Dear CHE Partners, Colleagues, and Friends,
I am writing today to share with you that I will be leaving my role as director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment at the end of 2021. It is time for my next professional challenge, but I look forward to remaining colleagues with you all.
I have learned so much during my almost 5 years with CHE and am proud of the work that we have accomplished. Under my leadership, CHE’s webinars evolved into a series format, which has allowed us to delve deeply into important topics such as COVID-19 and Environmental Health, Environmental Exposures and Reproductive Health, and Plastics and Human Health. We have also spotlighted young environmental health scientists and scientists from historically under-represented backgrounds. We increased average live webinar attendance and our video recordings are watched thousands of times.
In 2018, we also launched Because Health, an environmental health educational campaign for the general public. Because Health's website has more than 400 pieces of educational environmental health content and averages 40,000 users a month and approximately 1 million page views a year. Because Health also has an engaged community of over 65,000 users on Instagram. Because Health has successfully brought younger, more diverse voices into the environmental health conversation and plays a crucial role in educating mainstream audiences about environmental health issues.
Starting in January 2022, Because Health will be transitioning to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), in Oakland, CA. CEH is a 25-year-old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals. Their multi-pronged approach uses science, policy, litigation, and purchasing power to create real wins for public health. The strong content, voice, and audience of Because Health is a perfect fit to amplify and expand CEH’s impact. By incorporating Because Health into CEH, we are expanding CEH’s audience, incorporating innovative messaging, and distilling complex environmental health concepts into actionable steps that people can take to build a healthier future for all. Because Health’s mission of empowering positive individual action will be magnified when paired with CEH’s legacy of advocacy towards collective impact and societal change. I will be working at CEH on the transition for the next 6 months and am very excited for this opportunity and grateful to Michael Green, CEO of CEH for his partnership.
Throughout the fall and beyond, under the leadership of Ann Blake, Phd, CHE will begin to engage in a strategic planning process to better understand how the organization can continue to play a role in creating a world where all people live free from harmful environmental exposures that adversely impact human health. Building on actionable, prevention-driven behaviors and policies, as well as more equitable economic and legal structures that protect public health and address racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities that are linked to environmental injustices are more important than ever. We will be sending out a survey soon so that your voices will be heard. Please keep an eye out for that.
I wanted to thank Michael Lerner and Oren Slozberg for giving me the opportunity to lead CHE and for allowing me the freedom to build Because Health. I look forward to working with them on the transition and beyond as colleagues in the fight for a better world for many years to come.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would welcome the opportunity to connect with you all further.
New Webinar Series! Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development
Join us for a new webinar series that will provide you with the latest science to help your patients
Learn from top scientists and experts about the impacts of environmental exposures and toxics on reproductive health, pregnancy, and development. “Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures Are Affecting Reproductive Health and the Environment” is a dynamic webinar series that will examine the latest science on generational impacts harmful chemicals and pollutants are having on people before they are born and throughout their lives.
Sessions will explore how chemicals and pollutants affect infertility, fetal development, birth outcomes, women’s and men’s reproductive health, and how communities of color are disproportionally harmed.
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) and Environmental Research and Translation for Health(EaRTH) Center, and partners created this series to connect ob-gyns, pediatricians, nurses, and other medical professionals with top environmental health scientists who will present the latest trends about how harmful chemicals are influencing chronic diseases and conditions. The goal of this series is to help improve the health of women, men, and children by sharing research, prevention, and policy strategies. Join us as we explore these critical reproductive health issues.
The seven webinars in the series will start on October 29, 2020, and be held monthly.
1. Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development
October 29, 2020 at 10am PT / 1pm ET
This first session will explore trends and science in reproductive health and fertility to better understand exposures to chemicals and pollutants and how they are affecting health and development.
