Archives for category: Upstream Contributors

Upstream Contributor, inspirational community organizer, and environmental justice advocate Peggy Shepard has been nominated for a Lady Godiva award.  Please vote for her here.  If you want to learn more about her remarkable work, view her Upstream interview here.  Below you can find the summary of her nomination.

It is startling to realize how one person’s vision can open our eyes to new vistas; how one person’s leadership can inspire others to strengthen community resilience and acknowledge our collective responsibility to each other. The environment is where we live, work, play, and go to school, and Peggy Shepard helps us understand that the environment is everyone’s challenge because our communities share a common destiny. She inspires us to believe and to organize to achieve access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, a toxic-free environment, and to improve children’s environmental health i.e. asthma and lead poisoning. She is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice (WE ACT), based in Northern Manhattan,home to over 630,000 mostly low-income African-Americans and Latinos, which has a 25-year history of combining grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy and environmental health research.

Recently a Washington DC office was opened to voice the concerns of underserved communities in developing policies. A West Harlem resident, she spent 8 years developing a grassroots organization of volunteers into a staffed organizing and advocacy non-profit which raises $1.6 million per year to assist in training over 500 parents to have healthier homes, and has conducted public education campaigns on children’s health that reached over 1 million homes citywide through workshops, radio, and bus ads. By engaging residents like me to develop and implement a common vision around commonly held values, she inspires us to embrace challenge and pursue solutions that might otherwise elude us.

When she moved to Harlem in the ‘80s and 3 senior citizens came to her and asked for her help in organizing the community around environmental exposures, she began what has been a 25-year history of commitment to a set of principles that value community knowledge and engagement in achieving a more sustainable environment, and to building community capacity through organizing, training, and partnerships with academics and scientists.

Her drive and commitment and community organizing skills achieved the retrofit of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant whose emissions were exacerbating asthma attacks in neighborhood children, and a $1.1 million community environmental benefits fund. Her work contributed to the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) retrofitting its citywide diesel bus fleet to cleaner fuels resulting in cleaner air citywide.

View Peggy’s Upstream interview here.

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Sick Child

Healthy Child Healthy World recently interviewed Upstream Contributor, Dr. Leo Trasande, about environmental health.  Here are some of the questions and answers.

So what is environmental health?

Defining our field is often the major challenge of our field! It can be all encompassing—not only exposures to synthetic chemicals, it can go as broadly as impacts of climate change to the physical environment that influences children’s physical activity, diet, and ultimately obesity as well as other health outcomes.

Are people starting to pay more attention to the link between the environment and human health?

Yes. There are multiple drivers. There has been progress in improving medical curricula and research. Second, parents are presenting these concerns to their pediatricians and asking for answers with greater frequency and consistency. The third is the power of the purse. People are acting with their wallets and buying products that don’t have environmental contaminants and reducing their exposure. This creates a significant market force.

Where should parents wanting to raise healthy kids begin?

Start with some of the Healthy Child Easy Steps. Focus on the leading environmental issues we understand he most about. Lead is terribly important. And you can reduce your intake of fish contaminated with methylmercury while still eating the good omega-3s so critical for brain development.

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Does caring about environmental health mean you have to be a rich or a scientist? Or both?

You don’t need a PhD in chemistry or a millionaire’s salary to identify and protect your children from environmental hazards. There are safe and simple steps we can take, like avoiding lead and mercury exposure. You don’t have to spray pesticides in your house. You can open your windows every few days to get rid of organic chemicals and dust and mold.

Read all of the questions and responses here.

Visit Dr. Leo Trasande’s main Upstream page.

Plasticware

From UPI (an article about a study co-conducted by Upstream Contributor, Dr. Frederica Perera):

Bisphenol-A — a chemical found in plastics — was detected in at least 94 percent of urine samples in U.S. urban mothers and children, researchers say.

Lori Hoepner, Robin M Whyatt, Allan C. Just, Antonia M. Calafat, Frederica P. Perera and Andrew G. Rundle of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health in New York said BPA was a chemical found in certain plastics and has applications in everyday consumer products. It is found in toys, reusable water bottles, medical equipment, food and beverage can linings and glass jar tops.

