 8, CHE co-sponsored a symposium at the University of California Laurel Heights Conference Center on "Medical Approaches in Autism: Clinical Implications of Environmental Toxicology for Children's Neurodevelopment." Co-sponsors included the San Francisco Medical Society and the University of California David M.I.N.D. Institute.
The purpose of the symposium was to explore the important and contested issue of whether autism is, as most researchers and clinicians have believed for many years, an entirely genetic disorder of the mind that is essentially irreversible or whether it is a whole-body disease caused by gene-environment interactions and biomedically treatable as well. Leading researchers and clinicians from the United States and Canada discussed these issues in a day-long event that held an audience of 170 clinicians, researchers and parents in rapt attention.
The stakes in this contested area of clinical and research interest are high. Across the United States and around the world, parents of autistic spectrum children and their allies are claiming that environmental contaminants play a significant role in ASD (autism spectrum disorders) and that biomedical treatments that include dietary changes help some children improve significantly and in some instances recover.
Over the past decade, there has been a slow movement among pediatricians to recognize that many of these children do have gut disorders as a "co-morbidity" of autism, and that treating these gut disorders can result in behavioral improvement. Other issues, such as the question of whether thimerosol (a mercury-based preservative) in vaccinations contributes to autism, and whether there is a true epidemic of autism or whether the reports of increased incidence are the result of a shift in diagnostic categories, remain intensely contested.
If (as I believe), the adherents of the "New Paradigm of Autism Research and Treatment" are correct in their reevaluation of autism as a whole-body disease caused by gene-environment interactions, the implications for what Ted Schettler has called the "ecological health" framework of analyzing many health conditions of our time are intriguing. In many diseases -- breast cancer, asthma, Parkinson's Disease, and autism to name a few -- it appears that different people may develop these "final common pathway" conditions through a considerable array of different gene-environment interactions and subsequent environmental exposures and experiences. This suggests that the search for single causes for these diseases may be fruitless. It also suggests that what Ted Schettler calls the debate over "dueling risk factors" may also be without much value. Finally, it suggests that for some diseases, effective approaches both to prevention and to treatment may vary, depending on the combinations of prior predisposing conditions.
Within the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, there is a vibrant discussion taking place about what the ecological health paradigm means for scientific research, for public policy, for clinical medicine and for individual efforts at health promotion and disease prevention. This new paradigm has yet to be fully articulated. But it is my belief that when the new paradigm is fully articulated and debated, it may change the whole way we look at health and the environment. The debate over the causes and treatment of autism is a particularly dramatic case study of this broader contest. Stay tuned.
News of Note -- New environmental health-focused issue of San Francisco Medicine
Dear CHE Partners:
Periodically since CHE's inception, we have been able to partner with the San Francisco Medical Society - the locus and co-sponsor of much CHE activity - to publish "Environmental Health" themed issues of the SFMS journal, San Francisco Medicine.
The latest version is now available for free download online, and includes a stellar roster of authors on topics such as the 2007 CHE reproductive health summit, climate change, early puberty, cancer, mercury, toxicity in toys, neurodevelopmental issues, nanotechnology, electromagnetic fields, tobacco, chemical policy and more.
To view this new edition, see: http://www.sfms.org. Previous issues with this theme are available as well, in the "archives" section.
Steve Heilig, MPH
CHE Partnership and Working Group Calls
CHE Partnership Call - Alzheimer's: An Ecological Health Disease?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 10am PT / 1pm ET
As the research that recently emerged from Johns Hopkins University on lead exposure and later-life cognitive function demonstrates, environmental contaminants can play a major role in the way our brains age. If you are interested in exploring this connection, please join us for the February 2008 CHE Partnership Call -- Alzheimer's: An Ecological Health Disease?
This call will last one hour, and will be recorded for documentation purposes. See below for how to RSVP. We hope you can join us.
Featured presenters include Dr. Peter Whitehouse, one of the world's foremost authorities on Alzheimer's disease and author of the recent book The Myth of Alzheimer's, Dr. Ted Schettler, author and Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and Dr. Jill Stein, a physician and founder of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities. This teleconference will be moderated by Michael Lerner, President of Commonweal.