- Germaine M. Buck Louis, PhD, MS, Dean, College of Health and Human Services, George Mason University
- Jessie P. Buckley, PhD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Shanna H. Swan, PhD, MS, Environmental Medicine, Mount Sinai
- Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (moderator)
2. Environmental Reproductive Justice
November 18, 2020 at 10am PT / 1pm ET
This session will address the role of environmental pollution, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and systemic factors such as poverty, food insecurity and racism, that too often contribute to racial/ethnic health disparities associated with adverse reproductive health outcomes across the lifespan.
- Michael Bloom, PhD, MS, George Mason University
- Tamarra James-Todd, PhD, MPH, Harvard, T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Amy Padula, PhD, MSc, UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
- Karen Wang, PhD, MSc, Collaborative on Health and the Environment, and Founder, Because Health (moderator)
December 10, 2020 at 10am PT / 1pm ET
Scientists will provide evidence of the effects of common pollutants such as air pollution and phthalates on follicle health, fecundity, and fertility.
- Jodi A. Flaws, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois
- Audrey Jane Gaskin, ScD, Emory University, Harvard, T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Linda C. Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc, Distinguished Professor, UCSF School of Medicine
- Russ Hauser, MD, ScD, MPH, Chair, Harvard, T. H. Chan School of Public Health
4. Preconception Exposures
January 28, 2021 at 10am PT / 1pm ET
Speakers will discuss the latest evidence on how a couple’s exposure to chemicals before conception affects fetal and child development.
- Kim Harley, PhD, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, University of California, Berkeley; Director, Wallace Center for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health; Health Effects Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health
- Carmen Messerlian, PhD, MSc, Perinatal and Pediatric Epidemiology, Harvard, T. H. Chan School of Public Health
- Yu Zhang, BA, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Peking University Health Science Center
5. Prenatal Exposures and Fetal Outcomes
Speakers will explore how the impacts of pollution from oil and gas development, pesticides, phthalates, and social stressors can increase the risk of autism and adverse birth outcomes.
- Ondine S. von Ehrenstein, PhD, MPH, University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health
- Kelly Ferguson, PhD, MPH, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
- Kathy Tran, PhD Candidate, MPH, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health
6. Prenatal Exposures and Maternal Outcomes
Scientists will discuss how prenatal exposures to chemicals including flame retardants, plasticizers, pesticides, lead, and PFAS are linked to adverse maternal outcomes such as pregnancy hypertension and gestational diabetes.
- Ning Ding, PhD Candidate, MPH, University of Michigan, School of Public Health
- Julia R. Varshavsky, PhD, MPH, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health
7. Male Reproductive Health
Date and speakers TBD.
This session will tackle how toxics such as air pollution and chemical exposures in the workplace can jeopardize male reproductive health and reproduction.
The series is sponsored by the UCSF Environment Research and Translation for Health Center (EaRTH), the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the Endocrine Society, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE), and the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS).
For more information or to learn when new dates are announced, please sign up for the CHE newsletter here.
Black Lives Matter
CHE is deeply saddened, appalled, and angered by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other lives that have been lost due to violence. We condemn these acts of violence and stand with Black people in solidarity. Black Lives Matter. We raise our voices to demand full accountability from law enforcement for the murder of George Floyd and for the end of police brutality. Since this country was formed, Black people have had their lives repeatedly taken, threatened, and impacted by the systemic racist structures in our society. As individuals, families, communities, organizations, and as a country we must address institutional racism at all levels.
We also call for an increased fight for environmental justice. As public health scientists and advocates, we know that real progress on environmental health issues cannot be made without addressing systemic racism. From health and socio-economic disparities, inequitable access to healthcare, and exposure to toxic waste, hazardous chemicals and air pollution, our Black communities are fighting for their lives in ways White people will never fully understand. Racism is a public health crisis.
We must hold ourselves accountable for the change we want to see in the world. We are committed to being an organization that is a better partner and ally in the fight for racial justice. On an organizational level, CHE commits to doing more work to amplify the voices of black and minority scientists, advocates, and grassroots community-based environmental justice groups and individuals. On a personal level, we commit to listening and learning more about the struggles Black communities face and offering support to create meaningful change.
But this is just the beginning. We have a lot more work to do.
