The Newsletter of the Children's Environmental Health Center February 2011
Our Mission: Protecting Children Against Environmental Threats to Health
Dr. Philip J. Landrigan
January has been a busy month for the Children's Environmental Health Center!
At the beginning of this week, I returned home from a spectacular trip to Asia, where I had the opportunity to advance programs in children's environmental health in Thailand and Japan. Both of these opportunities were the result of Mount Sinai's recent designation as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Children's Environmental Health.
I began my trip by leading a week-long course in environmental medicine in Bangkok, sponsored by the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI). CRI was founded nearly 20 years ago by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest daughter of the King of Thailand and a committed environmentalist. The Princess has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and she is a strong supporter of programs in children's environmental health. She has built CRI into a regional center of excellence, and like Mount Sinai, CRI is designated a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. The course was attended by nearly 50 students from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Kirgizistan, and Afghanistan. The goal was to build professional capacity in children's environmental health across Asia. It was rated highly successful, and the Princess has invited Mount Sinai to return to CRI every second year to repeat the program.
From Thailand, I traveled to Tokyo, where I participated in an International Planning Workshop for the Japan Environment and Children's Study (JECS). JECS is a prospective epidemiological study of 100,000 Japanese children organized by the Japan Ministry of the Environment. It will follow the children from early in pregnancy to age 13. It is modeled closely on our U.S. National Children's Study, and we are developing a deliberate plan to permit sharing of data across the two studies to maximize our results. In addition to other U.S. delegates, leaders of national children's studies from Korea, Australia, and Denmark were present at the workshop, and we made plans to establish a network for further international collaboration.
Also while I was in Japan, I was invited to present a special address on children's environmental health at Juntendo University School of Medicine, the oldest medical school in Japan (see picture to the right).
All in all, this trip was an extraordinary experience that enabled me to combine my passion for children's environmental health with my deep interest in global health. It is truly amazing to see how these two disciplines are advancing worldwide and very satisfying to see how the work of our Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai is being emulated in counties around the world. But it was also very good to get back home.
As I return from my trip east, I am happy to announce that our Center is working diligently to prepare for our fourth annual benefit luncheon, Greening Our Children. We have launched a new online journal, www.MountSinaiGOCLuncheon.org, an interactive site where you can learn about our Center and purchase tickets for the event. I kindly ask that you browse through the journal and share it with your family, friends, and professional contacts. The success of our luncheon is crucial to the success of our Center's research, as all proceeds benefit new research initiatives in children's environmental health.
With great pleasure, I present our February issue. In this issue:
- We share an interview that Maida Galvez, MD, MPH and I gave about the safety of PCBs in school classrooms. This interview was published in the New York Times this afternoon.
- We provide an overview of the current issue of the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine - which focuses on children's environmental health. Each month, we will summarize one of these scientific articles, keeping you informed about our Center's research.
- We launch a new column that highlights our doctors' accomplishments over the past month.
- We introduce you to Christopher Gavigan, environmental leader and guest speaker at this year's Greening Our Children.
Wishing your family a safe and warm winter!
Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc
Director, Children's Environmental Health Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
CEHC Reports on PCBs in School Classrooms
Today, on February 7, the New York Times' Green blog published an interview with CEHC's Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc and Maida P. Galvez, MD, MPH about the safety of
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in school classrooms.
Recently, New York City parents have become concerned about the presence of PCBs in the light fixtures and caulkings of their schools. This concern was heightened when an EPA federal inspection found that light fixtures were leaking PCBs above the regulatory level of 50 parts per million in 10 of the 13 samples taken at Public School 68 in the Bronx.
What are PCBs? What are the health risks of exposure?
Click here to read the New York Times' Q&A with Dr. Landrigan and Dr. Galvez.
Current Issue of Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine Focuses on Children's Health and the Environment
The January/February 2011 issue of the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine focuses on the theme of children's health and the environment. Bringing together thought leaders in children's environmental health - including many of CEHC's doctors and collaborators - this issue examines new research in environmental pediatrics.