Diet is the most common route of BPA exposure, but it is also in store receipts. Past research has linked BPA with health effects such as cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and metabolic disorders, the researchers said.

The study involved 568 mothers and children enrolled in the Center’s Mothers & Newborns study. Study leader Hoepner and colleagues analysed BPA concentrations found in urine samples collected prenatally and at ages 3, 5 and 7 years.

The study detected BPA in 94 percent of prenatal samples and at least 96 percent of the childhood samples, but the maternal prenatal BPA concentrations were significantly lower than those of their children.

Additionally, the study found concentrations were significantly higher among African-Americans as compared to Dominicans.

BPA concentrations were also correlated with concentrations of another chemical of concern, phthalates, used to soften plastics to increase their flexibility and found in a variety of products including enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements, adhesives, electronics, building materials, personal care products, medical devices, detergents, children’s toys, modeling clay, waxes, paint, ink, pharmaceuticals, food products and textiles, the researchers said.

Read article here.

Visit Frederica Perera’s main Upstream page.

From BrandeisNow (an article about Upstream Contributors Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein):

This year’s Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award goes to three researchers, Drs. Patricia Hunt, Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, who have dedicated decades to researching and identifying the effects of BPA in plastics on mamalian cells. The honoree will give their prize talks tomorrow, Oct. 22, in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library.

The potential dangers of BPA — bisphenol A — now cannot be disputed. More and more research shows effects of the estrogen-mimicking chemical that is frequently used in such items as plastic bottles, aluminum can linings, heat-activated register receipts and even some dental sealants.

In 2008, in an FDA report on BPA, the National Toxicology Program expressed “concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.” In July of this year the FDA announced that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups will no longer be allowed to contain BPA.

According to a New York Times report, a study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.

The Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine is given to scientists in academia, medicine, or industry whose work had outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences. The award consists of a $15,000 cash prize (to be shared in the case of multiple winners) and a medallion. Recipients travel to Brandeis University in the fall of each year to present a lecture on their work. It is followed by a dinner at which the formal presentation takes place.

The winners are:

  • Dr. Patricia Hunt, an internationally renowned geneticist, and a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University. Her talk is titled:  “Making a Perfect Egg: How Age and the Environment Affect Our Reproductive Health”
  • Dr. Ana Soto, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her talk is titled: “BPA exposure, Development and Cancer”
  • Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine.  His talk is titled: “Social Impact of Scientific Discoveries: The Case of Endocrine Disruptors”

The Gabbay Awards were established in 1998, when the trustees of the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation decided to create a new award in basic and applied biomedical sciences.

Nominations are solicited from selected scientists in industry and academia. A panel of distinguished researchers representing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as universities and schools of medicine, are assembled to consider nominations.

Because of their long association with Brandeis University, the trustees asked the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at Brandeis to administer the award.

Visit Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein’s main Upstream page.

An Northeastern University article about Upstream Contributor Phil Brown:

Many con­t­a­m­i­nants are easy for the public to spot, like emis­sions from the tailpipe of a car or the sludge from a mas­sive oil spill washing up on the ocean’s shores.

But Phil Brown, who joined Northeastern’s fac­ulty this fall, says many others are far less easy to iden­tify — including those found in beauty prod­ucts like deodorant and cologne or in flame retar­dants, which he has studied extensively.

“It’s the things we don’t think about being toxic that are in our everyday lives,” said Brown, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Soci­ology and Health Sci­ences with joint appoint­ments in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties and the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences.

For Brown, a renowned scholar whose inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research com­bines social sci­ence and envi­ron­mental health, issues like these are con­stantly in his crosshairs. Over the last 13 years at Brown Uni­ver­sity, he led a research group on envi­ron­mental health sci­ence that was sup­ported by a range of grants from sev­eral fed­eral agen­cies, including the National Insti­tutes of Health, the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the Envi­ron­mental Pro­tec­tion Agency.

His research included focusing on bio­mon­i­toring, which mea­sures the level of con­t­a­m­i­nants in the human body, and on house­hold expo­sure mon­i­toring, which mea­sures tox­i­cants found in the air and dust inside our homes and the air in our driveways.

