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Your Environment. Your Health.

PEPH E-News February 2018

Volume 9, Issue 2: February 2018

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Community-University Partnership Reveals Ongoing Contamination of Alaska Native Villages and the Environment

Despite significant remediation efforts, pollution from former military sites on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska may still be affecting fish and the health of people living nearby, according to research funded by NIEHS. The project is a collaborative research effort between scientists and Yupik tribe members, who expressed concerns that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other contaminants left behind at the sites continue to contaminate the environment and adversely affect their health.

"Given that the village residents did not elect to use chemicals at the formerly used defense sites or benefit from them, and yet likely suffer the [health] consequences of exposure, these sites present cases of environmental injustice," say the study authors in a new article published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The U.S. government closed hundreds of military sites in Alaska after the Cold War, leaving behind a legacy of PCBs and other pollutants that persist in the environment and accumulate in wildlife. Research shows that Yupik people living on St. Lawrence Island have blood PCB levels about 6 times higher than people living elsewhere in the United States. Exposure to PCBs has been linked to a range of negative health outcomes, including cancer.

Many formerly used defense sites are located close to Native villages and traditional hunting and fishing grounds. One formerly used defense site located on St. Lawrence Island's Northeast Cape is used by Yupik residents for subsistence activities. Concerned by the high exposure and poor health observed in their communities, Yupik people living on St. Lawrence Island collaborated with researchers to study PCB contamination. "We have worked closely with the St. Lawrence Island communities in our community-based research for nearly twenty years. Their leadership and participation have been vital to every aspect of the research, from designing the research plan, to collecting the data, to reporting results back to the communities, and in implementing interventions to reduce exposures," said study co-author Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

The military responded to earlier community-engaged work demonstrating the levels of pollution, but there remain concerns about ongoing contamination. "Over the course of three decades, the U.S. government spent $120 million remediating the Northeast Cape formerly used defense site, and in 2014 the government determined that sufficient cleanup occurred to cease active remediation activities," said lead study author Frank von Hippel, Ph.D., a professor of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University. "However, results from our research show that fish living downstream from the site still have high levels of PCBs in their tissues and that this exposure negatively impacts their health."

The research team analyzed fish from rivers at Northeast Cape and found that they are still heavily contaminated with PCBs. By comparing the molecular weight of different types of PCBs in the fish, they determined that the formerly used defense site was the source of most of the contamination.

The researchers also found that PCBs were disrupting the endocrine function of fish and altering their gene expression. For example, fish collected from sites with higher PCB contamination had decreased expression of genes important in repairing DNA mutations, which could lead to cancer, compared to less exposed fish.

While the fish analyzed in the study are not typically consumed by people on the island, these results demonstrate the potential for health effects in humans, particularly St. Lawrence Island residents who conduct subsistence activities at Northeast Cape. According to von Hippel, when taken together with the finding that the formerly used defense site is the source of most of the PCB exposure, this study demonstrates that additional remediation of the site is needed to protect the health of Yupik residents and the environment.

"This research affirms the knowledge of my people that the health disparities that we are experiencing, particularly among the families with close traditional ties to Northeast Cape, are closely linked with the contamination left by the military. The contamination that harms the fish causes harm to us," stated Vi Waghiyi, Tribal Member of the Native Village of Savoonga and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "We hope that these new data motivate responsible cleanup so that our lands, waters, and health may be restored."

2017 PEPH Annual Meeting Report Now Available!

The report from the 2017 PEPH Annual Meeting(965KB)  is now available! As many of you know, the meeting focused on strategies for engaging diverse partners. The report contains the key messages and cross-cutting themes from the meeting and a list of collaborative actions identified during the breakout sessions. It also includes a list of participants who indicated they would like to be involved in implementing these actions. If you were unable to attend but see an action group you would like to participate in, please let us know (peph@niehs.nih.gov). For meeting participants, the report is a great way to reflect on the discussions, strategies, and collaborations fostered over the two-day event. We hope the report will promote action and additional in-depth conversations about successful approaches for engaging with diverse partners.

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast Series

PEPH Environmental Health Chat Podcast

In our latest podcast, hear about the complex environmental and social factors that contribute to environmental health disparities and learn how NIEHS and NIEHS-funded researchers are working to promote environmental justice for all.

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

PEPH Webinar: Children's Environmental Health and Neuroimaging - Using Neuroimaging to Detect Developmental Pathways Perturbed by Environmental Exposures

Join us for the Children's Environmental Health and Neuroimaging webinar and hear from Kim Cecil, Ph.D., and Bradley Peterson, M.D., who study how prenatal exposure to various neurotoxicants and nonchemical stressors affect brain structure and function in newborn infants and children. They will discuss how changes in brain features in early life may mediate subsequent neurodevelopmental outcomes. They also will describe the different uses of neuroimaging technology and the translation of their results to environmental scientists, health care professionals, and parents. The webinar will take place on February 9, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST.

