Archives for category: Frederica Perera

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.

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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.

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 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.

From the Wall Street Journal (a report about Upstream contributor Dr. Frederica Perera):

Congested cities are fast becoming test tubes for scientists studying the impact of traffic fumes on the brain.

As roadways choke on traffic, researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory.

New public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability. “There are more and more scientists trying to find whether and why exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain,” says medical epidemiologist Jiu-Chiuan Chen at the University of Southern California who is analyzing the effects of traffic pollution on the brain health of 7,500 women in 22 states. “The human data are very new.”

So far, the evidence is largely circumstantial but worrisome, researchers say. And no one is certain yet of the consequences for brain biology or behavior. “There is real cause for concern,” says neurochemist Annette Kirshner at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. “But we ought to proceed with caution.”

To be sure, cars and trucks today generate one-tenth the pollution of a vehicle in 1970. Still, more people are on the road and they are stuck in traffic more often. Drivers traveling the 10-worst U.S. traffic corridors annually spend an average of 140 hours, or about the time spent in the office in a month, idling in traffic, a new analysis reported.

No one knows whether regular commuters breathing heavy traffic fumes suffer any lasting brain effect. Researchers have only studied the potential impact based on where people live and where air-pollution levels are highest. Even if there were any chronic cognitive effect on drivers, it could easily be too small to measure reliably or might be swamped by other health factors such as stress, diet or exercise that affect the brain, experts say.

* * *

Scientists believe that simple steps to speed traffic are a factor in reducing some public-health problems. In New Jersey, premature births, a risk factor for cognitive delays, in areas around highway toll plazas dropped 10.8% after the introduction of E-ZPass, which eased traffic congestion and reduced exhaust fumes, according to reports published in scientific journals this year and in 2009. The researchers, Princeton University economist Janet Currie and her colleagues at Columbia University, analyzed health data for the decade ending 2003.

After New York traffic managers rerouted streets in Times Square recently to lessen congestion, air-pollution levels in the vicinity dropped by 63%.

Scientists are only beginning to understand the basic biology of car exhaust’s toxic neural effects, especially from prenatal or lifetime exposures. “It is hard to disentangle all the things in auto exhaust and sort out the effects of traffic from all the other possibilities,” says Dr. Currie, who studies the relationship between traffic and infant health.

Researchers in Los Angeles, the U.S.’s most congested city, are studying lab mice raised on air piped in from a nearby freeway. They discovered that the particles inhaled by the mice—each particle less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair—somehow affected the brain, causing inflammation and altering neurochemistry among neurons involved in learning and memory.

To study the effect of exhaust on expectant mothers, Frederica Perera at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health began in 1998 to equip hundreds of pregnant women with personal air monitors to measure the chemistry of the air they breathed. As the babies were born, Dr. Perera and colleagues discovered a distinctive biochemical mark in the DNA of about half of the infants, left by prenatal exposure to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in exhaust.

By age 3, the children who bore the mark of exhaust in their genes were developing mental capacities fractionally more slowly. By age 5, their IQ scores averaged about four points lower on standard intelligence tests than those of less exposed children, the team reported in 2009. The differences, while small, were significant in terms of later educational development, the researchers said.

By age 7, the children were more likely to show symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention problems, the researchers reported this year in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“The mother’s exposure—what she breathed into her lungs—could affect her child’s later behavior,” Dr. Perera says. “The placenta is not the perfect barrier we once thought.”

More.

See the excellent interview of WSJ journalist covering this story (Lee Hotz) below:

View the extended Upstream Interview of Dr. Frederica Perera here.

 

From Leadership:

Why are some people predisposed to being anxious, overweight or asthmatic? Why are some of us prone to heart attacks, diabetes or high blood pressure? You may say it’s our genes. Or our childhood experiences: How we were treated especially during those crucial first three years. Or maybe our well-being stem from lifestyle choices we make as adults, like our diet and how much exercise we get.

But what about your life in the womb? The nutrition you received; the pollutants, medicines and infections you were exposed to; your mother’s health, stress and state of mind while she was pregnant with you – pioneers in the controversial field of fetal origins say these factors shaped you as a baby – and for the rest of your life.

