NIEHS: Visionary Ideas Wanted

April 18, 2011
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Comments from the Natural Resources Defense Council on an invitation to submit Visionary Ideas and nominations for participation in the Community Workshop to the NIEHS, by Jen Sass

Neurodevelopmental Disorders after Prenatal Famine: The Story of the Dutch Famine Study, submitted by Dick Clapp

Toward an Ecological View: Complex Systems, Health and Disease, by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH

Call Notes

NIEHS: Visionary Ideas Wanted
Collaborative on Health and the Environment Partner Call
April 18, 2011
Summary Notes

These notes are not intended to be comprehensive, but simply to provide a list of some topics that were raised.

Moderator: Elise Miller, MEd, CHE Director

Dr. Frederica Perrera:

  • Emphasize current strategies and goals rather than introducing new topics
  • Focus on prevention through identifying environmental risks in association with other factors (including social, nutritional & genetic).
  • Examine the policy relevance of research.
  • Prioritize community-based research, working with community partners, communicating results back to communities
  • Underscore equity and environmental justice in research
  • Think more broadly to capture the whole profile, the whole reality – a systems approach
  • Highlight biomarkers and epidemiology
  • Incorporate the concept cumulative impacts is important; recognize stressors at both the individual and community level.
  • Develop trajectories of development of health through longitudinal study; look at sequelae over time; project and extrapolate forward.
  • Capture and analyze effects of the same pollutants have multiple health impacts and undertake parallel experimental studies with the same pollutants.

Dr. Jennifer Sass:

  • Focus toxicity testing on replacement chemicals to ensure that the new plasticizers, etc. we are using as replacements are indeed safer before putting them on the market
  • Identify research that addresses vulnerable populations due to life stage, disease stage and genetic/epigenetic differences
  • Use predictive toxicity testing in regulations—for example, high-throughput screening tests and other "predictive toxicology" should include endocrine disruption endpoints, immunotoxicity endpoints, low-dose effects, etc.
  • Retain traditional testing methodologies until new ones are ensured to be more useful
  • Help stimulate research to identify early indicators of disease associated with exposures.
  • Look at climate and health, include vulnerable communities.
  • Research models need to capture effects of mixtures and multiple exposures.

Dr. Dick Clapp:

  • Use an ecological view of health and disease, including key points from Ted Schettler's article in the San Francisco Medical Society Journal (also found on the Science and Environmental Health Network) site.
  • Avoid a reductionist view – "impoverished representations."
  • Investigate unique, enduring individual vulnerabilities.
  • Remember that truth is in the whole, and neither the individual risk factors nor even a multivariate model capture the whole. (NIEHS has been open to this, but it needs to be reinforced and further encouraged).

Dr. Madeleine Kangsen Scammell:

  • Create more explicit support for community research – and make results relevant to scientists and nonscientists both, "research translation."
  • Increase the ability to translate among scientific and other academic disciplines – trans-disciplinary sharing.
  • Include global environmental health research, such as on topics including petroleum hydrocarbons, aflatoxin, etc. since national boundaries are not always relevant.
  • See Ted Schettler's article regarding the UN millenium assessment of an "unprecedented decline of our ecosystems."

Dr. Mark Mitchell:

  • Look for examples of how cumulative impacts plays out in the world; environmental justice communities are overexposed, often from unanticipated sources (legacy chemicals) along with increased susceptibility.
  • Help speciate sources of exposures—for example, lead is still being used toys, tire weights, soil, and other consumer products.
  • Investigate additional factors such as pesticide exposures, nutritional status, and psychosocial stress.
  • Assess the health effects of mixtures and genetic expressions from multiple sources. Often science says exposures are too low for symptoms (and therefore there should be health problems), yet symptoms are evident. In these cases, we need to review multiple and cumulative impacts on health.

Due to technical difficulties, our conference call provider did not record this call as we had requested. The presentations were excellent, and we had certainly hoped to capture those comments so that colleagues at NIEHS and elsewhere could listen the the MP3 file at later time.

Update 4/28/11: Written call notes are now available under the "Slides & Resources" link above.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has invited the public to submit visionary ideas regarding environmental health research by April 30th as part of NIEHS’s strategic planning process. Though a number of colleagues already plan to submit suggestions from their respective institutions and organizations, CHE hosted this call to underscore the need for more research using systems-based approaches in order to better elucidate multiple and cumulative impacts on health as well as potential public health interventions. On the call, several invited researchers briefly described their recommended priorities for NIEHS (see list of speakers below). In addition, we invite other participants to highlight ideas either verbally or in writing on CHE’s blog either during or prior to the call (please see the blog link above). Please note we are inviting senior NIEHS staff involved in the strategic planning process to listen in on the call.

Featured Speakers

Richard Clapp, DSc, MPH, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health and Adjunct Professor at U. of Mass.- Lowell. Prof. Clapp is an epidemiologist with over forty years of experience in public health practice, research, teaching and consulting. He has an MPH from Harvard School of Public Health and a D.Sc. in Epidemiology from Boston University School of Public Health. He served as the founding Director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry from 1980-1989, and worked in two environmental health consulting groups. Prof. Clapp was an Associate Editor of Environmental Health Perspectives from 2005-2010 and a member of several professional societies. His research has included studies of cancer around nuclear facilities, in workers and military veterans, and in communities with toxic hazards. In 2008, he received the Research Integrity Award from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.

Madeleine Kangsen Scammell, DSc, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Scammell's research includes the use of qualitative methods in the area of community-driven environmental health and epidemiologic studies, mapping and monitoring community-identified environmental health hazards, and analyzing cumulative exposures to chemical and non-chemical stressors. Madeleine directs Community Outreach and Research Translation Cores of the Boston University Superfund Research Program. She is also Director of Partnerships and Collaborations for the Partners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center (PHH-PRC) at Boston University. 

Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, President, Mitchell Environmental Health Associates. Dr. Mitchell is the principal of Mitchell Environmental Health Associates, a consulting firm on environmental health and environmental justice issues. Dr. Mitchell is also founder and Senior Policy advisor for the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. He is currently a member of the U.S. EPA’s National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology, as well as Chair of the Community Advocacy, Leadership, and Research Subgroup of the U.S. CDC/ATSDR’s National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures.

Frederica Perera, DrPH, Director, Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health and Professor of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Perera pioneered the field of molecular epidemiology, beginning with studies of cancer and is now applying molecular techniques within studies of pregnant women and their children. Her areas of specialization include prevention of environmental risks to children, molecular epidemiology, cancer prevention, environment-susceptibility interactions in cancer, developmental damage, asthma, and risk assessment.

Jennifer Sass, PhD, Senior Scientist, Health and Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council. Dr. Sass is a senior scientist in NRDC's health and environment program, working on scientific issues relevant to federal chemical regulations. Jennifer directs the scientific integrity project and the nanotechnology project. Jennifer received her doctorate degree from the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and a postdoctoral fellowship in toxicology from the University of Maryland.

Visionary ideas can be submitted directly to the NIEHS.

This call was moderated by Elise Miller, MEd, CHE Director.