PEPH Grantee Highlight: Paloma Beamer, Ph.D.

Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Arizona, examines how culture and behavior determine exposure risks for specific communities. Working with 20 different organizations and academic partners, Beamer helped address concerns from Native American communities following the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. The researchers measured lead and arsenic exposure in people living in Navajo communities downstream of the spill. They also measured these contaminants in the environment around the communities and will examine how the communities' perception of health risks from the spill compares to the actual risks.

Beamer also strives to make workplaces healthier. She has begun training community health workers to identify hazardous exposures in the workplace and to collaborate with businesses to reduce those exposures. "Although preventable by definition, occupational disease and injuries are leading causes of death in the U.S.," said Beamer. "Unfortunately, low-income or low-wage minority workers bear most of the burden of occupational disease." Read the PEPH Grantee Highlight to learn more.

PEPH in the January NIEHS Environmental Factor

Thirty years of Superfund research for innovation and health. The Superfund Research Program marked its 30th anniversary at the annual meeting of researchers, administrators, trainees, and partners.

New centers work to lessen environmental health disparities. One year into research and connecting with communities, grantees at centers that study environmental health disparities met to share progress.

Allergens widespread in largest study of U.S. homes. NIEHS researchers find allergens are widespread but highly variable in U.S. homes, according to the nation's largest indoor allergen study.

Bennett student and faculty visit launches new NIEHS connection. Bennett College students and faculty launched a new NIEHS connection with a visit that included speed mentoring and grants information.

Help Get Environmental Health Included in the NIH All of Us Research Initiative!

Are you interested in helping researchers understand more about why people get sick or stay healthy? If so, NIH is looking for your ideas to help make its All of Us Research Program the best resource it can be.

All of Us aims to build one of the largest, most diverse datasets of its kind to help speed up research on many different health conditions. NIH hopes that 1 million or more people across the country will join. Participants will share information about their health, habits, and what it's like where they live. By looking for patterns in the data, researchers may learn more about the factors that affect our health. The program is currently in beta testing, with a national launch anticipated in spring 2018.

All of Us is collecting ideas through something called a "use case" that describes a health problem or research question of interest. These ideas will be considered at a Research Priorities Workshop in March 2018 and will help the program identify new features to add to support research across a range of health topics. The deadline for submitting your ideas is February 23.

Voices Unheard: Arizona's Environmental History Project Has a New Website

The Voices Unheard project recently launched a dedicated website to better communicate with the public. Developed by University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center trainee Denise Moreno Ramírez, the goal of the project is to preserve the life stories of individuals who work and live near Superfund sites by using oral history. The project is currently partnering with communities near two Superfund sites: the Tucson International Airport Area and the Iron King Mine - Humboldt Smelter. Participants and the public can use the website to see the progress in each community. The website also highlights Voices Unheard's local events and research communication materials.

NASEM Report - Strengthening the Disaster Resilience of the Academic Biomedical Research Community: Protecting the Nation's Investment

The academic biomedical research community should improve its ability to mitigate and recover from the impacts of disasters, says a new report  from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The authors recommend 10 steps that academic research institutions, researchers, and research sponsors should take to bolster the resilience of academic biomedical research. For example, academic research institutions should implement mandatory disaster resilience education for students, staff, and faculty. In addition, the National Institutes of Health should convene a consortium of stakeholders to discuss efforts research sponsors can take to enhance the disaster resilience of the biomedical research enterprise. Read the NASEM press release for highlights or download the full report to learn more.

CEHN Launches Children's Environmental Health Movement

In 2018, the Children's Environmental Health Network (CEHN), a PEPH partner organization focused on promoting healthier environments for children, is launching a new initiative to develop a Children's Environmental Health Movement. This need is described in the Blueprint for Protecting Children's Environmental Health: An Urgent Call to Action. Each month, CEHN will partner with a public health group to leverage productive and meaningful work to protect children from environmental hazards. The purpose is to put children's environmental health in the forefront of national consciousness and decision-making, with a focus on action and equity.

In February, CEHN is partnering with WE ACT for Environmental Justice around a health equity focus as the nation also celebrates Black History Month. Be sure to check back on the CEHN website for ways you can promote health equity throughout the month of February! Moving forward, there will be monthly designated partnerships, each promoting themes that are important to children's environmental health.

CEHN looks forward to your participation in a Movement that places #ChildrenAtTheCenter. CEHN invites you to visit the Movement webpage, Act Now, to learn how you can tackle CEH issues and be a champion for health!

Job Opportunity: Engagement Manager for CEHN's Eco-Healthy Child CareĀ® Program

The Children's Environmental Health Network (CEHN) invites applicants to fill an Engagement Manager position in its Eco-Healthy Child Care® (EHCC) program. The EHCC program strives to make child care facilities as environmentally healthy as possible by educating and empowering child care professionals to reduce harmful exposures in their facilities. The successful candidate will publicly represent CEHN while participating in meetings with federal and national association partners, presenting at national conferences, and conducting statewide trainings.