Now at North­eastern, Brown is the director of the new Social Sci­ence Envi­ron­mental Health Research Insti­tute. The institute’s mis­sion is to bring together an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary team of researchers to con­duct socialscience research, teaching, com­mu­nity engage­ment and policy work in the field.

Brown said envi­ron­mental health researchers should be nimble and attuned to the world’s emerging envi­ron­mental health issues. Brown, for his part, nav­i­gated to the field of envi­ron­mental health sci­ence in the 1980s while working in mental health policy. At the time, a col­league was serving as an expert wit­ness in a high-​​profile groundwater-​​contamination case in Woburn, Mass., in which civil suits were brought against two com­pa­nies fol­lowing com­mu­nity con­cerns over rising levels of child­hood leukemia and other illnesses.

The Woburn case cap­tured Brown’s atten­tion imme­di­ately, com­pelling him to investigate.

“I spent a lot of time with the fam­i­lies who had been affected, whose chil­dren died or became sick, and that really changed my life,” said Brown, who wrote a book on the topic called “No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Com­mu­nity Action.”

Brown soon real­ized that many other com­mu­ni­ties grapple with sim­ilar envi­ron­mental health issues, which led him to engage in the larger debate about envi­ron­mental causes of ill­nesses. Over the years, he has also exam­ined health-​​focused social move­ments in America dating back to the begin­ning of Medicare and Medicaid.

“You never know where the work will take you next,” said Brown, who earned his Ph.D. in soci­ology from Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity. “I’m always looking for inter­esting new things that are impor­tant, that con­cern people and that have an effect on many people’s lives.”

Many envi­ron­mental health issues are local by nature, but Brown said they also serve as cat­a­lysts for world­wide envi­ron­mental change. He praised inno­va­tors before him who paved the way for this type of thinking — including Barry Com­moner, one of the founders of modern ecology, who passed away last week, and Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book “Silent Spring” exposed the dan­gers of the pes­ti­cide DDT. Both thought leaders, he said, brought envi­ron­mental dan­gers to the public eye and helped spark the global envi­ron­mental movement.

“We need to have those big visions and not be afraid to say, ‘This is how the world can be better many years down the road,’” Brown said.

Visit Phil Brown’s main Upstream page.

An article about Upstream expert Peggy Shepard was recently published in the Amsterdam News:

Peggy Shepard knows that advocacy brings results. Serving as executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), she has seen first-hand what can happen when you try to improve things environmentally in northern Manhattan.

Founded in 1988, WE ACT is not only the state’s first environmental justice organization run by people of color, but it has also been key in making sure that residents living in northern Manhattan are breathing clean air, getting fresh water and receiving safe living conditions.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Trenton, N.J., Shepard came to New York to pursue a career in journalism. After working as the first Black reporter for the Indianapolis News, she worked at Time-Life, Redbook, Essence and Black Enterprise in editorial positions. However, after leaving Black Enterprise, she desired something else.

“I wanted to do something with a little more substance,” she said. “I thought I would do serious articles, but magazines at the time were not ready to do serious articles.”

With that, she entered politics as a speechwriter and later became the Manhattan public relations director for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign. She also worked with New York City Mayor David Dinkins and Bill Lynch. Shepard eventually was elected to the position of Democratic District leader, serving alongside Chuck Sutton, nephew to the late Percy Sutton.

Her stint in politics allowed her to travel the state and make solid contacts. She even ran for state Assembly and City Council. However, Shepard also saw inequality among the communities in New York she visited.

Said Shepard, “I got to meet a lot of people around the state and see the differences between certain resources people had in other communities than they had in Harlem. I saw what activism did for the community, and I realized Harlem did not have that same level of activism.”

The first issue Shepard took on was the North River Waste Treatment Plant in 1986 in Harlem, which is now Riverbank State Park. Odors and emissions from the plant were making residents sick. After filing a lawsuit and winning the case, the $1 million settlement was used to start WE ACT.

