This month in EHP
This month’s feature stories in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) (http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/home.action) tackle the issues of labeling genetically engineered crops and regulation of trace radioactive contaminants known as radionuclides. Radionuclides, which have always occurred in water and soil as a result of the radioactive decay of naturally occurring elements, are a growing concern because of an increase in radioactive material waste from commercial, medical, and industrial applications.
Unknown Quantity: Regulating Radionuclides in Tap Water
Although radionuclides are widespread, there are large gaps in knowledge about sources of these materials, their distribution, associated health risks, and mitigation measures. The information scientists do have, however, suggests that current drinking water standards for radionuclides established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are not adequately protective of health. The agency is set to review these standards relatively soon, and the next two years are prime time for filling in numerous information gaps and doing other legwork to make sure the review is as well informed as possible.
To Label or Not to Label: California’s Upcoming Vote on Genetically Engineered Foods
Since they were first commercially grown in the mid-1990s, genetically engineered (GE) crops have expanded across the globe, cultivated by farmers drawn to their purported resistance to drought, herbicides, and insects. But while GE crop acreage has been steadily increasing, so have public concerns that producing and eating GE foods may pose health and environmental hazards. Now a ballot question in California has the potential to radically alter the GE landscape in the United States, when voters will decide whether GE foods sold in the state must be labeled as such.
Podcast — Epigenomics and Maternal Smoking, with Bonnie Joubert and Stephanie London
It’s well known that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to have problems like low birth weight, asthma, and possibly obesity, cancer, and high blood pressure. For clues into the mechanism behind these effects, scientists are looking to the epigenome, the personalized set of directions that tells our cells how and when to produce proteins, which is one of the ways gene activity is controlled. In this month’s Researcher’s Perspective podcast, (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/september-podcast/) NIEHS researchers Stephanie London, M.D., Dr.PH., and Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D., discuss the results of their recent study, published in EHP (see story), in which they identified a set of genes with methylation changes present at birth in children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy (“450K Epigenome-Wide Scan Identifies Differential DNA Methylation in Newborns Related to Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy”).
Featured commentaries, reviews, and research this month include:
- Cadmium Induces Pancreatic Tumor Cell Characteristics in Vitro
- Early-Life Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene and Adult Vision
- Birth Weight Following Pregnancy During the 2003 Southern California Wildfires
- Placental Mitochondrial DNA and Particulate Air Pollution During in Utero Life