Folic Acid May Reduce Risk of Autism Associated With Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D.  Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences UC Davis California

Dr. Schmidt

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences
UC Davis California

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Maternal folic acid taken near conception has been linked to reduced risk for autism in the child in previous studies.

Separate studies show that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for autism.

Animal studies demonstrate that folic acid and other B-vitamins can attenuate effects of certain environmental contaminants, including pesticides.

This case-control study examined combined maternal folic acid and pesticide exposures in relation to autism in the child.

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Adverse Birth Outcomes and Agricultural Pesticide Use in the San Joaquin Valley of California

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ashley Larsen, PhD Assistant professor Bren School of Environmental Science & Management University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Larsen

Ashley Larsen, PhD
Assistant professor
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
University of California, Santa Barbara

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The relationship between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes has been recognized as an important question for quite some time, and there have been many good studies on the topic. Since randomly exposing people to different levels of pesticides is clearly unethical, researchers focused on the health consequences of non-occupational pesticide exposure often have to choose between detailed studies that follow a couple hundred or couple thousand individuals through pregnancy or larger scale studies that use easier to observe, but less accurate metrics of pesticide exposure (e.g. nearby crops or crop types). Here we tried to provide complementary insight by bridging the gap between detail and scale using detailed pesticide use data and individual birth certificate records for hundreds of thousands of births in an agriculturally dominated region of California. While we found negative effects of pesticide use on birth outcomes including low birth weight, preterm birth and birth abnormalities, these effects were generally in the magnitude of a 5-9% increase in probability of an adverse outcome, and only observed for individuals exposed to very high levels of pesticides.

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Cadmium in Shellfish and Smoking Linked to Endometrial Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jane McElroy, Ph.D. Associate professor Department of Family and Community Medicine MU School of Medicine

Dr. McElroy

Jane McElroy, Ph.D.
Associate professor
Department of Family and Community Medicine
MU School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: More than 31,000 new cases of endometrial cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2017. Through a five-year observational study, we found that women with increased levels of cadmium had an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Cadmium is a metal commonly found in foods such as kidneys, liver and shellfish as well as tobacco It’s a finding we hope could lead to new treatments or interventions to prevent the fourth most common cancer in women.

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Baby Teeth Can Expose Toxic Levels of Minerals Associated With Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Manish Arora, PhD Associate Professor Environmental Medicine & Public Health Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Arora

Manish Arora, PhD
Associate Professor
Environmental Medicine & Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Autism has both genetic and environmental risk factors. Our aim was to study if exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, or disruptions in the uptake of essential nutrient elements such as manganese or zinc would be related to autism risk. Furthermore, we were interested in not only understanding how much exposure had taken place but also which developmental periods were associated with increased susceptibility to autism risk.

Researchers suspect that the risk factors for autism start early in life, even prenatally, but measuring in utero exposures is technically very challenging. We used a newly developed technique that uses lasers to map growth rings in baby teeth (like growth rings in trees) to reconstruct the history of toxic metal and essential nutrient uptake. We applied this technology in samples collected from twins, including twins who were discordant for autism. This allowed us to have some control over genetic factors.

We found that twins with autism had higher levels of lead in their teeth compared to their unaffected twin siblings. They also had lower levels of zinc and manganese. The lower uptake of zinc was restricted to approximately 10 weeks before birth to a few weeks after birth, indicating that as a critical developmental period.

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Thyroid Hormone Disruptors Found In Household Cats and Dust

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jana Weiss PhD Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry Stockholm University

Dr. Jana Weiss

Jana Weiss PhD
Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry
Stockholm University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In an earlier publication, we could see an association between elevated concentrations of brominated flame retardants (BFR) in the blood of cats with developed Feline hyperthyroidism, compared to healthy cats (Norrgran et al 2015, ES&T 49:5107-5014). To establish the exposure pathway we now took paired samples from healthy cats and dust from their households. We also analysed the cats food to include another major exposure pathway. In total 17 families participated. They lived in houses in the countryside or in apartments in the city. All families had kids under 12 years of age living at home, thus representing a household with typical child products. The dust was sampled from the living room, the child’s room and from the adult’s bedrooms. We could not see any difference in the composition of compounds between the rooms, but we saw that levels were in general higher in the living room compared to the other two rooms. This was expected as many products being treated with BFRs can be found in the living room.