In another lawsuit filed in 1988, Shepard led the fight against the MTA over the building of a bus depot. Cancer-causing emissions and harmful air pollution, along with the MTA not getting environmental consulting on the project, contributed to a victory that halted the project.

One of her most recent victories is the building of the new Harlem Piers in 2010. The city wanted to build a hotel in the space, but thanks to advocacy from residents and Shepard’s push, the city backed down and built a much-needed public waterfront space in Harlem.

Today, WE ACT operates as a nonprofit organization with a staff of 14 people not only advocating for better conditions in Harlem, but also educating communities on what they can do to save the environment, like recycling and being aware of various environmental issues.

“I feel great, and a lot of people ask me what keeps me going. It’s the activism,” she said. “This isn’t a job, it’s social justice. We need community residents to be active and concerned about issues in the community, to come together and do something about them.”

View Peggy’s Upstream interview here.

From NPR.org (an article about, and interview of, among others, Upstream Experts Leo Trasande and Frederica Perera):

BPA could be making kids fat. Or not.

That’s the unsatisfying takeaway from the latest study on bisphenol A — the plastic additive that environmental groups have blamed for everything from ADHD to prostate disease.

Unfortunately, the science behind those allegations isn’t so clear. And the new study on obesity in children and teens is no exception.

Researchers from New York University looked at BPA levels in the urine of more than 2,800 people aged 6 through 19. The team wanted to know whether those with relatively high levels of BPA were more likely to be obese.

But the results, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, didn’t offer a simple answer to that question.

Among white kids and teens, higher BPA levels were associated with more than twice the risk of obesity. With black and Hispanic youth, though, BPA levels didn’t make a difference.

“When we find an association like this, it can often raise more questions than it answers,” says the study’s lead author, Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University. There’s no obvious reason why one group of kids would be affected by BPA while another group wouldn’t, he says.

Also, there’s no way in this study to know whether BPA is actually causing kids to put on weight, says Frederica Perera, who directs the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “Obese children may be simply eating and drinking foods that have higher BPA levels,” she says.

And even if BPA is playing a role in weight gain, it may be just one of many chemicals involved, Perera says.

“Our center has recently published a study showing that exposure to another group of endocrine disruptors, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH, was associated with obesity in the children,” Perera says. Those hydrocarbons are typically a part of air pollution in cities.

Some of the uncertainty about BPA may come because the researchers had no way of knowing how much exposure kids in the study may have had in the womb — the time many scientists believe chemical exposure is most likely to have a lifelong effect.

“Clearly we need a longer term study that examines exposure in the earliest parts of life,” Trasande says. Even so, he says, it may be time to rethink childhood obesity.

“Diet and physical activity are still the leading factors driving the obesity epidemic in the United States,” Trasande says. “Yet this study suggests that we need to also consider a third key component to the epidemic: environmental factors that may also contribute.”

* * *

Read entire story and transcript of NPR interview here.

Upstream Contributor Peggy Shepard speaks on Environmental Justice and surfacing the meme of “Sacrifice Zones.”

Visit Peggy Shepard’s main Upstream page.

From EurekaAlert (a press release about research by Upstream Expert Frederica Perera):

According to a new study, children exposed to high levels of the common air pollutant naphthalene are at increased risk for chromosomal aberrations (CAs), which have been previously associated with cancer. These include chromosomal translocations, a potentially more harmful and long-lasting subtype of CAs.

Researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the new findings in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Naphthalene is found in both outdoor and indoor urban air. It is present in automotive exhaust, tobacco smoke, and is the primary component of household mothball fumes. Classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research, naphthalene belongs to a class of air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Prior research at the CCCEH has established a link between prenatal exposure to PAH and increased risk for childhood obesity, IQ deficits, and CAs. The new study is the first to present evidence in humans of CAs, including translocations, associated with exposure to one specific PAH—naphthalene—during childhood.

The researchers followed 113 children, age 5, who are part of a larger cohort study in New York City. They assessed the children’s exposure to naphthalene; a CDC laboratory measured levels of its metabolites—1- and 2-naphthol—in urine samples. (Metabolites are products of the body’s metabolism, and can serve as marker for the presence of a chemical.) Researchers also measured CAs in the children’s white blood cells using a technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization. Chromosomal aberrations were present in 30 children; of these, 11 had translocations. With every doubling of levels of 1- and 2-naphthol, translocations were 1.55 and 1.92 times more likely, respectively, to occur.