More about the presenters:
* Jill Stein, MD, Physician, founder and recent past president of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, spokesperson for Physicians for Social Responsibility and co-author of influential report "In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development."
* Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network and author of Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment (MIT Press, 1999) and In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development (Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2000).
* Peter Whitehouse, MD, PhD, MA, Professor of Neurology at Case Western Reserve University and founder of the University Alzheimer Center (now the University Memory and Aging Center) at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
RSVP and receive dial-in information for this call
Find more information about this call
Resources from Recent CHE Partnership Calls
If you missed any of the following CHE Partnership Calls, you may listen to MP3 recordings and find supporting materials at the following links:
• CHE Partnership Call, 17 Jan. 2008 - "Findings from the Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer Report"
• CHE Asthma, 10 Dec. 2007 - "Diesel, 'Alternatives,' and Our Health"
• CHE EMF, 4 Dec. 2007 - "Findings from the BioInitiative Report on Electromagnetic Fields"
And of course, you can always explore our archived resources from past Partnership calls.
CHE Working and Regional Group Updates
CHE EMF ~ coordinated by Nancy Evans, email@example.com, and Cindy Sage, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Interest in the BioInitiative Report (www.bioinitiative.org) continues to grow. Since the August 2007 release, the website has enjoyed 77,500 hits and visitors have downloaded 60 million KB. A recording of the December 4 Partnership call discussion of the report with Cindy Sage, David Carpenter and Michael Kundi is now available. Bound copies (3 volumes) of the report will be available for purchase in March from Sage & Associates.
- A You-Tube video interview with Cindy Sage has generated 4,000 hits since it went online January 12th and it is now being carried on multiple sites. This is a good summary in non-technical terms of the full BioInitiative Report. It can also be purchased in DVD form.
- Biological Effects from Electromagnetic Field Exposure and Public Exposure Standards. 2008 Hardell L Sage C Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy Online doi:10-1016/jbiopha. 2007.12.004 www.sciencedirect.com
This paper summarizes the BioInitiative Report science and public health assessments on electromagnetic field studies (both ELF and RF) and presents recommendations for new biologically-based public exposure standards.
CHE Oregon ~ coordinated by Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, email@example.com
CHE-OR and Oregon Environmental Council Publishes the Annual Costs of Environmental Disease in Oregon. "The Price of Pollution" report estimates environmentally attributable disease and disability in the state cost $1.57 billion annually. The estimate for children alone is $1.10 billion per year. This is the first-ever study of the cost of environmental disease for Oregon. The full report is available online at www.oeconline.org.
CHE Washington ~ coordinated by Aimee Boulanger, firstname.lastname@example.org
- The next CHE-WA quarterly meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2008, 2-4pm PST at Antioch. The meeting will focus on children's environmental health, with special guest speakers Dr. Elaine Faustman and Dr. Steve Gilbert. Dr. Margaret Shield of the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition will likely have interesting related news to report from the state legislative session.
- Notes from the CHE-WA December quarterly meeting are now posted with meeting handouts on the website: http://washington.chenw.org/meetings.html
Tools, Announcements and Resources
Bay Area book discussions: Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry with author Stacy Malkan
Stacy Malkan's new book exposes the toxic truth about the products we smear on our bodies and slather in our hair. The book tells the inside story of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of health and environmental groups working to eliminate toxic chemicals from everyday products. The campaign launched in 2002 with a report that revealed that more than 70% of personal care products -including shampoos, deodorant, fragrance and lotion- contain phthalates, a set of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects and reproductive harm.
Since 2001, Stacy has served as the communications director of Health Care Without Harm, a global network of 440 groups in 52 countries working to reduce the environmental harm of the health care industry. Prior to that, she worked for 10 years as an investigative journalist and newspaper publisher in the Colorado Rockies. In her new book, Stacy describes what she's learned along the way about the science and politics of chemicals, and the inspiring stories of the activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and politicians who are working for a healthier future.
