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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News July 2016

Volume 7, Issue 7: July 2016

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Silicone Wristbands Detect Preschoolers' Exposure to Flame Retardants

Silicone wristbands can be used as personal monitors to detect flame retardant exposure in young children, according to a new study from researchers at the NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Science Center at Oregon State University. The study demonstrated for the first time that the silicone wristbands can be used as a reliable method to characterize personal flame retardant exposure and that young children were able to wear the lightweight, rubbery wristbands with little problem. The researchers found that the preschool-aged children were exposed to a mixture 20 flame retardants.

"It is important to demonstrate the wristbands as a reliable and practical way to measure flame retardant exposures as well as their ease of use for monitoring children's exposures," said lead study author Kim Anderson, Ph.D.

Flame retardant chemicals are commonly added to foam products, such as cushions in household and office furniture, baby car seats, and crib mattresses, in order to meet specific flammability standards. As the foam breaks down, these chemicals are released into the air and accumulate in air and dust. Evidence links flame retardant exposure to poor brain and reproductive organ development and endocrine and immune system dysfunction. One class of flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), were phased out of production in the U.S. in the mid-2000s because of their harmful effects on health. Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) are now being used in products as a replacement chemical for PDBEs. While less is known about how OPFR exposure affects health, emerging evidence suggests exposure to these chemicals adversely affects neurodevelopment.

boy wearing silicone
Children wore the wristbands for one week with little problem. Some liked wearing the wristband, calling it "their own personal science bracelet."
(Photo courtesy of Kim Anderson)

To characterize children's exposure to flame retardants, the researchers recruited preschoolers to wear the wristbands continuously for seven days. They detected 20 flame retardant chemicals in the wristbands, 11 of which were found in over 60% of samples. PBDEs were detected at a high frequency, indicating that children are still being exposed to chemicals that no longer are being produced in the U.S. OPFRs were detected at a higher frequency and concentration than PBDEs, suggesting that children are being exposed to replacement chemicals that are not subject to regulatory policies.

"We saw that kids living in homes built before 2005 tended to have higher levels of PDBEs while the inverse was true for OPFRs," said Anderson. "These results may reflect a shift away from PBDEs to using OPFR replacement flame retardant chemicals in the U.S."

The researchers also found that age of housing, frequency of vacuuming, and sociodemographic factors lead to some children being exposed to higher levels of flame retardants than others. For example, the researchers found that PBDE and OPFR levels were higher in the wristbands of kids from homes where vacuuming occurred frequently. This may be because the heat and physical agitation generated while vacuuming could free the chemicals from household dust, releasing them into the air where people can inhale them more readily.

"Importantly, people can use this new information to reduce exposures by looking for products free of flame retardants, including OPFRs, and using a wet mop to clean household dust instead of frequent vacuuming," explained Anderson.

New NIH-EPA Research Centers to Study Environmental Health Disparities

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund five new research centers to improve health in communities overburdened by pollution and other environmental factors that contribute to health disparities. Within each center, scientists will partner with community organizations to study these concerns and develop culturally appropriate ways to reduce exposure to harmful environmental conditions. The Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research are jointly funded by the NIEHS, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), and the National Center for Environmental Research at EPA.

Commentary Identifies Fossil Fuel Combustion as a Threat to Child Health and an Economic Burden

In a commentary written in Environmental Health Perspectives, Frederica Perera, Dr.P.H., Ph.D., Director of the NIEHS-funded Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH), addresses the children's health and economic impacts of climate change and air pollution resulting from fossil fuel combustion. The commentary summarizes the current scientific evidence and makes the case for an integrated and child-centered air pollution and energy policy. The data summarized show that by sharply reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, we would achieve highly significant health and economic benefits for our children and their future.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

environmental health chat picture

In the Citizen Science podcast, we take a look at some real-world science being conducted by everyday people with low-cost research tools. The podcast highlights the benefits of citizen science and some key considerations to ensure it is done properly.

You can find more podcasts on the Environmental Health Chat Web page or subscribe to the series on iTunes. We want your feedback! Send comments and ideas for future podcasts to podcast@niehs.nih.gov.