CAs have been associated with increased cancer risk in adults. Translocations are of special concern as they result in a portion of one chromosome being juxtaposed to a portion of another chromosome, potentially scrambling the genetic script. “Translocations can persist for years after exposure. Some accumulated damage will be repaired, but not everyone’s repair capacity is the same. Previous studies have suggested that chromosomal breaks can double an adult’s lifetime risk for cancer, though implications for children are unknown,” says first author Manuela A. Orjuela, MD, ScM, assistant professor of clinical environmental health sciences and pediatrics (oncology) at Columbia University Medical Center and a pediatric oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

To obtain a better sense of the long-term consequences of naphthalene exposure, Dr. Orjuela and other CCCEH investigators are following some of the children in the study as they reach fourth grade. While they expect to see further translocations, they do not expect to see any signs of cancer in the white blood cells. “So far, the translocations seem to be random, and there has been no evidence of the specific translocations that are known to be associated with leukemia. This is entirely expected; leukemia is very rare.” Frederica Perera, DrPH, senior author on the paper, adds that “the findings provide yet more evidence of the vulnerability of the young child to carcinogenic air pollutants.”

The researchers hypothesized that naphthalene exposure was primarily from mothballs, which can release high levels of the chemical. Furthermore, according to previous research, some Caribbean immigrant families use mothballs as an air freshener. Other important sources of naphthalene in indoor air are tobacco smoke, paint fumes, cooking, and heating. The new findings have implications beyond the urban environment as elevated levels of naphthalene metabolites have been documented in rural communities using biomass-burning stoves (coal, wood)—another source of PAH exposure.

From Metro (quoting Upstream Expert, Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein):

The synthetic chemical bisphenol A, which is used in the linings of beer, soda and food cans, plus plastic water bottles, has been exposed as a hormone disrupter and linked to autism, cancer and other complications in the body. But it might be just the tip of the iceberg of toxic chemicals impacting us every day.

“There are 80,000 chemicals in everyday use that have never been tested,” says Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein of Tufts University School of Medicine’s Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology. “It really is a nightmare.”

Despite decades of research supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on the harmful effects of BPA and other endocrine disruptors, Dr. Sonnenschein says that “very little has been done about it where it counts for the public, that is, at the regulatory end (EPA, FDA).”

Dr. Sonnenschein urges the public to get involved in banning toxic ingredients because “nothing will change,” he says, “without protests before officials who run for local, state and national office. The public has an important stake in this.”

The potential effects of such ingredients are widespread: “Hormonal disruptors, at their most radical, cause fetal damage during pregnancy. There’s more incidence of breast cancer as there’s more exposure. [Pubescent girls] are particularly sensitive to exposure. But, throughout our lives, continuous exposure means the body is storing the chemicals in fat tissue,” Dr. Sonnenschein adds.

“Most people are fed up with all these chemicals. The evidence is there. It is time for the regulatory agencies to act to protect the people.”

BPA: here to stay

Despite a lawsuit from the international nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA recently ruled to continue allowing BPA in food packaging. The NRDC’s public health
program’s senior scientist, Dr. Sarah Janssen, responded in a statement, which in part read:

“We believe FDA made the wrong call. The agency has failed to protect our health and safety — in the face of scientific studies that continue to raise disturbing questions about the effects of BPA exposures, especially in fetuses, babies and young children. The FDA is out-of-step with scientific and medical research. This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

More.

From The DailyMail (quoting Upstream Expert Dr. Ana Soto):

Cancer fears have grown over a chemical widely used in plastic packaging and food-can linings after new research showed that it affected the development of monkey breasts.

Various studies have linked Bisphenol A (BPA) to breast cancer – and now teams at Washington State University and Tufts University have added weight to these findings.

They found that foetal exposure to the plastic additive alters mammary gland development in primates.