According to Dr. Landrigan, the field of environmental pediatrics has grown exponentially in the past decade. Defined as "the branch of pediatric medicine that studies the influence of the environment on children's health" (Landrigan and Miodovnik 2011), this discipline has become an increasingly visible and important area of pediatric medicine.
The issue begins with the introduction "Children's Health and the Environment: An Overview," written by CEHC's Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc and Amir Miodovnik, MD, MPH. This article shows that the rates of chronic diseases in children are rising, and it illustrates how scientists are learning that environmental factors are important drivers of these changing disease patterns.
After introducing this important topic, the issue features a series of articles on children's environmental health, including the following written by members of the CEHC staff:
Childhood Obesity and Environmental Chemicals
Michele La Merrill, PhD, MPH, and Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, DABT
Environmental Neurotoxicants and the Developing Brain
Amir Miodovnik, MD, MPH
Climate Change, Aeroallergens, Pediatric Allergic Disease
Perry E. Sheffield, MD, MPH, Kate R. Weinberger, MA, and Patrick L. Kinney, ScD
Community Engagement in Children's Environmental Health Research
Barbara L. Brenner, DrPH, LMSW and Melissa P. Manice, MPH
Economics of Children's Environmental Health
Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP
Each month, the CEHC newsletter will summarize one of these scientific articles, providing our readers with the main takeaway points from our scientists. We begin with a summary of Dr. Landrigan and Dr. Miodovnik's introduction "Children's Health and the Environment: An Overview" (see below).
Children's Health and the Environment:
Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc and Amir Miodovnik, MD, MPH
In this introduction to the topic of pediatric environmental health, Dr. Landrigan and Dr. Miodovnik answer the following questions:
What is environmental pediatrics?
Environmental pediatrics is the branch of pediatrics that studies the influence of the environment on health and disease in children. It focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and disabilities caused in children by environmental exposures.
What are toxic chemicals?
Toxic chemicals are a class of environmental hazards that can exert powerfully negative influences on children's health. In the past 50 years, tens of thousands of toxic chemicals have been synthesized, and millions of new chemical products have been released into children's environments.
Where are toxic chemicals found?
Currently, over 80,000 chemicals are registered for commercial use in the U.S. Most of these chemicals are new synthetics - meaning they did not previously exist in nature. Nearly all of these chemicals have been invented in the past 50 years.
Children are especially at risk of exposure to 3,000 synthetic chemicals, produced in quantities of over one million pounds per year. The EPA classifies these materials as high-production-volume (HPV) chemicals, found in consumer goods, cosmetics, medications, motor fuels, and building materials. They are also detectable in the air, food, and drinking water across much of the United States.
A major problem today is that only about 50% of HPV chemicals have undergone testing for toxicity. 80% have not been tested for their potential to cause developmental toxicity or to injure infants and children.
Why are children at greater risk?
The 1993 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, led by Dr. Landrigan, has identified four differences between children and adults that contribute to children's increased susceptibility to toxic chemicals:
Children have greater exposures than adults to toxic chemicals on a body-weight basis. This means that children have proportionately greater intake of toxic chemicals in water, food, and air. Children's hand-to-mouth behavior and their play close to the ground further magnify their exposures.
Children's metabolic pathways are immature. This means that the ability of children to metabolize and excrete toxic chemicals is different, making them more vulnerable to exposure.
Children's incredibly rapid, but exquisitely delicate developmental processes are easily disrupted. There are unique windows of susceptibility that exist only in early development. If even low-level exposure occurs during this time, harmful effects will occur. These windows have no counterpart in adult life.
Children have more time than adults to develop chronic diseases that may be triggered by harmful exposures in the environment. Many diseases triggered by toxic chemicals are now understood to evolve through multi-stage, multi-year processes. Because children will live longer than adults, they are at greater risk of developing disease later in life.
What can we do to prevent these diseases?
Children's diseases of environmental origin are preventable. The key to prevention is discovery of their specific environmental causes. To do this, Dr. Landrigan and Dr. Miodovnik point to epidemiological studies as powerful engines of discovery, including the National Children's Study.