Saturday, Feb. 16, at 3pm - Bolinas, California
Commonweal Main Office Building
450 Mesa Road
Book reading and discussion with Stacy Malkan and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder Charlotte Brody
Sponsored by Pt. Reyes Book Store and the New School at Commonweal
Seating is limited, please RSVP to TheNewSchool@Commonweal.org
Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 6-9pm - San Francisco, California
3543 18th Street, #8
Book reading, free product giveaways, food
Hosted by MOMS and the Breast Cancer Fund
Suggested donation: $8
RSVP to email@example.com to reserve your free gift bag.
The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution: Panel discussion featuring Cindy Sage and David Carpenter
March 19, 2008
San Francisco office of the Commonwealth Club of California
For more information and reservations, visit http://tickets.commonwealthclub.org/shows_list_club.asp
EMF included in forthcoming breast cancer report
New EMF research and policy recommendations are included in State of the Evidence 2008: The Connection Between the Environment and Breast Cancer. This new 5th edition will be released by Breast Cancer Fund in mid-March.
Occupational and Environmental Cancer Prevention Conference
As a contribution to the global trade union zero occupational cancer campaign, an international conference will address a major threat to public health: the toll taken by occupational and environmental cancers. To be hosted by Stirling University, Scotland and supported by unions in the UK and across the world, this conference will feature top union, campaign and academic experts from around the world.
The conference will assess the best available policies and practices on occupational cancer causes and incidence and on prevention strategies.
April 25, 2008
University of Stirling
For further information, contact Evonne Fleming (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.nm.stir.ac.uk.
CHE Partner reviews cancer books in The Times Literary Supplement
CHE Partner Sandra Steingraber reviewed two new books on cancer, Secret History of the War on Cancer and Toxic Exposures, by Devra Davis and Phil Brown, respectively, in the Jan. 30 issue of the Times Literary Supplement.
Read the review
Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse
The Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH) was formed in 1992 to promote the Model Toxics in Packaging Legislation. This model legislation was originally drafted by the Source Reduction Council of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG) in 1989. It was developed in an effort to reduce the amount of heavy metals in packaging and packaging components that are sold or distributed throughout the United States.
To access the clearinghouse, visit http://www.toxicsinpackaging.org/.
Network of Reference Laboratories for Monitoring of Emerging Environmental Pollutants (NORMAN)
The NORMAN network is funded by the European Commission and focuses on monitoring emerging environmental pollutants. A NORMAN Newsletter will be published twice a year. As well as information on the goals and progress of the project, the newsletter will also report on the current situation and specific problems relating to emerging pollutants in Europe (e.g. in individual EU Member States, river basins, soil, air and drinking water sectors, etc.) and provide summaries of the latest related European research initiatives, environmental policy developments and EU-funded projects.
To sign up to receive this newsletter, visit http://www.norman-network.net/index_php.php?module=public/others/newsletter.
Project to address influx of discarded televisions initiated
About a year from now, on February 17, 2009, TV stations will stop broadcasting analog signals over the airways and switch over to high definition digital (HD) signals. This means that many older TVs will be obsolete. Some companies are implementing recycling programs for their old TVs, but most companies are not. Discarded TVs end up in vast dumpsites in Africa or Asia where they contribute to environmental degradation and human health problems.
A nonprofit organization called Take Back My TV is working to encourage TV manufacturers to institute sound recycling programs. For more information visit
FDA calls for examination of cell phone health risks
InformationWeek dated January 18, 2008 reports that “the FDA has asked the National Research Council (NRC) to identify further research that shows the effects of long-term exposure” to mobile phones. The NRC report recommends that further research is needed on health risks from wireless technologies, particularly mobile phones. More studies are needed on possible risks to children and pregnant women.
Currently, there are few long-term, low-intensity exposure studies on which to assess risks, but the evidence on short-term exposures warrants further investigation. The final NAS-NRC report is at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12036#toc
The composition of the NAS-NRC Committee evaluating RF research needs can be found at: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/CommitteeView.aspx?key=48807
If Congress acts on the NRC recommendations and funds government studies, it will end a virtual 10-year moratorium on EMF research in the U.S. Microwave News commented on this report www.microwavenews.com
February Science News
Formaldehyde risks in FEMA trailers confirmed
New Orleans Times-Picayune
14 Feb. 2008
Even though levels of formaldehyde vary widely among FEMA trailers and some inhabitants are less affected than others, the CDC has encouraged all residents to move to "safer housing as soon as possible."