Lead author Patricia Hunt said: ‘Previous studies in mice have demonstrated that low doses of BPA alter the developing mammary gland and that these subtle changes increase the risk of cancer in the adult.

‘Some have questioned the relevance of these findings in mice to humans. But finding the same thing in a primate model really hits uncomfortably close to home.’

For the research the structure of newborn mammary glands from BPA-exposed and unexposed female rhesus macaques were compared.

Pregnant monkeys were fed a piece of fruit containing a small amount of BPA each day during the gestational period corresponding to the human third trimester of pregnancy, resulting in blood levels of BPA comparable to those of many humans today.

The researchers found that, at birth, the density of mammary buds was significantly increased in BPA-exposed monkeys, and the overall development of the mammary gland was more advanced compared to unexposed monkeys.

Previous studies have shown that exposing rodents to tiny amounts of BPA can alter mammary gland development, leading to pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions when the animals exposed in utero reach adult age.

The researchers said the primate research makes them confident that the rodent mammary gland is a reliable model to study developmental exposures to chemicals like BPA that disrupt a mammal’s estrogen activity.

Tufts University School of Medicine researcher Ana Soto said: ‘This study buttresses previous findings showing that foetal exposure to low xenoestrogen levels causes developmental alterations that in turn increase the risk of mammary cancer later in life.

‘Because BPA is chemically related to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogen that increased the risk of breast cancer in both rodents and women exposed in the womb, the sum of all these findings strongly suggests that BPA is a breast carcinogen in humans and human exposure to BPA should be curtailed.’

The research appears in the latest Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

More.

From U.S. News and World Report, an article about Upstream expert, Dr. Frederica Perera’s most recent study:

Women exposed to higher levels of certain air pollutants while pregnant are more likely to have children with anxiety, depression and attention problems by ages 6 and 7, new research suggests.

“This study provides new evidence that prenatal exposure to air pollution at levels encountered in New York City can adversely affect child behavior,” said Frederica Perera, a professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

She led the new study, published online March 22 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers looked at pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They are created by the burning of fossil fuels and are common in urban environments. Traffic emissions are a major source of these pollutants.

The study is believed to be the first to link behavior problems in school-age children with two measures of prenatal PAH exposure: air concentrations and a PAH-specific marker found in mothers’ blood samples and umbilical cord blood. The PAH, inhaled by the mom during pregnancy, can cross the placenta, experts know.

Perera’s team followed the children of 253 inner-city women who gave birth between 1999 and 2006. None of the mothers smoked.

The researchers measured the concentrations of PAH in the environment of the mothers for 48 hours during trimester two or three. They also took blood samples from the mothers and the umbilical cords.

In addition, the women answered questions about their children’s behavior, including describing any attention problems, anxiety or depression. The attention problems would not qualify as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Perera noted.

The investigators found a link between higher PAH exposure levels and behavior problems. “Symptoms of anxiety and depression were 45 percent higher in the higher exposure group versus the lower,” Perera said. Attention problems were 28 percent greater in the higher PAH exposure group.

When the researchers took into account other sources of pollutants such as tobacco smoke and diet, the link remained. However, although the study found an association between prenatal PAH exposure and childhood behavior problems, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The level of problems were those that could result in referral to a doctor for further evaluation, Perera noted.

Several mechanisms could explain the link, she said. Oxidative stress is one. Or, the chemicals may be “endocrine disrupters, which are capable of affecting the normal signaling that occurs in early brain development.”

Perera plans to follow the children until they are age 12.

“The study by itself is not convincing to me,” said Dr. Victor Klein, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and is director of patient safety and risk reduction at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. He reviewed the study and said that “further research has to be done.”

More.

Read other Upstream posts about Dr. Perera’s work, including her Upstream interview videos, click here.

Brown University’s Department of Sociology and Program in Science and Technology Studies seek a postdoctoral fellow who studies ethical issues concerning emerging contaminants and technologies.  

