Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Global Health / 22.08.2019 Interview with: Cong Liu, PhD Department of Environmental Health School of Public Health Fudan University Shanghai 200032, China What is the background for this study? Response: Numerous time-series studies have examined the short-term associations between particulate air pollution (PM10 and PM2.5) exposures and daily mortality. However, most evidence has been obtained from studies in single cities, regions, or countries. There are challenges in comparing these results and in synthesizing effect estimates because of different modeling approaches and potential publication bias. Furthermore, there has never been a global representative concentration-response function for risk assessment and policy making. We and our co-authors established the Multi-City Multi-Country (MCC) Collaborative Research Network to perform a global assessment of the effects of weather or climate on mortality. This network allowed us to examine and compare the associations of PM concentrations with daily mortality at the global, regional, and country level with the use of a standardized analytic framework. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Environmental Risks, Ophthalmology / 21.08.2019 Interview with: Professor Suh-Hang Hank Ju, PhD Kaohsiung Medical University Taiwan What is the background for this study? Response: Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are 2 major traffic pollutants, which have been shown to increase a risk for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. We previously showed that chronic exposure of NO2 is also associated with dementia. age-related macula degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness. Given the increase of traffic pollutants in many urbanized cities, we investigated whether these two traffic pollutants are associated with the development of age-related macula degeneration in Taiwan. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, JAMA, NIH, Pulmonary Disease / 13.08.2019 Interview with: Joel Kaufman, MD, MPH, Professor   Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, Medicine, and Epidemiology University of Washington What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Increasingly, it is recognized that chronic lung diseases like emphysema occur in nonsmokers and rates of these diseases are continuing to increase.  We really need to understand what’s causing chronic lung disease. Air pollutants are known to make disease worse in people with prior lung disease, but little is known about whether long-term exposure to air pollutants can cause chronic lung disease. We found that higher residential concentrations of air pollutants—especially ozone and traffic-related air pollutants—are associated with changes in the lung—emphysema-like changes in the lung.  The associations were strong and suggest that air pollution may be an important contributor to chronic lung disease.  (more…)
Asthma, Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Lancet, Pediatrics / 12.04.2019 Interview with: Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD Postdoctoral Scientist in Climate change, Air pollution, and Public Health Milken Institute School of Public Health (Anenberg Group The George Washington University, D.C What is the background for this study? Response: Dozens of epidemiological studies have found positive and generally statistically significant associations between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and asthma development in children. The evidence is most robust for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a major component of and commonly used surrogate for the complex TRAP mixture. Recent reviews conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada concluded that there is “likely a causal relationship” between long-term NO2 exposure and pediatric asthma development. Using NO2 as a proxy for TRAP, our study provides the first global estimate of the number of new asthma cases among children that are attributable to traffic pollution, using fine spatial-scale global datasets that can resolve within-city and near-roadway NO2 exposures. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics / 28.03.2019 Interview with: “air pollution, beijing” by 大杨 is licensed under CC BY 2.0Joanne B. Newbury, PhD ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow King’s College London Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience London, United Kingdom What is the background for this study? Response: Urban living is one of the most well-established risk factors for adult psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. However, less is known about the role of the urban environment in subclinical psychotic experiences in childhood and adolescence, such as hearing voices and extreme paranoia. These early psychotic experiences are a developmental risk factor for adult psychotic disorders and a range of other serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It is therefore important that we understand what factors might contribute to the development of early psychotic experiences so that we might be able to intervene and prevent their onset and progression. In a cohort of over 2000 UK-born children (The Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study), we have previously shown that subclinical psychotic experiences are also around twice as common among children and teenagers raised in urban versus rural settings. We have also shown that this appears to be partly explained by social features in urban neighbourhoods such as higher crime levels and lower levels of social cohesion. However, no studies have examined the potential link between air pollution and psychotic experiences. This is despite air pollution being a major health problem worldwide (particularly in cities), and despite emerging evidence linking air pollution to the brain.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Environmental Risks, JAMA, Pediatrics / 16.11.2018 Interview with: "Cairo Air Pollution with less smog - Pyramids1" by Nina Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0Lief Pagalan, MSc Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University Research Trainee, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Pregnant women more heavily exposed to air pollution had higher chances of having children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The causes of ASD are not fully understood, but this study adds to the growing evidence that environmental risk factors have a role to play. Our study found an association between autism spectrum disorder in the children of women more heavily exposed to air pollution. We observed these results using well-defined cases of ASD and in Vancouver, Canada, which typically has lower air pollution. These findings are consistent with studies done in the U.S., Israel, and Taiwan, which have also found an increased risk of ASD from exposure to air pollution.