Click here to read Dr. Landrigan and Dr. Miodovnik's introduction in the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine.
This Month at CEHC:
Recapping Our Doctors' Accomplishments
What have the CEHC doctors been up to? This new monthly feature will provide you with updates of our accomplishments over the past month. This January:
Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH of CEHC and Melissa Manice, MPH of the National Children's Study appeared on a community health radio show on Diaspora FM, the largest Greek radio program in the world. The two answered questions about environmental health. Dr. Sheffield will return for an encore on February 15.
Elizabeth Garland, MD and Kevin Chatham-Stephens, MD, both of CEHC, were selected to present "Impact of LEED- Certified Green Housing on Asthma in New York City" at the American College of Preventive Medicine National Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH also gave a presentation to the Women's Advisory Council of Huntington in Long Island, New York. This meeting was supported by New York State Senator Carl R. Marcellino and Town of Huntington Council member Susan A. Berland. Dr. Sheffield spoke about how environmental hazards can affect children's health. Read more.
Maida Galvez, MD, MPH , Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH, Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, and Nita Vangeepuram, MD, MPH all had abstracts selected for presentation at the 2011 joint meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies and the Asian Society for Pediatric Research in Denver, Colorado. Leigh Goldstein and Eliza Gardiner - two medical students in the Department of Preventive Medicine - also had abstracts accepted.
Barbara L. Brenner, DrPH, LMSW, Michele La Merrill, PhD, MPH, Amir Miodovnik, MD, MPH, Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH, and Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP all had papers published in the Januray/February Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (see articles above).
Andrea Wershof Schwartz, MD received her MPH from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in January. She is currently working on the project "The under-diagnosis and economic impact of obesity in the emergency department: a nationally representative analysis" with Dr. Leonardo Trasande.
Meet Christopher Gavigan:
Guest Speaker at 4th Annual Greening Our Children
CEHC is excited to announce that Christopher Gavigan will be speaking at this year's Greening Our Children. Christopher is an environmental leader who has dedicated himself to improving the lives of children and families.
As the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, Christopher has led public awareness campaigns and educational programs that inform parents about the daily choices that impact our children's health. He is the author of the bestselling book Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, which teaches families how to reduce household exposures to toxic chemicals.
Christopher also blogs for the Huffington Post and WebMD and was awarded Elle Magazine's Green Award in 2007 and WebMD's Health Hero Award in 2010. He is the father of a three-year old and a newborn, and he brings first hand knowledge about how to keep your family green.
To learn more about Christopher:
Check out his blogs on the Huffington Post and WebMD.
Read his interview with Planet Green.
Watch Christopher discuss his book Healthy Child Healthy World.
ABOUT THE CHILDREN'S ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CENTER (CEHC)
Formally established in 2007, the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center builds on Dr. Philip J. Landrigan's three decades of work in children's environmental health and fifteen years of research in environmental pediatrics at Mount Sinai. CEHC has established itself as a leading source of scientifically credible information on issues related to children's health and the environment.
Our mission is to protect children against environmental threats to health. We do this by guiding, supporting, and building the programs of the Department Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Current projects include:
The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), our clinical arm which cares for children with toxic environmental exposures.
Pilot Project Research Grants Program, CEHC's signature program, providing seed grants for Mount Sinai-wide initiatives into the environmental causes of learning disabilities (including autism), asthma, obesity/diabetes, and childhood cancer.
The Endocrine Disruptors Project, studying the effects of endocrine disruptors on neurodevelopmental disorders, obesity, early puberty, and other alterations in the proper functioning of the endocrine system.
The Autism and Learning Disabilities Discovery and Prevention Project, a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental study recently launched to explore the link between neurodevelopmental disorders and environmental exposures.
Growing Up Healthy in East Harlem, tracing the effects of pollutant exposures on children's health in the inner city.
To make a donation supporting CEHC's work, please send a check payable to:
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine
ATTN: Children's Environmental Health Center
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Mount Sinai Development, Box 1049
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029
Click here to donate online.
Please designate: CEHC (Children's Environmental Health Center) Fund
Mail: One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1057, New York, NY 10029