Karen Wang, PhD, Director
Hannah Donart, MPH, Program Manager
Stephanie Brinker, MPH Marketing and Communications Associate
Here are some resources, opportunities to take action, and organizations to engage with. Please let us know about others that you have found useful or that you are supporting.
Announcing New Webinar Series on Effects of Plastic on Health
We are excited to announce a new four-part webinar series looking into the effects of plastic on health. Over the next four months, we will be joined by leading scientists, health professionals, policy experts, and advocates to talk about the various impacts of plastics on public health. . . .
Ana Maria Mora, MD, PhD is passionate about sharing what she has learned through her work in environmental public health with everyone. While she spends half of her time in Northern California studying the effects of early-life exposure to pesticides in children living in the Salinas Valley, she spends a lot of her time on research projects that impact the health of people in the country she where she was born and that she calls home, Costa Rica.
While there is attention being given to the field of environmental health here in the U.S., she notes “that in Costa Rica, we’re always behind on research on environmental health topics. There are a lot of epidemiologists and exposure scientists in the US, but in Costa Rica we are very few [epidemiologists and exposure experts]; and the problem that we face is that some people refuse to believe that findings from studies conducted outside of our country can be applicable to our population.” . . .
Cynthia Curl, PhD, MS knows about pesticides. In fact, it has been a topic of research for her for the last 15 years. While much of her work now compares levels of pesticide exposures among consumers of organic versus conventional produce, that isn’t initially where her research began.
“I didn’t start out studying diet or organic food, I really started out looking at pesticide exposures among farm workers and their families. I was working with the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, whose mission is…to improve farm worker health. [But,] we had this unexpected finding where we had some kids in Seattle with higher exposures [to pesticides] than kids in farming communities out in Eastern Washington, and it took us a while to even come up with some ideas about why this may be. Ultimately, I started to suspect that it was diet just because of their differences in socioeconomic status and differences in dietary patterns that their parents reported,” Dr. Curl shares. . . .
Vanessa Galavíz, PhD, MPH is committed to making a difference for communities most affected by environmental hazards such as air pollution, pesticides, and water contamination. Her work has always focused on marginalized communities, and her work with the California Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Washington School of Public Health is no different.
She is intent on doing this work because she remembers how she felt when she first learned what public health can do and what environmental health means. . . .
Ana Mascareñas, MPH has devoted herself to making sure that everyone has the opportunity for their voice to be heard and finding creative solutions to address inequities. Whether that is through asking for input or taking all points of view into consideration, her goal is that when a project is designed, all community members have had their values recognized.
In her work with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (CA DTSC), her job is to provide meaningful spaces for underrepresented communities in environmental regulatory decisions that affect them. . . .
Meet Our 20 Pioneers under 40 in Environmental Public Health: Samantha Rubright, DrPH, CPH
Samantha Malone Rubright, DrPH, CPH is one member of a small, non-profit organization called FracTracker Alliance. The goal of FracTracker “is to help stakeholders understand oil and gas data so that they can make informed choices and affect protective policy decisions.”
“Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is called, is just one part of drilling for oil and natural gas today. Fracking is a stimulation process that uses lots of water, injected at high pressure into the ground, along with chemicals and sand, to fracture the earth and bring the resources to the surface. Drillers use unconventional methods like fracking to extract oil and other hydrocarbons from underground because these resources are not in easily accessible pockets or reservoirs,” Dr. Rubright explains. . . .
Kelly Ferguson, PhD, MPH, is an NIH researcher whose focus is looking at how different exposures impact birth outcomes. Her interest in environmental health comes from the fact that it’s something that everyone deals with.
“It’s a concern that affects everyone and that everyone can kind of wrap their head around… people are often thinking about what chemicals are going into their body, what chemicals are in their air, what chemicals are in the food that they are eating, and so I think it’s something that is really easy to communicate with everyone about,” Dr. Ferguson says.
Her work is also looking at oxidative stress, most specifically as it relates environmental exposures in women and preterm birth. . . .