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Nancy Schoenberg, Ph.D.

Nancy Schoenberg, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Kentucky who uses community-based participatory research to address health disparities in Appalachian communities. Her work focuses on health disparities related to chronic diseases, including respiratory disease, nutritional disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. As a medical anthropologist, Schoenberg says she always seeks to understand the larger social context related to disease conditions. Read the Grantee Highlight to learn more.

PEPH in the Environmental Factor

The latest issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor featured several stories highlighting topics and activities of interest to the PEPH community:

New resource for children's environmental health research. Eligible researchers in children's environmental health may apply later this year to have samples analyzed for chemicals and biomarkers.

New NIH-EPA research centers to study environmental health disparities. The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have funded new centers to study environmental health disparities.

Outstanding environmental health scientists share cutting-edge research. NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientists awardees gathered to share research and reflect on how the award propelled their careers.

Wetterhahn winner reflects on lessons from multidisciplinary research. Wetterhahn winner Bradley Newsome, Ph.D., discussed the importance of bringing together different disciplines to address complex problems.

Join CDC's First National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program Week

During the week of July 11 - 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sponsoring the first ever National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program Week. CDC, state and local health departments, and national partners are coming together to highlight environmental health issues important to improving the health of our nation and to recognize the work of the Tracking Program. Use the hashtag #WeTrackThat to join the conversation. Daily topics include:

  • Monday - Air quality
  • Tuesday - Community design
  • Wednesday - Children's environmental health
  • Thursday - Water
  • Friday - Climate and heat

EPA Launches New Version of EJSCREEN

EJSCREEN is EPA's environmental justice screening and mapping tool for highlighting places that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. After a year of public engagement and collecting feedback from stakeholders, EPA is announcing the release of the latest version of EJSCREEN. The new version has an abundance of new features – all of which were requested by the public – such as: the inclusion of the National Air Toxic Assessment environmental indicators for cancer risk, respiratory risk, and diesel particulate matter; scalable maps that summarize data at the Census block group, tract, or county level; and the addition of Puerto Rico. EPA is hosting a webinar to engage with stakeholders on questions about the new data and design of EJSCREEN and to discuss how the tool is being used. The webinar will take place July 11, 2016, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EDT. Please register.

Nominations Open for the 2016 Nsedu Obot Witherspoon (NOW) Youth Leadership Award

The Children's Environmental Health Network (CHEN) NOW Youth Leadership Award honors a young person (ages 12 - 21 at the time of the nomination) who has demonstrated exceptional environmental health leadership. CHEN encourages nominations of young people who have strong leadership skills, are committed to environmental health, and participate in community action. Nominate a candidate by July 15, 2016.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

August 3 - 5, 2016: Research Career Development Symposium for Underrepresented Groups and Women in College Station, Texas. This three-day symposium, intended primarily for junior faculty, postdocs, and graduate students, will provide mentorship and guidance on building a successful research career. It will focus on those who identify as part of an underrepresented group and/or as a woman, but everyone is welcome.

August 25 - 26, 2016: Advancing the Science of Community Engaged Research Conference Series in Washington, D.C. This year's conference theme is "Innovative and Effective Methods of Engagement."

September 8, 2016: Disaster Health Education Symposium in Bethesda, Maryland. Registration is now open for the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health's "Disaster Health Education Symposium: Innovations for Tomorrow." There is no cost to attend this workshop, but registration is required.

September 12 - 14, 2016: Conference on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Hosted by the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), this conference will bring together researchers across the cancer control continuum using geospatial tools, models, and approaches to address cancer prevention and control. Register by August 31, 2016.

October 29 - November 2, 2016: American Public Health Association (APHA) 2016 Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. This year's conference theme is "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health."

December 5 - 8, 2016: NIEHS Environmental Health Science FEST (EHS FEST) in Durham, North Carolina. As part of its 50th Anniversary celebrations, NIEHS is organizing the EHS FEST to bring together researchers, community engagement teams, trainees, and young investigators, all supported by NIEHS, for several days of scientific dialog. Please hold these dates on your calendar and RSVP online.

