Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Hepatitis - Liver Disease / 27.04.2022 Interview with: Sarah Rock, MPH PhD student, Department of Population and Public Health Sciences Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?  Response: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are persistent, man-made chemicals widely used in industry and consumer products. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to multiple disease outcomes including cancer, glucose dysregulation, and as reported in the current study, liver injury. We compiled results from more than 100PFAS studies in humans and rodents and found consistent evidence that PFAS are related to liver injury. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Gastrointestinal Disease / 11.01.2022 Interview with: Morgan Walker Ph.D. Candidate, UNC-Chapel Hill Chemistry Redinbo Laboratory What is the background for this study? Where is triclosan commonly found? Response: Triclosan is a commonly found antibacterial compound present in hand soaps, toothpastes, athletic clothes, and children’s toys. A previous study by the Zhang group (corresponding author on this publication) found that antimicrobial compounds including triclosan increased inflammation (similar to that of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)) and tumor formation in the colon. These effects were observed only in mice with an intact gut microbiome, not in germ-free mice which lack a gut microbiome, suggesting that the gut microbiome is somehow responsible for the toxicity of triclosan to the gut. Our study investigates how gut bacteria promote triclosan toxicity in the gut  (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Social Issues / 20.10.2020 Interview with: Aaron Baum, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Health System Design & Global Health Economist, Arnhold Institute for Global Health Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System What is the background for this study? Response: To what degree are geographic health disparities in the leading risk factors for morbidity and mortality in the United States – including elevated blood pressure and blood sugar, obesity, and poor mental health – driven by the place where people live versus by characteristics of the people who live in different places? For example, male adults in Mississippi are 33% more likely to have uncontrolled blood pressure and 54% more likely to be obese than male adults in Colorado. One explanation is that male adults who live in Mississippi are different is many other ways from male adults in Colorado, some of which can't be directly measured and adjusted for, and that those unobserved differences cause the health disparity. Another possibility is that the place where a person lives actually contributes to the health disparity. Using national electronic health records from the Veterans Health Administration, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of 5 million adults, including 1 million who moved zip codes exactly once between 2008-2018. Our goal was to isolate how a movers' likelihood of uncontrolled blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, obesity and depression changed in response to changes in the prevalence of each outcome in his or her environment. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus / 24.08.2020 Interview with: Dr. Ajit Ahlawat (en.) Scientific staff (Post-Doc), Department Experimental Aerosol & Cloud Microphysics Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) What is the background for this study?   Response: World Health Organization (WHO) has recently acknowledged that novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can be transmitted via aerosols after an appeal from 239 scientists from 32 countries including the chemist Prof. Hartmut Herrmann from our institute i.e. TROPOS. In order to contain the spread via the aerosol particles floating in the air, the researchers recommend not only continuing to wear masks but also, and above all, good indoor ventilation. In aerosol research, it has been long known that air humidity plays a major role i.e. either at high humidity, more water adheres to the particles and so they can grow faster or at low humidity, evaporation occurs and particle will lose its water content. So, we were curious about what types of studies have already been conducted on this topic and how indoor relative humidity (RH) will influence SARS-CoV-2 airborne transmission in indoor environments. (more…)
Author Interviews, Endocrinology, Environmental Risks, JCEM, Menopause / 05.06.2020 Interview with: Ning Ding MPH, PhD candidate Sung Kyun Park Sc.D, MPH Associate Professor Department of Epidemiology University of Michigan School of Public Health Ann Arbor, MI 48109 What is the background for this study? Response: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals’, are a family of synthetic chemicals used in a wide variety of nonstick and waterproof products and firefighting foams. The main issue is that PFAS are everywhere. It has been estimated that 110 million Americans, 1 out of three, may consume drinking water contaminated with PFAS. PFAS are very persistent and once PFAS enter the body, they don't break down and build up in the body over time. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dental Research, Environmental Risks, Pediatrics / 12.02.2020 Interview with: R. Constance Wiener, DMD, PhD Associate Professor West Virginia University School of Dentistry What is the background for this study? Response: Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical groups that have had a wide variety of uses due to their ability to their ability to repel water and stains. They might be found in food packaging, water-repellant clothing and carpeting, paints, fire-fighting foam, and water, for example. Although many are no longer manufactured in the United States, PFAS persist in the environment as they do not readily break down. Adverse health effects have been speculated especially for low birthweight babies, immunological effects, certain cancers and thyroid hormone disruption.1 With these considerations, we hypothesized that there may be an association of PFAS with tooth development and subsequent dental caries (cavities). (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Environmental Risks, OBGYNE, Pediatrics / 24.10.2019 Interview with: Eva Tanner, PhD, MPH, Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Carl-Gustaf Bornehag, PhD Professor at Karlstad University What is the background for this study? Response: Most prior research on health risks from chemical exposure study one chemical at a time. However, we are exposed to a multitude of chemicals every day in the air we breathe, food and water we consume, and things we touch. This is supported by global biomonitoring data showing that humans in general have a high number of chemicals identified in their bodies, i.e., in blood, urine, breast milk, saliva, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t know how such single chemicals act in complicated mixtures and impact our health, or the health of future generations. We conducted this study to help understand how prenatal exposure to mixtures of proven or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals - found in common consumer products - during the earliest part of life may impact a child’s brain development and cognition in school age. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Gastrointestinal Disease / 14.09.2019 Interview with: Philipp Schwabl, MD Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department of Internal Medicine III Medical University of Vienna Vienna, Austria What is the background for this study? Response: There is a lot of research published about microplastics being present in the ocean and subsequently also being found in the gut of sea animals, however there were no investigations if also humans involunterily ingest microplastics. This gave us rationale to perform a pilot study. (more…)
Author Interviews, Duke, Endocrinology, Environmental Risks, Thyroid Disease, Weight Research / 27.03.2019 Interview with: Christopher D. Kassotis, Ph.D. NRSA Postdoctoral Research Scholar Stapleton Lab Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment Durham, NC 27708 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
  • So this was something that Heather Stapleton had been curious about for years, as she's been one of several researchers characterizing the hundreds of chemicals that have been measured in indoor house dust. Before I came to Duke, one of her PhD students had measured the ability of many common indoor contaminants to activate the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARg). The majority of these chemicals did, often quite well, which led to them testing indoor house dust extracts, also finding that the majority of dust extracts were also able to do so at very low levels. As PPARg is often considered the master regulator of fat cell development, the next obvious question was whether these common contaminants (and house dust) could promote fat cell development in cell models. My first work at Duke evaluated a suite of common indoor contaminants, finding that many of these chemicals could promote fat cell development, and that low levels of house dust extracts did as well.
  • We next explored this more systematically in a group of adults involved in a thyroid cancer cohort (this was just recently published in Science of the Total Environment:
  • In this study we evaluated the extent to which house dust extracts could promote fat cell development in a common cell model, and associated this with the metabolic health of adults living in these homes. We found that the greater extent of fat cell development was associated with significantly greater thyroid stimulating hormone concentrations (control residents only, with no evidence of thyroid dysfunction) and lower free triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). We further found a significant and positive association between extent of fat cell development and the body mass index (BMI) of all adults in the study. So this suggested that the indoor environment might play a role in the BMI and metabolic health of residents, and we next wondered if this would be more pronounced in children, who may be exposed to these contaminants during a critical window of development.
  • The next step, for our current work, was to substantiate these effects in a larger group of households, each with children.
  • Our major conclusions thus far have been that ~80% of house dust extracts promote significant fat cell development in a cell model - either via development from precursor cells into mature fat cells, measured via accumulation of lipids into the cells, or via the proliferation of those precursor fat cells. We also reported positive correlations of fat cell development with the concentrations of 70 different contaminants in the dust from these homes, suggesting that mixtures of contaminants are likely all acting weakly to produce these effects in combination. We’ve also begun to assess the other chemicals present in dust - chemistry can be either targeted (measuring concentrations of specific known chemicals in a sample), or non-targeted, where you try and determine the identity of the other chemicals in a sample. This has greater utility for identifying many more chemicals, though you will often not get chemical concentrations from this, nor absolute confirmed identification - just varying degrees of certainty based on evidence. Thus far we report approximately 35,000 chemicals in house dust samples across this study, and differential analyses have begun to pick out the few (less than 10 in each case) chemicals most differentially expressed between samples that exhibit high degrees of fat cell development in the lab vs inactive samples, for example, or which are differentially present in the homes of children categorized as obese or overweight. We are now working to confirm identity of these select contaminants that are more likely to be causative factors in the results we have observed.