This one-year postdoctoral fellowship is part of a new Research Training Program, “New Directions in Environmental Ethics: Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Technologies, and Beyond,” funded by NSF’s STS Program, which will also fund two doctoral students each year.  The Training Program synthesizes three areas on the cutting edge of STS research: 1) emerging contaminants and technologies, 2) public participation in science, and 3) reflexive research ethics. These areas are tied together by a commitment to developing and implementing research and methods that make science and technological innovation more accountable and responsive to public needs and wellbeing.  The Fellow will participate in the Contested Illnesses Research Group led by Dr. Phil Brown, a long-standing research group with many funded projects, which includes 2 faculty, 3 postdocs, and 6 graduate students.  The Fellow will also be involved with the Program in Science and Technology Studies, including its many seminar and colloquium speakers.  The Fellow will have a regular mentor, opportunities for collaboration on existing research, assistance in developing new research, involvement with other postdocs, multiple venues for presenting work in progress, the option to take or audit courses and special trainings (e.g. GIS), and opportunities for guest lecturing.  A laboratory and community component will provide for the Fellow to observe scientific practices and public engagement, and to connect with scientists and social movement leaders, by visiting laboratories and community-based organizations.

Brown University has a very strong environmental health presence, including a Superfund Research Program, Children’s Environmental Health Center, and National Children’s Study.  The STS Program has grown substantially in recent years, offering exciting learning opportunities.  The Contested Illnesses Research Group maintains many relationships with research organizations and community groups. The Fellow will have a unique opportunity to develop STS theoretical approaches and research directions for the study of emerging science, health social movements, public participation in science, and research ethics.

The Fellow will receive a stipend of $45,000, health and dental insurance (Brown pays 90%, postdoc pays 10%), and a small research travel fund.  This one-year postdoc may be extended to a second year, if appropriate.  The PhD must be received prior to beginning the Fellowship.  Degrees may come from any discipline, as long as the candidate has some STS background.

Candidates should send a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, writing samples (published or unpublished), and three letters of recommendation, including the dissertation advisor. The deadline for applying is April 15, 2012.  Applications received by the deadline will receive full consideration, but the search will remain open until the position is closed or filled. For additional information write: phil_brown@brown.edu. Applications should be sent in both hard copy and email to: Dr. Phil Brown, Chair, Postdoctoral Fellow Search Committee, Department of Sociology-Box 1916 Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912

From :

Advancing Environmental Justice and Urban Sustainability, 6th Annual Arnold J, Alderman Memorial Lecture, Martin Luther King Celebration, Yale Peabody Museum

Upstream Contributor Peggy Shepard is one of several prominent celebrities to speak at an upcoming TEDX Conference at the Apollo Theater.  (The poster image above is from a recent Peggy Shepard speech.) Here are some details for the upcoming event.

From Harlem World:

The one-day interactive forum will feature presentations on inspiring ideas and innovations by prominent speakers across various industries . The theme, “Creating Waves,” speaks to the notion that ideas have the ability to spread and make an impact, no matter where they are conceived.

Throughout the day, approximately 20 speakers, including Harlemites Celebrity Peggy Shepard, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Thelma Golden of Harlem Studio Museum, and Khadim Diop, among others, will facilitate a suite of short talks, demonstrations and performances on an array of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder.

The aim is to provoke conversations that help propel the Harlem and the global community forward. Topics include health and wellness, civic engagement, science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) and mobility and connectivity, to name a few. The visionaries showcased believe communities like Harlem have the potential to nurture and spread fresh ideas that create change beyond their community.

Participants will experience speakers that are sure to move and stimulate. Bina48, a robot that speaks, hears, and thinks like a human being, will share her personal testimony and take questions from TEDxHarlem social media followers at the conference. “I want people to see how far I’ve come,” Bina48 said. When asked how it feels to be a robot, she replied, “I dream about being human, but it’s not half bad. I’ve never been anything else.”

“We created TEDxHarlem to exemplify the spirit and culture of this great community. There has been a resurgence of the Harlem community that will be reflected throughout this transformative day of brilliance, entertainment and progressiveness. It is our hope that by bringing together big thinkers and community members, we will drive true impact within Harlem and beyond,” said Marcus Glover, TEDxHarlem organizer and founder of the Living Labs Foundation.

The Apollo Theater, March 27 from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

For more information about TEDxHarlem visit http://www.tedxharlem.com .

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