Post category: children’s health
After Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and I published Our Stolen Future in 1996, we got “slapped” by one of the most prominent science journalists of the day, Gina Kolata writing for the New York Times. Among her criticisms was that one chemical can’t cause a plethora of diseases. It was one chemical, one disease, like asbestos and mesothelioma. . . .
My passion for environmental health and justice took hold twenty years ago in college at the University of California, Berkeley, where I learned of the disproportionate health problems faced by communities that have been historically marginalized — many of which included low-income residents, immigrants, black, indigenous, or people of color. . . .
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. . . .
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. . . .
Amy Padula, PhD, has devoted much of her work to looking at how the air we breathe can impact health.
“Most of my work has been focused on air pollution exposures during pregnancy and how it affects the baby,” Dr. Padula says.
Air pollution affects everyone, but she has a unique and interesting reason why her work has focused on women who are pregnant and their children.
“We look at pregnancy because it is the special time when there is a lot developing and a lot happening. As humans, we are very vulnerable during this period of development and, in a way, during pregnancy, babies can be considered canaries in a coal mine because they develop so fast that if there are adverse changes to their development, we are able to see them more quickly than, for example, increases in mortality over 60, 70, or 80 years,” Dr. Padula explains. . . .
In a way, Allan Just, PhD has come full circle. He is now a professor and researcher at Mount Sinai, but developed his interest in children’s health after hearing a CHE webinar at the start of his career.
“There was a CHE Call in 2005, it was moderated by Michael Lerner, and it was about early life exposures and their role in the developmental origins of disease, really it was focused on cancer. But, I listened to that CHE call, and it made so much sense to me. You are going through this developmental period early in life, as a fetus and as a young child, and you are getting set up on this trajectory of who you are going to become, and if you perturb that, that is going to have consequences down the road. I thought about how all the studies that I was involved with at the time were really focused on adults. And, if you were interested in chronic diseases, which can have extremely long latencies, the relevant time period, if you are interested in the environmental contribution, might be decades before you can distinguish who does and doesn’t go on to develop disease. And, I thought ‘well it’s sort of a little bit crazy to look at adults then, because if we are interested in the environmental role, it’s too late,’” Dr. Just recalls. . . .
Meet our 20 Pioneers under 40 in Environmental Public Health: Joseph Braun, PhD, MSPH
Joseph Braun, PhD, MSPH spends his time figuring out how things that children come into contact with even before they are born can have an impact later in their lives.
“We are focused on understanding how early life environmental exposures influence children’s growth and development. We are considering the early life window now to extend from before conception in both the mother and the father, during the prenatal period in the mother, when the baby is in the womb, and the postnatal period from infancy onward till adolescence. So, we are looking at a wide range of environmental chemical exposures and how they influence children’s risk of neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD or autism as well as their risk of becoming obese or overweight. And, even how environmental factors might influence their metabolism of things like glucose or lipids. Finally, we are also trying to understand some of the biologic mechanisms that underlie these associations,” Dr. Braun says. . . .
Meet our 20 Pioneers under 40 in Environmental Public Health: Laura Vandenberg, PhD
Laura Vandenberg, PhD, is trained as a developmental biologist, but became interested in environmental health as she started to focus on the times when biology had imperfections. Instead of looking at how stem cells differentiate into skin, or muscle, or tissue, she was interested in “what happens when those processes go wrong,” Dr. Vandenberg shares. . . .
This report from the NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Centers highlights some of the important contributions the centers have made toward reducing the burden of environmentally induced or exacerbated diseases placed on children. The report provides examples of success in the community and in support of public health. It is organized in three section:
- Health outcomes, presenting scientific findings from the Children’s Centers on diseases that sometimes affect children
- Environmental exposures, presenting research findings on chemicals and pollutants children are commonly exposed to through air, water and food.
- Hallmark features, highlighting the unique features that have facilitated the work of the Children’s Centers and advancements in the field.
We wanted to find the best young researchers and advocates who might change the future of environmental health. So, we asked a panel of luminaries in environmental health to nominate rising stars who are doing pioneering work. After a rigorous selection process, we invited 20 of these nominees to be our 20 Pioneers under 40 in Environmental Public Health.
This month, we held our first webinar in the series. In addition to these presentations, we got to sit down and learn a little bit more about the researchers. While we did talk about their research, we also learned how they first got interested in the field and what this work means to them, plus a few tips for staying healthy.
Todd Whitehead, PhD, works at the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment (CIRCLE) at the University of California, Berkeley. He initially got involved in this work by looking at flame-retardants in consumer products. . . .