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Endocrinology, Environmental Risks, JAMA, Pediatrics, Thyroid Disease / 17.09.2018 Interview with: Carrie Breton ScD Associate Professor and Director of the MADRES Center Division of Environmental Health Los Angeles, CA 90032 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: I am interested in how the environment can influence our very early development, starting in the womb. I have studied the health effects of air pollutants on children for several years and wanted to focus now on the earliest windows of susceptibility.  Thyroid hormones play a critical role in fetal growth and development. We knew we could get information on newborn thyroid levels from the California Department of Public Health’s newborn screening program therefore look at this question in our study population. We found that exposure to high levels of PM2.5 and PM10 throughout most of pregnancy affected TT4 levels in newborns. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, PLoS, UCSF / 12.07.2018 Interview with: Lara Cushing PhD Assistant Professor of Health Education, College of Health and Social Sciences San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA 94132 What is the background for this study? Response: More and more countries are adopting cap-and-trade programs as a way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to address climate change. These efforts can lead to short-term health benefits because when you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you usually also reduce emissions other harmful air pollutants that can cause cardiovascular disease, asthma and cancer. However, environmental equity concerns were raised early on about whether cap-and-trade would result in localized differences in emissions reductions that would also result in uneven reductions in harmful co-pollutants, such as particulate matter and air toxics. This is because companies can trade pollution permits under a cap-and-trade system and choose to buy more permits rather than reduce their emissions locally. Prior studies show that low income communities and communities of color are much more likely to live near polluting industries. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Infections, Pediatrics, Respiratory / 18.04.2018 Interview with: Benjamin D. Horne, PhD Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology Intermountain Heart Institute Intermountain Medical Center Salt Lake City, Utah What is the background for this study? Response: Evidence suggests that short-term elevations (even for just a few days) of fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5, which is particulate matter less than 2.5 um or about one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair) is associated with various poor health outcomes among adults, including myocardial infarction, heart failure exacerbation, and worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms. Studies of long-term exposure to moderately elevated levels of PM2.5 indicate that chronic daily air pollution exposure may contribute to death due to pneumonia and influenza. Research regarding the association of short-term elevations in PM2.5 has provided some limited evidence of a possible association between short-term PM2.5 increases and infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or bronchiolitis in children, but scientifically these reports have been weak and unreliable, probably because they have only looked at a period of a few days to a week after short-term PM2.5 elevations. An evaluation of a very large population in a geographic location that provides a wide variation in PM2.5 levels from lowest to highest levels and that examines longer periods of time after the PM2.5 elevations is needed to determine whether a PM2.5 association with lower respiratory infection exists. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, OBGYNE / 21.11.2017 Interview with: “Cairo Air Pollution with smog - Pyramids1” by Nina Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0Pauline Mendola, PhD Investigator Epidemiology Branch Division of Intramural Population Health Research Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH Bethesda, MD  20892 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We compared ambient air pollution levels at the residences of couples who were trying to get pregnant and estimated the risk of pregnancy loss associated with common pollutants. No prior studies have been done in the United States and most studies are retrospective, looking back in time, and asking couples to report on their reproductive outcomes. Without detailed prospective follow-up, early pregnancy losses that occur before entry into care (i.e., before women are aware that they are pregnant) are often missed. In contrast, we studied 501 couples in the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) study who were enrolled before pregnancy and followed until they became pregnant or tried for 12 months without a pregnancy. Using this prospective data, we found that both ozone and fine particles (PM2.5) were associated with a 12-13% increased risk of early pregnancy loss. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Global Health / 06.11.2017 Interview with: “air pollution, beijing” by 大杨 is licensed under CC BY 2.0Longjian Liu, M.D., Ph.D. MSc (LSHTM), FAHA Associate Professor Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Dornsife School of Public Health, and Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Medicine Drexel University Nesbitt Hall-RM515, 3215 Market ST Philadelphia PA, 19104 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This is an international collaborative project, supported by Drexel Office of International Programs, and Chinese Academy of Sciences. The main findings are air pollution has posted a serious public health issue in China, specifically in urban cities. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Response: Air pollution is an international issue, we must take action, specifically in developing counties with rapid urbanization, like China.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Global Health / 20.10.2017 Interview with: Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP Dean for Global Health Professor of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics Arnhold Institute for Global Health Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
  1.  Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today.  It is responsible for 9 million deaths per year – 16% of all deaths worldwide – three times more deaths than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.  These numbers are growing from year to year as pollution in many parts of the world increase.
