Researchers from the UC Department of Environmental Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center are heading to Basel, Switzerland, for a groundbreaking conference on the environment and health.
"Environment and Health–Bridging South, North, East and West,” is being held in Basel Aug. 19-23. It’s billed as the first joint conference of three leading scientific societies dedicated to improving public health: the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), the International Society of Exposure Sciences (ISES) and the International Society of Indoor Air Quality (ISIAQ).
"Researchers from all over the world will be there, and we’re pleased to represent Cincinnati,” says Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental health who will be giving two talks in Basel. Chen’s e-waste team research includes Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, Jacob G. Schmidlapp Chair of Environmental Health.
Unregulated e-waste recycling has emerged as a global concern, with small-scale sites engaging in hazardous burning, acid baths and other processes to extract materials such as gold, copper and platinum and dumping the rest as waste.
Earlier this year, Chen participated in a working meeting on e-waste and child health convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. His team’s research focuses on pregnant women and their infants in Guiyu, China, an area with a large, concentrated amount of e-waste recycling conducted in family-run workshops.
"In our preliminary findings, we observed slightly low birth weight and smaller head size in the communities with informal recycling activities compared with communities without informal recycling,” Chen says.
Chen will also be discussing his research on chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been used as flame retardants in everyday products such as baby strollers, carpeting and electronics. Earlier this year, at the Pediatrics Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., he presented research showing that prenatal exposure to PBDEs is associated with hyperactivity and lower intelligence in early childhood.
"Our study adds to several other human studies to highlight the need to reduce exposure to PBDEs in pregnant women,” Chen says.
Also presenting from UC and Cincinnati Children’s:
Susan Pinney, PhD, professor of environmental health, has two oral presentations and one poster presentation scheduled in Basel.
One of the oral presentations will feature a study from the Ohio River Valley showing that the duration of being breast fed is associated with higher levels of certain polyfluoroalkyl chemicals found in the blood of young girls. Polyfluoroalkyl chemicals form the key ingredients in a number of household products, and these chemicals can find their way into the water supply.
Pinney notes that Cincinnati’s main water filtration plant, the Miller Plant on the Ohio River near the California community, uses granular activated carbon (GAC) in the treatment process and that girls who lived in areas that received water from the plant had lower levels of polyfluoroalkyl chemicals in their blood than girls who were not drinking water from the plant.
"The message is not that you shouldn’t breast feed, but that if we don’t take care of removing these chemicals from the water supply, not only are the persons themselves exposed but the exposure also carries through to their children,” Pinney says.
Robert Herrick, a PhD student mentored by Pinney, will deliver an oral presentation based on his study of 400 people in the Ohio River Valley and their exposure to polyfluoroalkyl chemicals and other perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). His team found a significant correlation for PFCs and the use of Ohio River water for drinking purposes. PFC levels were cut in half, however, with GAC-treated water.
Pinney has two presentations based on data collected through the Fernald Medical Monitoring Program, the United States’ first and largest legally mandated comprehensive medical monitoring program. The program was established in 1990 after a federal investigation revealed that National Lead of Ohio’s Feed Materials Production Center in the Hamilton County community of Fernald was emitting dangerous levels of uranium dust and gases into the surrounding communities.
In an oral presentation, she will discuss a study of uranium exposure and renal function in the Fernald Community Cohort. The poster presentation features a 2012 study in which a collaborative team from UC and Cincinnati Children’s found that the Fernald Community Cohort experienced a higher than average rate of lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other organs of the body.
Tiina Reponen, PhD, professor of environmental health, will present results from the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS) in a symposium, "Microbes, Indoor Environment and Health–Interdisciplinary Challenges.” In the study, early life microbial exposure to mold was shown to significantly increase the risk of asthma at age 7.
Eric Kettleson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow on Reponen’s team, will deliver a podium presentation on a pilot study intended to provide a baseline measure of bacterial diversity following green renovation to improve the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of 20 Cincinnati apartments. Kanistha Chatterjee, a PhD student mentored by Reponen, will present a poster assessing indoor air quality within the renovated apartments.
Erin Haynes, DrPH, assistant professor of environmental health, will be presenting IQ and neuromotor data from the Communities Actively Researching Exposure Study (CARES), which was initiated based on community concern about exposure to manganese from a metallurgical manufacturing company near Marietta, Ohio. The study recruited 408 children ages 7-9 from Marietta and Cambridge, Ohio. (The Cambridge children were recruited as a comparison community.) Researchers found that children with higher hair manganese have poorer fine motor coordination and lower IQ scores.
Shelley Ehrlich, MD, an assistant professor in the departments of pediatrics and environmental health who is based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, will be making two presentations.
In one presentation, she reports findings that suggest that the handling of thermal receipts (such as receipts used in credit card transactions) is a significant source of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) through the skin. BPA, an environmental pollutant with estrogen activity, is used to make hard, clear plastic and is common in many food product containers.
In her other presentation, Ehrlich discusses methods of measurement for BPA in humans and suggests that both urine and blood measurements are needed, as they provide important non-overlapping information.
Patrick Ryan, PhD, a professor in the departments of pediatrics and environmental health who is based at Cincinnati Children's, will also be presenting at the conference. He is co-investigator of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), a longitudinal birth cohort study of the effects of diesel exhaust particles on the development of allergies and asthma.