We could see that higher levels of some  brominated flame retardants in the dust were correlated to elevated levels in the cat’s blood. Therefore, this hypothesized exposure pathways is now statistically established. We could also confirm cat food to be the major exposure pathway for naturally brominated compounds coming from the marine food web, such as6-OH-BDE47, a known thyroid hormone disruptor. Continue reading

Deadly Batteries: Number of Serious Button Battery Incidents Still Not Decreasing

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Toby Litovitz, MD
Executive & Medical Director, National Capital Poison Center
Professor of Emergency Medicine, Georgetown University
Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine
The George Washington University
Washington DC

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over the past decade, a dramatic and persistent rise in the severity of swallowed batteries has been attributed to increased use of 20 mm diameter lithium coin cell batteries. With its larger diameter compared to traditional button cells, these cells get stuck in the esophagus of small children. There the greater voltage (3 V for lithium coin cells rather than 1.5 V for traditional button batteries), causes these cells to rapidly generate an external current that hydrolyzes tissue fluids, generating hydroxide and causing severe burns, injury and even death. Severe or fatal complications include perforations of the esophagus, tracheoesophageal fistulas, recurrent laryngeal nerve damage leading to vocal cord paralysis, spondylodiscitis, strictures and aortoesophageal fistulas – the latter nearly always fatal.

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Epidemic of Wound Botulism From Black Tar Heroin

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Guy Soo Hoo, MD
West Los Angeles VA Medical Center
Los Angeles, CA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Wound botulism occurs as a result of infection by material contaminated with C. botulinum. While typically associated with trauma and crush injury, it is also an infection associated with injection drug users especially with “skin popping”. Black tar heroin is an especially common vehicle for the development of wound botulism. Black tar heroin is the predominant form of heroin used in the western United States and there has been an epidemic of wound botulism cases associated with black tar heroin users especially in California. In fact, the vast majority of wound botulism cases in California occurs in injection drug users, specifically those who inject the drug subcutaneously or intramuscularly.

The typical presentation in wound botulism in an acute neurologic illness with cranial nerve palsies, flaccid descending paralysis. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation may occur and may require an extended period of ventilator support for recovery. A high index of suspicion as well as general supportive care is needed for optimal treatment and recovery. Optimal treatment includes wound debridement, early administration of botulinum antitoxin and penicillin therapy. This case is unique in that the initial presentation was bilateral vocal cord paralysis and cranial nerve function was initially intact. The patient subsequently developed a flaccid paralysis that included cranial nerve palsies, functional quadriplegia and respiratory failure. He recovered to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility about six weeks after his initial presentation.

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Cost Analysis of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in US

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Teresa Attina, MD, PhD
Research Scientist
NYU Langone School of Medicine
Department of Pediatrics
New York, NY 10016

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been recently documented to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction in the European Union (EU), with an annual estimated cost of €163 billion, corresponding to 1.28% of EU Gross Domestic Product. Our current study documents even greater annual costs in the US, $340 billion, corresponding to 2.33% of US GDP. These findings speak to the large health and economic benefits to regulating EDCs, which should be weighed against the cost of safer alternatives.

The different costs between the EU and the US are due to different exposure levels to EDCs, and policy predicts exposure. US costs are higher mainly because of the widespread use of brominated flame retardants in furniture, whereas Europe restricted its use in 2008. Americans have much higher levels, such that the average American has a serum level of these chemicals that would be in the top 5% of Europeans. As a result, children born to pregnant women have lower IQs, such that more children suffer from intellectual disability.

On the other hand, in Americans, levels of certain pesticides in foods are much lower due to the Food Quality Protection Act, which requires additional safety thresholds to protect pregnant women and children from exposure. The costs of pesticide exposures in the US were much lower ($12.6 billion) compared to Europe ($121 billion) because fewer children suffer loss of IQ as a result.

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Unsafe levels of toxic chemicals found in drinking water for six million Americans

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Courtney C. Carignan PhD Research Fellow Department of Environmental Health Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Courtney Carignan

Courtney C. Carignan PhD
Research Fellow
Department of Environmental Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We used mapping technology coupled with drinking water data from EPA to identify military bases, airports, industrial sites, and wastewater treatment plants as major sources of PFOS and PFOA contamination in drinking water. These measurements suggest that at least six million people have drinking water that exceeds the recent EPA health advisorylevels for PFOA and PFOS.

These are chemicals that have been historically manufactured in the US and used widely in consumer products such as stain-proof carpeting, non-stick pans and aqueous firefighting foam. They have been replaced with new generation of shorter-chain fluorinated chemicals, which also do not break down in the environment and may be similarly toxic.

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Most Gymnasts Regularly Exposed to Flame Retardants

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Courtney Carignan PhD Research Fellow Department of Environmental Health Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Courtney Carignan

Courtney Carignan PhD
Research Fellow
Department of Environmental Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We collected urine samples from a team of 11 collegiate gymnasts before and after a gymnastics practice. There were higher levels of flame retardants in samples collected after practice compared to before, indicating that the gymnastics training environment is a source of exposure to these chemicals. We previously measured elevated levels of flame retardants in the air and dust of the gym. Foam equipment appears to be the primary source of flame retardants to the gym, especially foam in the loose foam pit, which is used by gymnasts to learn new skills safely.

Over the past several decades, flame retardant chemical have been used in foam, such as in upholstered furniture, and electronics. They easily escape these products and enter the air, dust and our bodies. Most Americans have flame retardant chemicals in their bodies. There is growing concern about the harmful effects of many of these chemicals such that some have been phased out of use.

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