  2. Pollution is highly unjust. 92% of all pollution-related deaths occur in low-and middle- income countries, and in the United States and other high-income countries pollution-related disease and death are concentrated among minorities and the poor.  Think Flint.
  3. Pollution is very costly.  Pollution-related diseases cause productivity losses that reduce GDP in low- and middle-income countries by up to 2% per year. Pollution-related disease also results in health-care costs that are responsible for 1.7% of annual health spending in high-income countries like the US and for up to 7% of health spending in heavily polluted and rapidly developing low- and middle-income countries.
  4. Pollution is neglected and its control is seriously underfunded.
  5. The good news is that despite its great magnitude and long-standing neglect, pollution can be controlled, and pollution prevention is highly cost-effective. Pollution is not the inevitable consequence of economic development. High-income and some middle-income countries have enacted legislation and issued regulations mandating clean air and clean water, established chemical safety policies, and curbed their most flagrant forms of pollution. As a result, our air and water are now cleaner, the blood lead concentrations of our children have decreased by more than 90%, our rivers no longer catch fire, our worst hazardous waste sites have been remediated, and many of our cities are less polluted and more livable. Health has improved and people are living longer. High-income countries have achieved this progress while increasing GDP by nearly 250%. The claim that pollution control stifles economic growth, kills jobs and drags down the economy is false and has repeatedly been proven to be untrue. Pollution control is a winnable battle, and the control of pollution will return billions of dollars to the economies of countries around the world as it has already in the United States.
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Environmental Risks, NEJM, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 29.06.2017 Interview with: Qian Di, M.S, Doctoral Student Department of Environmental Health and Francesca Dominici, Ph.D. Principal Investigator of this study Professor of Biostatistics co-Director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Boston, MA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The Clean Air Act requires Environmental Protection Agency to set National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). Currently the annual NAAQS for PM2.5 is 12 microgram per cubic meter; and there is no annual or seasonal ozone standard. However, is current air quality standard stringent enough to protect human health? This is our main motivation. We conducted the largest attainable cohort study, including over 60 million Medicare participants, to investigate the association between long-term exposure to ozone/PM2.5 and all-cause mortality. We found significant harmful effect of PM2.5 even below current NAAQS. Each 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 is associated with 13.6% (95% CI: 13.1%~14.1%) increase in all-cause mortality. For ozone, 10 ppb increase in ozone exposure is associated with 1.1% (95% CI: 1.0%~1.2%) increase in mortality. Also, there is no appreciable level below which mortality risk tapered off. In other words, there is no “safe” level for PM2.5 and ozone. In other words, if we would reduce the annual average of PM2.5 by just 1 microgram per cubic meter nationwide, we should save 12,000 lives among elder Americans every year; 5 microgram --- 63,817 lives every year. Similarly, if we would reduce the annual summer average of ozone by just 1 ppb nationwide, we would save 1,900 lives every year; 5 ppb --- 9537 lives. Besides, we found black people, males and people of low SES are more vulnerable to air pollution. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Global Health / 01.03.2017 Interview with: Dr. Meiyun Lin PhD Research  Scholar NOAA and Princeton University’s Cooperative Institute for Climate Science What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, has climbed in the rural West over the past 25 years, even in such seemingly pristine places as Yellowstone National Park. We have found out why – and why cutting our own output of smog-forming chemicals such as nitrogen oxides by 50% hasn’t helped. This study found that increased pollution from Asia, which has tripled its nitrogen oxide emissions since 1990, contribute to the persistence of smog in the West. While ozone in the eastern U.S. has decreased overall, the levels can spike during heat waves, characterized by large-scale air stagnation, warm temperatures, and plentiful radiation needed for ozone formation locally. As heat waves appears to be on the rise due to global climate change, progress in reducing smog in the eastern US is likely to be slower in the coming decades. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Global Health, OBGYNE, Pediatrics / 18.02.2017 Interview with: Chris Malley PhD The Stockholm Environment Institute University of York What is the background for this study? Response: When a baby is born preterm (at less than 37 weeks of gestation, an indicator of premature birth), there is an increased risk of infant death, or long-term physical and neurological disabilities. For example, 965,000 infant deaths in 2013 (35% of all neonatal deaths) have been estimated to be due to preterm birth complications. In 2010, an estimated 14.9 million births were preterm – about 4–5% of the total in some European countries, but up to 15–18% in some African and South Asian countries. The human and economic costs are enormous. There are many risk factors for preterm birth – from the mother’s age, to illness, to poverty and other social factors. Recent research has suggested that exposure to air pollution could also be a risk factor. Our study quantifies for the first time the global impact of pregnant women's exposure to outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by combining data about air pollution in different countries with knowledge about how exposure to different levels of air pollution is associated with preterm birth rates. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Environmental Risks, Lancet / 05.01.2017 Interview with: Hong Chen, PhD Scientist, Environmental Health Assessment Public Health Ontario | Santé publique Ontario Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health University of Toronto Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences Toronto, ON What is the background for this study? Response: Over the past several decades, there is unequivocal evidence that living close to major roadways may lead to various adverse health outcomes, such as cardio-respiratory related mortality and mortality. In the past decade, concern is growing that exposures associated with traffic such as air pollution and noise may also have an adverse impact on brain health. Several experimental studies show that air pollutants and diesel exhaust induce oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, activate microglia (which act as the first and main form of immune defense in the central nervous system), and stimulate neural antibodies. There are also a small number of epidemiological studies linking traffic-related noise and air pollution to cognitive decline and increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also showed that living near roads was associated with reduced white matter hyperintensity volume and cognition, but its effect on the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis is unknown. Given hundreds of millions of people worldwide live close to major roads, we conducted this population-based cohort study to investigate the association between residential proximity to major roadways and the incidence of these three neurological diseases in Ontario, Canada. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Environmental Risks, Lung Cancer / 05.08.2016 Interview with: Sandrah P. Eckel PhD Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine USC Division of Biostatistics What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Lung cancer is the most common cancer and it is responsible for 1 in 5 cancer deaths. There is a growing body of evidence that ambient air pollution exposures are linked to lung cancer incidence and mortality, but the effect on survival of exposures after diagnosis are unclear. The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified ambient air pollution as carcinogenic. We reasoned that if air pollution drives lung cancer development, it could impact lung cancer progression—and shorten survival—through the same biological pathways. We used 20 years of data on more than 300,000 newly diagnosed lung cancer cases from the California Cancer Registry and calculated average air pollution exposures at each patient’s residence from the date of diagnosis through the end of follow-up. We found that patients living in areas with higher pollution levels had shorter survival, particularly for patients who were diagnosed at an early stage and for those diagnosed at an early stage with adenocarcinoma histology. Interestingly, adenocarcinoma is the most common histological subtype of lung cancer in non-smokers. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Heart Disease / 12.06.2016 Interview with: Marko Mornar Jelavic, MD, PhD Department for Internal Medicine and Dialysis Health Center Zagreb Zagreb, Croatia What is the background for this study? Response: Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia which is placed in South-Eastern Europe. The wider Zagreb metropolitan area has the total population of up to 1.2 million (20% of the total Croatia’s population). The climate of Zagreb is classified as a humid continental. The average daily mean temperature in winter is around +1 °C (from December to February) and the average temperature in summer is 22.0 °C. For the first time, we wanted to investigate whether particles of dimensions ≤10 micrometers (PM10) nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3), as well as certain meteorological conditions (air temperature, humidity and pressure) have any impact on appearance of myocardial infarction (MI) in the region with a humid continental climate. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Blood Pressure - Hypertension, Environmental Risks / 01.06.2016 Interview with: Tao Liu Ph.D Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Hypertension is the most important cause of disability and the leading risk factor for death globally and causes approximately 16.5% of all deaths. Since the 1990s, many epidemiological studies have investigated the associations between air pollution exposure and hypertension, the two most common public health concerns. However, their results remain controversial. Some studies found an association between them, while other studies sowed either no association or an association only for selected pollutants. In order to quantitatively synthesize and interpret these inconsistent and controversial results, here we used a new analysis method (Meta-analysis) to combine results from different previous studies to estimate the overall effect of every air pollutant on hypertension. This is the first study to simultaneously estimate the effects of short-term and long-term exposure to air pollutants on hypertension by meta-analysis. These results could provide more explicit information for policy decisions and clinical use. (more…)