December 14 - 15, 2016: 9th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted by NIH and AcademyHealth, this Conference aims to grow the dissemination and implementation research base by bridging the gap between evidence, practice, and policy in health and medicine. Submit an abstract by August 4.

January 24 - 26, 2017: NCSE 2017 Integrating Environment and Health in Washington, D.C. Organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), NCSE 2017: Integrating Environment and Health will bring together diverse groups of individuals and experts - including researchers, educators, students, policy makers, and entrepreneurs - to explore these relationships on specific issues and to develop recommendations on actionable items. Submit a proposal for a symposium or breakout by July 22, 2016.

Funding Opportunities

Visit the PEPH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) page for more PEPH-related funding opportunities.

Enhancing Community Networks that Improve Coastal Environments, Health, and Well-Being. Funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NAS) Gulf Research Program, these grants support projects conducted by community and/or regionally-focused organizations that seek to advance understanding of how science can serve community needs and to extend the use of such information to address coastal challenges. Deadlines: July 13, 2016 (letter of intent); September 14, 2016 (application).

Big Data to Knowledge Funding Opportunities (K01, K22, T32). These opportunities aim to train more researchers who will use new Big Data technologies, methods, and tools. Training is expected across three major scientific areas: (1) computer science or informatics, (2) statistics and mathematics, and (3) biomedical science. In addition, the awardee/trainee acquires depth in areas of specialty necessary for developing new methods, technologies, or tools. Deadlines: July 25, 2016 (T32); August 1, 2016 (K01, K22).

Mobile Health: Technology and Outcomes in Low and Middle Income Counties (R21). Encourages exploratory/developmental research applications that propose to conduct research to develop or adapt innovative mobile health (mHealth) technology specifically suited for low and middle income countries (LMICs) and to determine the health-related outcomes associated with implementation of that technology. Deadlines: August 31, 2016; a letter of intent is due 30 days prior to the application due date.

Long-term Exposure to Air Pollution and Development of Cardiovascular Disease. As part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking applications that propose to expand and inform the understanding of the mechanism(s) by which air pollution contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Deadline: August 2, 2016.

Environmental Exposures and Health: Exploration of Non-Traditional Settings (R01, R21). Encourages interdisciplinary research aimed at promoting health, preventing and limiting symptoms and disease, and reducing health disparities across the lifespan for those living or spending time in non-traditional settings (i.e., playgrounds and nursing homes). Deadlines: October 5, 2016 (R01); October 16, 2016 (R21).

Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01). Encourages applications using community-engaged research methods to investigate the potential health risks of environmental exposures of concern to the community and to implement an environmental public health action plan based on research findings. Deadline: Standard receipt dates apply (October 5, February 5).

Spatial Uncertainty: Data, Modeling, and Communication (R01). Supports innovative research that identifies sources of spatial uncertainty in public health data, incorporates the inaccuracy or instability into statistical methods, and develops novel tools to visualize the nature and consequences of spatial uncertainty. Deadline: October 5, 2016.

Reducing Health Disparities Among Minority and Underserved Children (R21). Encourages research that targets the reduction of health disparities among children. Specific targeted areas of research include biobehavioral studies that incorporate multiple factors that influence child health disparities; studies that target the specific health promotion needs of children with a known health condition and/or disability; and studies that test and evaluate the comparative effectiveness of health promotion interventions conducted in traditional and nontraditional settings. Deadline: October 16, 2016.

Education and Health: New Frontiers (R01, R03, R21). Supports research that will further elucidate the pathways involved in the relationship between education and health outcomes and in doing so to carefully identify the specific aspects and qualities of education that are responsible for this relationship and what the mediating factors are that affect the nature of the causal relationship. Deadlines: October 5, 2016 (R01); October 16, 2016 (R03, R21).

Advancing Basic Behavioral and Social Research on Resilience: An Integrative Science Approach (UG3/UH3). To elucidate mechanisms and processes of resilience within a general framework that emphasizes its dynamics and interactions across both time and scale, multiple contexts, multiple outcomes, and multiple time frames. Deadlines: November 1, 2016 (letter of intent); December 1, 2016 (application).

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