The candidate must have a master's degree in environmental health, public health, public policy, or a related field, plus at least two years of experience with children's environmental health issues. CEHN would like to fill the position quickly, so candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume with salary requirements, writing sample (five-page maximum), and three reference letters to Shanita Brown. See the job posting for more information.

Upcoming PEPH-Related Events

February 8, 2018: Center for Human Health and the Environment (CHHE) Second Annual Symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Center for Human Health and the Environment (CHHE) Second Annual Symposium will explore the importance of epigenetics in linking environmental exposures to human health and disease, covering the spectrum from fundamental biological mechanisms to novel therapeutic approaches.

February 20 - 21, 2018: Informing Environmental Health Decisions Through Data Integration in Washington, D.C. This workshop will bring together scientists, policymakers, risk assessors, and regulators to explore environmental health data integration. Workshop speakers will present a general framework for data visualization, and participants will work together to conceptualize future research directions that could help incorporate these analyses into environmental health decision-making. The workshop will be webcast. Please register.

March 25 - 29, 2018: 7th Young Environmental Scientists (YES) Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry's (SETAC) YES conference is planned and attended entirely by students and recent graduates in the fields of environmental toxicology and chemistry. YES meetings help young scientists build their confidence and become part of the global scientific community.

April 7, 2018: Women's Health Awareness Day in Durham, North Carolina. Sponsored by the NIEHS Clinical Research Branch, Women's Health Awareness Day (WHAD) is a free community health conference for women of the Triangle area and surrounding counties. WHAD provides health awareness, education, information, resources, and on-site health screenings.

April 29 - May 2, 2018: Save the date for the 3rd International Conference on One Medicine One Science (iCOMOS) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. iCOMOS will explore new ways to solve pressing health issues, facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations, and promote science's role in influencing public policy at the interface of humans, animals, and the environment. The conference will feature NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. Poster abstracts are due January 15, 2018. A limited number of travel awards will be available for selected abstracts, with preference for students and trainees.

August 26 - 30, 2018: 2018 ISES-ISEE Joint Annual Meeting in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting theme is: Addressing Complex Local and Global Issues in Environmental Exposure and Health.

November 10 - 14, 2018: American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego, California. This year's theme is: "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now." The deadline for APHA 2018 abstract submissions is February 19 - 24, depending on the topic area.

Funding Opportunities

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

Addressing Health Disparities through Effective Interventions among Immigrant Populations (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). Supports innovative research to develop and implement effective interventions to address health disparities among U.S. immigrant populations. Deadline: February 5, 2018.

Research to Action: Assessing and Addressing Community Exposures to Environmental Contaminants (R01 Clinical Trial Optional). 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: February 5, 2018. Check out the Research to Action Currently Funded Grantees webpage for a sense of the types of projects supported through this FOA.

Environmental Exposures and Health: Exploration of Non-Traditional Settings (R01 and R21 Clinical Trial Optional). 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: February 5, 2018 (R01); February 16, 2018 (R21).

Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will award cooperative agreements to local community-based organizations, tribes, and tribal organizations seeking to address environmental and public health concerns in local underserved communities through collaboration with other stakeholders, such as local businesses and industry, local government, medical providers, and academia. Deadline: February 16, 2018.

Environmental Education Grants. The U.S. EPA seeks proposals from eligible applicants to support environmental education projects that promote environmental awareness and stewardship and help provide people with the skills to take responsible actions to protect the environment. This program provides financial support for projects that design, demonstrate, and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques. Deadline: March 15, 2018.

NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13). Supports investigator-initiated scientific meetings; NIEHS is interested in supporting meetings that will advance the field of environmental health sciences. Deadlines: April 12, 2018 (application); a letter requesting permission (LRP) to submit a conference application must be received via email no later than six weeks prior to the application due date. See the NIEHS Conference Grant webpage for information about the types of conferences and meetings the Institute is interested in supporting, as well as LRP guidelines.

Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources for Pre-College and Informal Science Education Audiences (STTR) (R41/R42 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Provides opportunities for eligible small business concerns to submit NIH Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant applications to develop interactive digital media science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources that address student career choice and health and medicine topics for: (1) pre-kindergarten to grade 12 students and pre- and in-service teachers or (2) informal science education (i.e., outside the classroom). Deadline: September 5, 2018.

Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources for Pre-College and Informal Science Education Audiences (SBIR) (R43/R44 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Provides opportunities for eligible small business concerns to submit NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications to develop interactive digital media science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resources that address student career choice and health and medicine topics for: (1) pre-kindergarten to grade 12 students and pre- and in-service teachers or (2) informal science education (i.e., outside the classroom). Deadline: September 5, 2018.

Collaborative Minority Health and Health Disparities Research with Tribal Epidemiology Centers (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). Supports collaborative research between Tribal Epidemiology Centers and extramural investigators on topics related to minority health and health disparities in American Indian / Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Deadline: December 4, 2018.

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