Saccharin may lead to weight gain
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb. 2008
Casting doubt on the benefit of low-calorie sweetener, research released Sunday reported that rats on diets containing saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.
New genetic risk factors for prostate cancer identified
Asian News International / DailyIndia.com
11 Feb. 2008
British and Australian scientists have achieved a major genetic breakthrough in the understanding of prostate cancer, paving the way for new tests and treatments for the disease.
District connects lead with special ed
Galveston County Daily News
10 Feb. 2008
Galveston Independent School District has too many African-American students in its special education program. And school administrators think it may be due to lead.
Long-ago lead exposure may hasten old-age decline
23 Jan. 2008
Could it be that the "natural" mental decline that affects many older people is related to how much lead they absorbed decades earlier? That's the provocative idea emerging from some recent studies.
The Chemicals Within
26 Jan. 2008
As an Alaskan fisherman, Timothy June, 54, used to think that he was safe from industrial pollutants. But in early 2007, June agreed to take part in a survey of 35 Americans from seven states. It was a biomonitoring project, in which people's blood and urine were tested for traces of three potentially hazardous classes of compounds found in common household products. The results˜released in November in a report called "Is It in Us?" by a coalition of environmental groups˜were not reassuring.
State to probe development of 'green' chemicals
Los Angeles Times
31 Jan. 2008
In an effort to reduce industry's reliance on toxic compounds, state environmental officials today will lay out a framework for transforming California into a leader in the development and use of "green" chemicals.
Congress: Science for sale?
ABC World News Tonight
6 Feb. 2008
Congress is investigating a Washington, D.C.-based firm which critics charge "manufactures uncertainty" on behalf of chemical companies to help keep their products free from government bans or other restrictions.
Weaned off plastic
7 Feb. 2008
A study to be made public this morning on health risks posed by some of the most popular baby bottles sold in Canada is expected to add another ominous chime to the steady chorus of alarm bells that researchers have sounded recently about bisphenol A.
International research findings and policy recommendations on EMF health effects go largely unreported in the U.S. media, except for those studies showing no adverse effects. One exception is the study by scientists at the Cleveland Clinic that found an association between heavy cell phone use and decreased sperm count.
Environmental Epidemiological Study of Cancer Incidence in Municipalities of Hausmannstatten & Vasoldsberg (Austria)
January 20, 2008.
This case-control study reports increased incidence of brain tumors and breast cancer in relation to radiofrequency radiation from wireless antenna sites (mobile phone base stations) in Austria. Statistically significant increases in cancer risk were reported; and a dose-response relationship was seen, with increasing RF exposure producing higher risk estimates.
Researchers in France and in Israel reported significant cellular changes after exposure to non-thermal levels of radiofrequency radiation. Israeli researchers reported increased incidence of parotid (salivary) gland tumors among regular cell phone users; tumors occurred on the side of the head where the phone was held. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/kwm325v1
The French Ministry of Health called for precaution in the use of mobile phones by children.
The German government warned its citizens about potential health risks of wi-fi. Read a translation of the original document.
Microwave News revealed that the report from the largest cell phone epidemiology study ever attempted—the 13-country Interphone Study—is being withheld, even though the draft of the final paper was completed nearly two years ago.
We welcome the many new CHE Partners who have joined since the January newsletter. To see the list of new CHE Partners and the growing list of all CHE Partners, please visit http://www.healthandenvironment.org/base/partners-recent.
Thank you for taking the time to read the latest about CHE. As always, we welcome your questions and suggestions. Please direct comments to Eleni Sotos, CHE Program Director, at Eleni@HealthandEnvironment.org.
Eleni Sotos, MA, Program Director
Shelby Gonzalez, Administrative Coordinator
Julia Varshavsky, Program Associate
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