They assert the nine months in the womb permanently influence the wiring of the brain, the functioning of organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas, how prone we are to disease, our appetite and metabolism, our intelligence and temperament.

Much of what a pregnant woman encounters in her daily life – the air she breathes, the food and drink she consumes, the chemicals she’s exposed to, even the emotions she feels – are shared with her fetus. It incorporates these into its own body, making them part of its flesh and blood.

Research on fetal origins, also called the developmental origins of health and disease, is prompting revolutionary shifts in thinking about where human qualities come from and when they develop.

* * *

Two decades ago, a British doctor named David Barker noticed an odd . pattern on a map: The poorest regions  of England and Wales had the highest rates of heart disease. But heart disease was supposed to be due to a sedentary lifestyle and rich food?
After comparing the health of 15,000 adults with their birth weights, he discovered an unexpected link between small birth size, often an indication of poor prenatal nutrition, and heart disease in middle age.

Dr Barker theorized that when a fetus does not get enough nutrition, it diverts nutrients to the brain, while skimping on other parts of its body. This shows up in later life as a weaker heart.

When he presented his findings to colleagues, he was mocked. “Heart disease was supposed to be all about
genetics or adult lifestyle,” says Dr Barker, now 72, and a professor at the University of Southampton in  England and at Oregon Health and Science University. “People scoffed at the idea that it could have anything to do with intrauterine experience.”
For years, the idea was just known as the Barker hypothesis. But in time, it began to win converts. Dr Janet Rich-Edwards, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analysed findings from the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-running investigation of more than 120,000 nurses in the US.

* * *

The good news is that fetal researchers are also finding out that life in the womb can make things go better for your child in later life.

* * *

Take your weight. Two studies by researchers at Harvard Medical School suggest your mother’s weight affects  yours. One study found that the more weight a woman gains during pregnancy, the more likely her child is to be overweight by age three.

* * *

“The bodies of the children conceived after their mothers had weight-loss surgery process fats and carbohydrates in a healthier way than the bodies of their brothers and sisters  who were conceived at a time when their mothers were still overweight,” says John Kral, a professor of surgery and medicine and a co-author of both papers.

“It may be the intrauterine or womb environment is more important than genes or shared eating habits in passing on a tendency to be obese,” says Professor Kral. If that’s so, helping women maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy may be the best hope for stopping obesity before it starts.

* * *

How does air pollution affect a baby in the womb? More than 30 years ago, [Upstream Contributor] Dr. Frederica Perera, the director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia University, was researching air pollution and cancer in adults. “I was looking for control subjects to compare to adults. I wanted individuals completely untouched by pollution,” she says.

She decided to use babies just out of the womb as her controls. So she sent samples of umbilical-cord blood and placental tissue to a laboratory to be analysed. When she got the results back, “I was shocked. These samples already had evidence of contamination.”

More.

From

[Upstream Contributor] Dr. Frederica Perera touches on how the environment around us can make a big impact very early in life and stick with us for a long time. This short take was shot during a break at Keystone Symposia’s meeting on Environmental Epigenomics and Disease Susceptibility held in March 2011 in Asheville, North Carolina.

 

In this portion of my interview of Dr. Frederica Perera (professor at the Mailman School of Public Health and Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health), she shares her five favorites (see prompts below).

(Duration 4:21)

Contents

  1. What mentor had the greatest influence on your work? 00:50
  2. What do you consider to be the best wide-audience book, article, or movie related to your field? 01:15
  3. What do you consider to be the most important academic book or article? 01:35
  4. Which of your scholarly publications would you recommend to viewers? 02:10
  5. Which activist or community organization do you most admire? 03:15

More of the Perera interview is here.

In my interview of Dr. Frederica Perera (professor at the Mailman School of Public Health and Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health), I asked about her about what solutions might exist for the environmental health problems that she has famously documented. This video contains her responses to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 9:17)

Contents

  1. What, if any, regulations do you think should be enacted to address some of these problems? 0:40
  2. Are you at all optimistic about the prospects for such regulatory reform? 2:20
  3. Can more be done to give the public better information about environmental health risks? 2:50
  4. Please describe your collaboration with community organizations and policymakers in New York. 4:50
  5. What are some of the challenges to getting the public more involved in efforts for change? 7:20

More of the Perera interview is here.