Author Interviews, Imperial College, Pulmonary Disease, Toxin Research / 23.02.2016 Interview with: Dr Rebecca Ghosh, Research Associate  Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health Imperial College London St Mary's Campus, Norfolk Place, London  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ghosh: Since the 1950s a lot of evidence has accumulated that high levels of air pollution cause harmful effects on health.  However there is limited evidence on the very long term (>25 years) effects of air pollution.  Our study is one of the longest running to date looking at air pollution and mortality, following 368,000 people in England and Wales for 38 years.  We estimated air pollution exposures throughout England & Wales for 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 using data from historic air pollution monitoring networks, the first time this has been done. We found that air pollution exposure in 1971 was still associated with a small increased risk of death in 2002-9, over 30 years later, suggesting that harmful effects of air pollution are extremely long-lasting.  However, risks from an individual’s past exposures waned over time and their more recent exposures gave the highest mortality risks. (more…)
Author Interviews, Heart Disease, JACC, Toxin Research / 31.05.2015 Interview with: Dr. Renjie Chen PhD and Dr. Haidong Kan, PhD School of Public Health, Key Lab of Public Health Safety of the Ministry of Education, Fudan University, Shanghai, China MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although several previous studies in developed countries with cleaner air have reported health benefits due to air filtration, no such interventional studies were conducted in a developing country with much severer air pollution problems. Our main findings suggested that even a short-term intervention (2 days) could significantly reduce indoor air pollution and improve cardiopulmonary health among healthy young adults. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Mental Health Research, Stroke, Toxin Research / 22.04.2015

Elissa Hope Wilker, Sc.D. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Harvard Medical Interview with: Elissa Hope Wilker, Sc.D. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Harvard Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wilke: Long-term exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment, but the impact on structural changes in the brain is not well understood. We studied older adults living in the greater Boston area and throughout New England and New York and we looked at the air pollution levels and how far they lived from major roads. We then linked this information to findings from MRI studies of structural brain images. Although air pollution levels in this area are fairly low compared to levels observed in other parts of the world, we found that people who lived in areas with higher levels of air pollution had smaller brain volumes, and higher risk of silent strokes. The magnitude of association that we observed for a 2 µg/m3 increase in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) (a range commonly observed across urban areas) was approximately equivalent to one year of brain aging. The association with silent strokes is of concern, because these are associated with increased risk of overt strokes, walking problems, and depression. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Johns Hopkins, Mental Health Research / 26.03.2015

Melinda C Power, ScD Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Epidemiology Department, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Neurology Department, Johns Hopkins School of Interview with: Melinda C Power, ScD Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Epidemiology Department, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Neurology Department, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Power: Air pollution may be related to mental health, particularly anxiety, through effects on oxidative stress and systemic inflammation or through promotion or aggravation of chronic diseases.  However, there has been very little research on the relation between air pollution exposures and anxiety in people.   Our study found that those with higher exposures to fine particulate matter, a type of air pollution, were more likely to experience elevated anxiety symptom levels.  Our study also suggests that recent exposures to find particulate matter air pollution are potentially more relevant to anxiety symptom levels than long-term past exposures. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, OBGYNE, Toxin Research / 26.03.2015

Dr. Bradley S. Peterson, M.D Director of the Institute for the Developing Mind The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Children’s Hospital Los Interview with: Dr. Bradley S. Peterson, M.D Director of the Institute for the Developing Mind The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Peterson: Neurotoxic PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are ubiquitous in the environment, in the home and in the workplace. Emissions from motor vehicles, oil and coal burning for home heating or power generation, wildfires and agricultural burning, hazardous waste sites, tobacco smoke and charred foods are all sources of exposure. PAH readily crosses the placenta and affects an unborn child’s brain; earlier animal studies showed that prenatal exposure impaired the development of behavior, learning and memory. Our group previously reported that exposure to airborne PAH during gestation was associated with multiple neurodevelopmental disturbances, including development delay by age 3, reduced verbal IQ at age 5, and symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 7. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Peterson: Together with Virginia Rauh, ScD and Frederica Perera, DrPH, PhD of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, we conducted a brain imaging study to test the effects on brain structure of PAH exposure during the final trimester of pregnancy.  We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the brains of 40 children from a cohort of more than 600 mother-baby pairs from minority communities in New York City. These 40 children were carefully selected to have no other exposures that would affect brain development. Our findings showed that prenatal PAH exposure led to reductions in nearly the entire white matter surface of the brain’s left hemisphere – losses that were associated with slower processing of information during intelligence testing and more severe behavioral problems, including ADHD and aggression.  