Environmental Chemicals and Preterm Birth: Emerging Threats and Priorities for Future Research
1:00 pm US Eastern Time
University of California, San Francisco: Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
This webinar is the seventh in our series, 20 Pioneers Under 40 in Environmental Public Health.
Each year across the world, one million preterm babies die within the first 28 days of life. Of the 14 million more preterm babies who survive, many are faced with a lifetime of serious health complications including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and respiratory and digestive problems. In 2016, about 1 in 10 babies in the US were born prematurely, and in 2015, preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 17% of infant deaths in the US (CDC).
With the causes of preterm birth unclear in many cases, and a mounting body of research linking environmental contaminants to preterm birth, identifying the contribution of environmental chemical exposures is a public health priority. Dr. Kelly Ferguson, Investigator leading the Perinatal and Early Life Epidemiology Group within the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, presented an overview of her work on exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds, particularly phthalates, and their association with adverse pregnancy outcomes, particularly preterm birth. She also shared how focus on chemical mechanisms and phenotypes of preterm birth have improved the ability to understand the epidemiologic associations. Lastly, she described future work targeted at examining combinations of chemical as well as non-chemical exposures in the etiology of adverse birth outcomes. Dr. Amy Padula, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, reviewed her research on traffic-related air pollution exposure during pregnancy and preterm birth. She shared her incorporation of neighborhood socioeconomic status as a modifier of the relationship between air pollution and preterm birth as well as the exploration of diabetes as a possible mediator. She ended with future plans to help understand how environmental chemicals may affect preterm birth.
Kelly Ferguson, PhD, MPH, is a tenure-track investigator leading the Perinatal and Early Life Epidemiology Group within the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. She earned an MPH in Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology as well as a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Her previous research explored the relationship between maternal exposure to phthalate diesters and bisphenol-A during pregnancy and preterm birth as well as fetal growth, with investigation of oxidative stress and inflammation as potentially important underlying mechanisms. Her current research program aims to expand this work to better understand oxidative stress during pregnancy, investigate the interaction between chemical exposures and psychological stressors on preterm birth and fetal growth, and to examine the long-term impacts of exposures in pregnancy on maternal and child health.
Amy Padula, PhD, MSc, is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. She is part of the Program for Reproductive Health and the Environment. Her doctorate is in Epidemiology from the University of California Berkeley and her postdoctoral training was at Stanford University. Dr. Padula has an K99/R00 Transition to Independence Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science entitled “Traffic-related air pollution, social factors and adverse birth outcomes.” Her recent research has been on the effects of ambient air pollution during pregnancy on adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight and birth defects. The projects have expanded to evaluate social factors including neighborhood socioeconomic status and acculturation and comorbidities including diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy. More recently, she investigated interactions between biotransformation enzymes gene variants and air pollution and risk of congenital anomalies.
This webinar was moderated by Rachel Morello-Frosch, PhD, MPH, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley.
The webinar lasted for 45 minutes and was recorded for our call and webinar archive.