In my interview of Dr. Frederica Perera (professor at the Mailman School of Public Health and Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health), I asked about her current work on environmental health issues. This video contains her responses to the prompts listed below.

(Duration 12:57)

Contents

  1. Why did you begin studying inner-city communities in New York? 00:40
  2. Please describe your work at the Center for Children’s Environmental Health at Columbia. 02:00
  3. Please say more about how your new epidemiological methods work and what you’ve learned? 05:15
  4. What have you found about prenatal exposures to air pollutants and other toxic chemicals? 06:50
  5. Have you seen examples of where decreased toxic exposures have yielded positive health effects? 09:10
  6. What can you say about the interrelationship of toxic chemicals and climate change on young children? 10:10

More of the Perera interview is here.

In my interview of Dr. Frederica Perera (professor at the Mailman School of Public Health and Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health), I asked about how and why she began her work on environmental health issues and how she began her work on molecular epidemiology.  This video contains her responses to the prompts listed below (duration: 10:58).

Contents

  1. How did you become interested in researching the effects of environmental pollutants on human health? 00:40
  2. Was there any event that particularly triggered your interest in studying environmental toxins? 01:30
  3. What led you to pursue a degree in Environmental Health Sciences and Public Health? 02:50
  4. Tell me a bit more about you learned in your early collaboration with Dr. Weinstein. 06:20
  5. How did the results of that study influence your work? 07:25
  6. How did your research in molecular epidemiology evolve to focus on the fetus and other susceptible groups? 08:40

Vodpod videos no longer available.

North Carolina:

From the air there appears to be nothing left of the Sangamo-Weston Plant that once stood in Pickens.But, unfortunately, the industry left plenty behind.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh, we didn’t know it was so harmful.’ Bull manure! They did know it was harmful,” Federal Judge Ross Anderson said.

Anderson is talking about the 400,000 pounds of PCBs the plant dumped into 12-Mile River during the 60s and 70s.

The cancer-causing substance found its way to Lake Hartwell where today, people are still warned not to eat the fish.

* * *

“We’re going to be paying a price for our environment for at least the lifetime of my grandson,” he said.

More.

A CNN article, “ Senate panel examining how chemicals in daily life affect kids’ health,” summarizes some of the research by UPSTREAM expert Frederica Perera.  Here is a sample.

A growing number of studies are finding hundreds of toxic chemicals in the bodies of mothers, and subsequently, in their babies after birth. While there is no science that demonstrates a conclusive cause-and-effect relationship between chemicals children are born with and particular health problems, studies are finding associations between elevated levels of chemicals in a baby’s body and their development.

Tuesday’s hearing, called by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, will take place at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey. Lautenberg has called for updating the federal regulations to require manufacturers to show chemicals are safe before introducing them on the market. Other planned witnesses include . . . Dr. Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.

Perera’s center has been following hundreds of pregnant women over the past 12 years to measure chemicals entering the womb during pregnancy.

The women trudge through New York City for 48 hours wearing special backpacks, each with a long tube that is slung over the shoulder. The tube, resting inches below the pregnant mom’s mouth, sucks air into a special filter, giving an approximate measurement of the air that she is breathing.

The backpack is designed to measure ambient toxics spewed by vehicles and pesticides, along with chemicals from common household products.

“It surprised me when we analyzed the air samples [from the backpacks] and found 100 percent of them had detectable levels of at least one pesticide and the air pollutants we were interested in,” Perera, who also is a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told CNN earlier this year. “Every single one.”

So far, the toxics measured in the backpacks match what scientists are finding in the cord blood of the babies once they are born.

* * *

Perera and her colleagues are following the children in their study from the uterus, through birth, and up to their first several years of life. They recently published a study in the journal Pediatrics demonstrating an association between the chemicals they found in babies’ cord blood and later problems on intelligence tests and development.

“Fifteen percent of children [in our study] have at least one developmental problem,” Perera said.

The amount of chemicals measured in the cord blood of the babies seems to matter. The higher the concentration, the more the IQ among children seems to dip. The study is also being conducted among pregnant women in Poland and China, and finding similar results.

More . . .

 

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