Selected tags: lead

Estimating chemical risk: Breadth (prevalence) may be just as important as depth (magnitude of effect)

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.

Earlier this month Dr. David Bellinger at Boston Children’s Hospital published a very interesting paper in Environmental Health Perspectives offering a new way to consider the importance of various risk factors for child neurodevelopment—such as pre-existing medical conditions, poor nutritional status or harmful chemical exposures—at the population level.  “A Strategy for Comparing the Contributions of Environmental Chemicals and Other Risk Factors to Neurodevelopment of Children” argues that, in evaluating the contribution of a risk factor to a health outcome, it is critical to consider not only the magnitude of its effect on the health outcome, but also the prevalence of that risk factor in the population.

Dr. Bellinger argues: “Although a factor associated with a large impact would be a significant burden to a patient, it might not be a major contributor to the population if it occurs rarely.  Conversely, a factor associated with a modest but frequently occurring impact could contribute significantly to population burden.”  The former “disease-oriented” approach has generally been used to estimate the burden of harmful chemical exposures to population health, rather than the latter “population-oriented” approach.  Relying solely on the former approach, he contends, may result in an underestimation of the impact of a chemical exposure or other risk factor on public health.  Read More »

Posted in Health Science, Regulation | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

A most-pressing Health Affair: Acting as if our children’s health matters

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

Health policy history of sorts was made this week:  The prestigious journal Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy, unveiled its first-ever issue devoted entirely to environmental health.  It did so via a briefing held in Washington, DC on Wednesday that featured several pre-eminent environmental health experts, including David Fukuzawa, Program Director for Health at The Kresge Foundation; Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and Kenneth Olden, Professor and Founding Dean at the new City University of New York’s School of Public Health and former long-time NIEHS Director.

A sneak peak has been provided via advanced publication of some of the journal issue’s articles.  Prominent among the themes of these articles:  The high and increasing health and economic costs of unregulated exposures to unsafe and inadequately tested chemicals.

I’ll call attention here to two papers in particular:

Read More »

Posted in Health Policy | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Won’t we ever stop playing whack-a-mole with “regrettable chemical substitutions”?

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

In recent days, two compelling cases have surfaced of so-called “regrettable substitutions” – industry responding to concerns about the use of one dangerous chemical by replacing it with another that is less well-studied, or at least not currently in the crosshairs.

Case 1:  Chinese manufacturers of children’s jewelry, responding to concerns and restrictions on the use of lead in such products produced for export to the U.S., have replaced it with cadmium, a known human carcinogen and developmental toxicant that, if anything is even more toxic to kids than lead – but is not subject to any restrictions in such kids’ products.

Case 2:  American food product manufacturers, responding to concerns about the devastating effects on the lungs of workers exposed to diacetyl – an artificial butter flavoring used in many products, most notably microwave popcorn – have begun to replace it with closely related chemicals likely to break down into diacetyl or otherwise have similar effects.

Are we destined forever to play this dangerous variant on the game of whack-a-mole, or can something be done? Read More »

Posted in Health Science | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

ChAMP "superseded": EPA shifts into action mode

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

A new entry showed up sometime in the last day on EPA's webpage for its ChAMP initiative.  It reads:  "The Chemical Assessment and Management Program (ChAMP) has been superseded by the comprehensive approach to enhancing the Agency’s current chemicals management program announced by Administrator Lisa Jackson on September 29, 2009."

Don't miss this bit at the top of the page:cobweb

Yes, that image is a cobweb, which EPA uses to designate archived web content.  What's happening here? Read More »

Posted in Health Policy, Regulation | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

In Vitro Risk Assessment for a Nano Fuel Additive: Tanks or No Tanks?

John BalbusJohn Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., is Chief Health Scientist.

The history of health and environmental impacts of fuel additives is not a pretty one.  From tetra-ethyl lead to methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), we’ve learned the hard way that what goes in the tank ends up in our bodies and the environment sooner or later.  Getting a thorough understanding of the potential risks of a new fuel additive at an early stage is essential to avoid a lot of harm, suffering, and economic costs down the line.

A new study by Park et al. has assessed the potential respiratory risks of a fuel additive called Envirox (nanoparticulate cerium oxide), giving it a clean bill of health based only on in vitro tests.  Is this the vision of the future of risk assessment?  Should we feel safe? Read More »

Posted in Emerging Testing Methods, Health Science, Nanotechnology | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Nanoparticles on the brain?

John BalbusJohn Balbus, M.D., M.P.H., is Chief Health Scientist.

It’s been a worry for engineered nanoparticles. Now, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (Suglia et al., 2008) is the first to suggest that particulate air pollution not only damages the lungs and heart, but also may damage the developing brain.

Researchers measured cognitive function in over 200 children in Boston in relation to their residential exposure to traffic-related air pollution by measuring airborne carbon black particles. They found the IQ-lowering effect of higher exposure is comparable to a pregnant mother smoking 10 cigarettes a day or moderate lead exposure. Read More »

Posted in Emerging Science, Health Science, Nanotechnology | Also tagged | 3 Responses, comments now closed
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