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Your Environment. Your Health.

Early Life Exposures - Long-Term Health Consequences

Superfund Research Program
February 3, 2012
March 28, 2012
April 2, 2012
February 3, 2012

This series "Early Life Exposures – Long-Term Health Consequences" featured Superfund Research Program (SRP) research that revealed the vulnerability of a developing child by identifying how biological systems are disturbed in this early period of life. The series showcased cutting edge research findings that illuminate the consequences of early life exposures to metals and organic contaminants of emerging concern.

Session I: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers - Exposures and Toxicity

February 3, 2012; 1 – 3 p.m. ET
An archive of this webinar is available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clu-in Training & Events webpage.

  • Introduction by Linda Birnbaum, director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
  • William Suk, director, Superfund Research Program
  • Presenter: Heather Stapleton , assistant professor, Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment
    • Presentation title: "Early Life Exposure to Flame Retardant Chemicals in Indoor Environments and Impacts on Thyroid Hormone Regulation"
  • Presenter: Prasada Rao S. Kodavanti, Neurotoxicology Branch, Toxicity Assessment Division, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Labatory, Office of Research Development,  EPA
    • Presentation title: "Neurobehavioral, Hormonal, and Reproductive Effects following Developmental Exposure to a Commercial PBDE Mixture, DE-71"

The first session of the series "Early Life Exposures - Long-term Health Consequences: Session 1: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers - Exposures and Toxicity," featured Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. (director, NIEHS), SRP researcher Heather Stapleton, Ph.D. (Duke University), and Prasada Kodavanti, Ph.D. (EPA). The seminar featured work with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), compounds often added to furniture, electronics and other consumer products to improve fire safety. PBDEs can cross the placental barrier from mother to fetus and influence childhood development years later. PBDEs have been associated with alterations in thyroid hormone levels, reduced fertility, and neurodevelopmental deficits.

Stapleton discussed a recent study exploring the association between PBDE exposure measured in serum levels and thyroid hormone levels among a cohort of pregnant women. Additionally, she highlighted new research insights into possible mechanisms of thyroid hormone dysregulation. Kodavanti discussed a study evaluating the neurobehavioral, hormonal, and reproductive effects of perinatal exposure to a commercial PBDE mixture, DE-71, in a population of rats. PBDE was demonstrated to cross both the blood-placenta and the blood-brain barriers, resulting in subtle changes in some parameters of neurobehavior, dramatic changes in thyroid hormone levels, and alterations in both male and female reproductive endpoints.

The seminar was moderated by William A. Suk, Ph.D., director of the SRP at NIEHS.

Session II: Metals and Metal Mixtures

March 28, 2012; 1 – 3 p.m. ET
An archive of this webinar is available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clu-in Training & Events webpage.

  • Moderator: William Hagel, Superfund and Technology Liaison, Region 3, U.S. EPA
  • Presenter: Robert Wright , associate professor of pediatrics & environmental health, director, SRP, Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health
    • Presentation title: "Epidemiology of Developmental Windows, Metal Mixtures and Neurodevelopment"
  • Presenter: Rebecca Fry, assistant professor, environmental sciences & engineering, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health
    • Presentation title: "Elucidating Mechanisms of Metal-Induced Toxicity and Disease"

The second session, “Early Life Exposures - Long-term Health Consequences: Session 2, Metals and Metal Mixtures” featured SRP grantees Robert Wright, M.D. (Harvard University), and Rebecca Fry, Ph.D. (UNC-CH), and their work with early exposure to metals and the resulting developmental effects. To better understand the neurodevelopmental consequences of exposure to mixtures of lead, manganese, and arsenic, Wright is conducting three cohort studies of metals and neurodevelopment among populations of children in Bangladesh, Mexico, and Oklahoma. The combined efforts of these studies investigate the effects of mixed metal exposures on child development, comparing different developmental windows of exposure from prenatal life to age two.

Prenatal exposure to metal has been associated with poor birth outcomes including low birth weight. Fry’s research aims to obtain a better understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms involved in this association. This study employs in vitro and in vivo approaches to investigate gene-environment interactions that influence metal-induced signaling of inflammatory response genes.

Session III: PCE and Phthalates

April 2, 2012, 1 – 3 p.m. ET
An archive of this webinar is available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clu-in Training & Events webpage.

  • Moderator: Jerrold Heindel, Scientific Program Administrator, Cellular, Organs and Systems Pathobiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
  • Presenter: Ann Aschengrau , associate chairman, professor, epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health
  • Co-Presenters:
    • Rita Loch-Caruso , professor, environmental health sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health
    • John Meeker Associate professor, environmental health sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health

The third session of this series “Early Life Exposures – Long-term Health Consequences Session 3: PCE and Phthalates” featured SRP grantees Ann Aschengrau, Ph.D. (Boston University), John Meeker, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), and Rita Loch-Caruso, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), and their work with early exposures and the resulting developmental effects. Numerous neurotoxic effects have been associated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE) exposure in adults, but little is understood about the long-term nervous system effects from early exposures. Aschengrau’s retrospective epidemiological study on a population of adults investigates the association between prenatal, postnatal, and early childhood exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water, and a variety of neurotoxic effects including developmental disorders of learning, attention, and vision.

Meeker employs molecular epidemiological methods to explore environmental, genetic, demographic, and behavioral factors associated with preterm birth in a cohort of pregnant women in Puerto Rico, a study from the Northeastern University SRP Center. Puerto Rico has a particularly alarming preterm birth rate, and there is mounting evidence that environmental factors play a key role. This study targets phthalates as the primary exposure of interest, due to their increasingly widespread exposure in Puerto Rico and the United States, and their association with reduced gestational age and other effects potentially linked with preterm birth, including inflammation, endocrine disruption, and oxidative stress. Using the Puerto Rican exposure scenario as a model, Loch-Caruso’s research aims to explain the mechanisms by which environmental pollutant exposures increase women’s risk for preterm births and other adverse birth outcomes by investigating the relationship between the toxicological effect of oxidative stress from environmental contaminants and the activation of pathways associated of parturition.

For more information, contact:

Heather Henry, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Superfund Research Program
Tel 984-287-3268


Justin Crane
Tel 919-794-4702
Fax 919-287-2901
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