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Toxin Research / 09.11.2018 Interview with: "Protect Coral Reefs" by NOAA's National Ocean Service is licensed under CC BY 2.0Ariel Kushmaro and Esti Kramarsky-Winter Department of Biotechnology Engineering, Ben Gurion University Beer Sheva, Israel The Republic of Palau, a South Pacific island nation, became the world's first country to ban sunscreen products containing environmentally harmful ingredients What is the background for this announcement? What are the main findings?  Response: Coral reefs are important ecosystems that are under threat due to global human driven climate change. In addition to global changes, local hazards such as point pollution by eutrophication, dredging and chemical pollution are exacerbating and promoting reef destruction at local levels. This destruction affects not only island nations that depend on these reefs for protection and livelihood, they affect humanity as a whole as they are an important source for food and novel drugs and new materials. Our recent studies have shown that chemicals found in most commercial sunscreens and creams used to protect humans from deleterious effects of UV A and UVB wash off into the environment are persistent, have endocrine disruptive effects, and thus deleteriously affect marine organisms including corals.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Pediatrics, Toxin Research / 26.01.2018 Interview with: “Toys” by Holger Zscheyge is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Andrew Turner Reader in Environmental Science (Biogeochemistry and Toxicology) School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Plymouth, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: The study arose through a larger investigation into hazardous substances in consumer plastics, both old and new. The main finding of the present research was the widespread occurrence of restricted elements in old plastic toys, and in particular cadmium, lead and bromine (the latter an indicator of the presence of flame retardants); in many cases, these elements could migrate from the plastic under conditions simulating the human digestive system. (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, Genetic Research / 26.01.2018

“Reading is fun!” by Isaac Wedin is licensed under CC BY Interview with: Bruno Sauce, PhD and Louis D. Matzel, PhD Department of Psychology, Program in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Rutgers University New Jersey, USA What is the background for this study? Response: Scientists have known for decades that intelligence has a high heritability, which means that much of the individual differences in IQ we see in people are due to genetic differences. Heritability is a value that ranges from 0.0 (meaning no genetic component) to 1.0 (meaning that the trait is completely heritable). For example, the heritability of breast cancer is estimated at 0.27; the heritability of body mass index is 0.59; and the heritability of major depression is 0.40. In comparison, the heritability of IQ is estimated to be as high as 0.8 – quite a high value! More recently, however, there have been studies showing that intelligence has a high malleability: the studies cover cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ’s heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time from societal and scientific progress, the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, the gains in intelligence from early education, differences in average IQ between countries due to wealth and development, and gains in intelligence that seem to happen from working memory training. Intelligence being both highly heritable and highly malleable is seemingly paradoxical, and this paradox has been the source of continuous controversy among scientists. Why does it matter? Because IQ predicts many important outcomes in life, such as academic grades, income, social mobility, happiness, marital stability and satisfaction, general health, longevity, reduced risk of accidents, and reduced risk of drug addiction (among many other outcomes). A clear understanding of the genetic and environmental causes of variation in intelligence is critical for future research, and its potential implications (and applications) for society are immense. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Environmental Risks, Infections, Occupational Health / 16.12.2017 Interview with: Lindsey Milich Rutgers School of Public Health studiesLindsey Milich Rutgers School of Public Health studies What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Much of the spotlight has been focused on hair and nail technicians, with the focus now shifting towards the health and safety of hair and nail salon clients. We wanted to assess perceived safety and health risks and prevalence of respiratory and dermal symptoms among hair and nail salon clients in New Jersey. Main findings include dermal/fungal symptoms being more prevalent among clients who visited salons three or more times within the past year, compared with those with fewer reported visits. Respiratory symptom prevalence was higher among clients with fewer salon visits, indicating a “healthy client effect”; clients with these symptoms may be less likely to return. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Health Care Systems, Surgical Research / 11.12.2017 Interview with:  <a href="">“surgery”</a> by <i> <a href="">Army Medicine</a> </i> is licensed under <a href=""> CC BY 2.0</a>Andrea MacNeill MD MSc FRCSC Surgical Oncologist & General Surgeon University of British Columbia Vancouver General Hospital BC Cancer Agency What is the background for this study? Response: Climate change is one of the most pressing public health issues of the present era, responsible for 140,000 deaths annually.  Somewhat paradoxically, the health sector itself has a considerable carbon footprint, as well as other detrimental environmental impacts.  Within the health sector, operating rooms are known to be one of the most resource-intensive areas and have thus been identified as a strategic target for emissions reductions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Weight Research / 13.07.2017 Interview with: Heather M. Stapleton PhD Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management EEH Program Chair Nicholas School of the Environment Duke University Durham, North Carolina 27708 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Building materials and products common to most homes (e.g. furniture, TVs, carpets, etc) are often treated with synthetic chemicals, which migrate out of the products over time and accumulate in house dust, where residents can be exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. This study assessed approximately forty chemicals commonly detected and measured in house dust samples for their ability to stimulate the development of fat cells, using a mouse precursor fat cell model. Approximately two thirds of these chemicals were able to promote lipid accumulation by these cells and/or stimulate the proliferation of the precursor fat cells. We then assessed eleven extracts of indoor house dust samples (containing mixtures of these chemicals) and exposed our cells to these extracts, finding that even low levels of these extracts were sufficient to promote the accumulation of lipids and/or the proliferation of the fat precursor cells. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Nature / 23.03.2017 Interview with: Dr. Norbert Kamjunke Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Department of River Ecology Magdeburg, Germany What is the background for this study? Response: Aquacultures are of great importance worldwide but pollute pristine headwater streams, lakes, and estuaries. Chilean salmon production is economically important, contributing ~25% of the worldwide salmon yield (Chile ranks second of the world’s salmon-producing countries). Salmon farming has continuously increased in recent decades; the annual salmonid production in Chile was 820,000 tons in 2012, representing a value of 4.9 billion USD (32% of the total worldwide value of salmonid production). Small salmon are reared in land-based aquacultures supplied with stream water, whereas mid-sized fish are grown in cages in lakes and adult fish in cages along the coast. The effluents from land-based aquaculture pollute pristine streams with nutrients, antibiotics and organic carbon, resulting in oxygen depletion and negative consequences for the abundance and biodiversity of stream organisms. While aquacultures have recently started to remove suspended matter from waste water using sedimentation basins and rotating drum filters, dissolved components are still discharged untreated. Nutrients and dissolved organic matter (DOM) originating from the leaching of remaining food pellets, fish faeces and fish excretions are major components released by aquacultures. One aquaculture in northern Patagonia was estimated to release DOM amounting to 21% of the carbon applied as feed and 76% of the annual fish production. (more…)
Asthma, Author Interviews, Environmental Risks / 11.07.2016 Interview with: Jamie T Mullins PhD Environmental Economics and Applied Microeconomic Department of Resource Economics University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA 01003 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Episodic triggers of asthma are widely known, but the root causes of the condition still aren’t well understood. There is also very limited evidence on the long-term impacts of exposure to air pollution. Speaking to both issues, we find evidence linking the development of asthma to exposure to a significant air pollution event early in life. The 1952 London Smog provides a natural experiment for studying the underlying cause of asthma and the long-term effects of air pollution exposure, while limiting threats from statistical confounding. The London Smog (also called the “Great Smog”) dramatically increased concentrations of air pollution across the city in December of 1952. We compare the incidence of asthma among those exposed to the Great Smog in utero or the first year of life to those in relevant comparison groups, including those conceived after the incident and those residing outside the affected area at the time of the Smog. (more…)