Postnatal PAH exposure – measured at age 5 – was found to contribute to additional disturbances in development of white matter in the dorsal prefrontal region of the brain, a portion of the brain that supports concentration, reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving ability. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Stroke, Toxin Research / 26.03.2015 Interview with: Dr Anoop Shah Cardiology Research fellow Centre of Cardiovascular sciences University Of Edinburgh Edinburgh Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Stroke accounts for five million deaths each year and is a major cause of disability. The incidence of stroke is increasing, particularly in low and middle income countries, where two thirds of all strokes occur. The global burden of stroke related disability is therefore high and continues to rise. This has been primarily attributed to an aging population in high income countries and the accumulation of risk factors for stroke, such as smoking, hypertension, and obesity, in low and middle income countries. The impact of environmental factors on morbidity and mortality from stroke, however, might be important and is less certain. From 103 studies and across 6.2 million fatal and non-fatal strokes, our findings suggest a strong association between short term exposure to both gaseous (except ozone) and particulate air pollution, and admissions to hospital for stroke or mortality from stroke. These associations were strongest in low and middle income countries, suggesting the need for policy changes to reduce personal exposure to air pollutants especially in highly polluted regions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Toxin Research / 18.02.2015

Dr. Prashant Kumar PhD (Cantab), MTech, BEng, FHEA, FCPS, FCCT, CEng(IEI), MIEnvSc, MIAQM, MIAAPC Senior Lecturer in Wind Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (C5) Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences University of Surrey, Interview with: Dr. Prashant Kumar PhD (Cantab), MTech, BEng, FHEA, FCPS, FCCT, CEng(IEI), MIEnvSc, MIAQM, MIAAPC Senior Lecturer in Wind Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (C5) Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences University of Surrey, Guildford Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kumar: Pollution is disproportionately spread in urban areas due to scattered mobile and stationary sources. Exhaust emissions from vehicles are one of the major sources of air pollution in urban areas. When vehicles stop at red lights, they go through different driving cycles such as idling, acceleration and deceleration. At the same time, a number of other vehicles are also queuing at red lights, emitting further emissions – these emissions take more time to disperse, especially in built-up areas, and end up accumulating in the air at traffic lights. In our study, we found that because drivers were decelerating and stopping at lights, then revving up to move quickly when lights go green, peak particle concentration was 29 times higher than that during free flowing traffic conditions. We also found that while drivers spent just two per cent of their journey time passing through traffic intersections managed by lights, that short duration contributes to about 25 per cent of their total exposure to these harmful particles. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Toxin Research / 23.12.2014 Interview with: Raanan Raz, PhD Visiting Scientist Harvard School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Raz: Air pollution contains various toxicants that have been found to be associated with neurotoxicity and adverse effects on the fetus in utero. Several studies have explored associations of air pollution with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These studies suggest increased chances of having a child with autism spectrum disorders with higher exposures to diesel particulate matter (PM), criteria pollutants and some organic materials as well as closer proximity to a freeway. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Environmental Risks, OBGYNE, Pulmonary Disease / 22.10.2014

Medical Research Interview with: Eva Morales, MD, PhD, MPH Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) Barcelona Biomedical Research Park Barcelona, Spain Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Morales: We aimed to assess the consequences of exposure to outdoor air pollution during specific trimesters of pregnancy and postnatal lifetime periods on lung function in preschool children. We conducted a longitudinal study by using data from 620 mother-child pairs participating in the INfancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) Project – a population-based cohort study set up in several geographic areas in Spain. We found that exposure to outdoor air pollution during the second trimester of pregnancy in particular raises the risk of harm to a child’s lung function at preschool age. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Occupational Health, Tobacco / 22.10.2014

Dr. John Cherrie PhD Honorary Professor in Occupational Hygiene Institute of Applied Health Sciences Aberdeen, Interview with: Dr. John Cherrie PhD Honorary Professor in Occupational Hygiene Institute of Applied Health Sciences Aberdeen, UK Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Cherrie: We set out to bring together measurements of fine particle levels in homes where smoking takes place, to compare these with smoke-free homes and then to estimate how much of these fine particles are inhaled by people at different stages in their life. We also wanted to look at the exposure to particles of non-smokers living with smokers and compare this with the exposure of people living in heavily polluted major cities around the world. (more…)