Raising Healthy Children

The Newsletter of the Children's Environmental Health Center                March 2011

Our Mission: Protecting Children Against Environmental Threats to Health

Dr. Landrigan

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan

Director, CEHC

In This Issue
Dr. Swan Publishes New Research on Male Infertility
BPA in Cash Receipt Paper?
Climate Change and Health
Toxins: A Global Threat
The Month in Review
About the CEHC

Dear Friends,

We are preparing for a busy spring season at the Children's Environmental Health Center!   


Once again, Mount Sinai's role as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre has brought our work to a new part of the globe. This week, I leave for Asturias, Spain to attend a WHO international conference on environmental and occupational cancer. This meeting is hosted by the Spanish Ministry of Health, and it will bring together the international scientific community to develop new policies for the prevention of environmental and occupational cancers, especially cancers in children.


Keeping with our global focus, I also spoke at the conference, Toxins: A Global Threat, hosted by the Mount Sinai Global Health Training Center. At this event, I delivered a presentation on plastics, pesticides, and global health - illustrating how children around the world are disproportionately affected by toxins. For more information on this proceedings from this conference, please see our article on this event.


With great pleasure, I present our March issue. In this issue:

  • We highlight new research published by Shanna Swan, PhD, who will be joining our Center's faculty in April. In this new study, Dr. Swan and her team show that shorter anogenital distance may predict infertility.
  • We share a critically important testimony that Andrea Wershof Schwartz, MD, MPH presented in support of a bill that would ban BPA on thermal receipt paper in Connecticut. If this bill is passed, we hope that it will serve as a model for other state legislation.  
  • We recap a recent panel discussion on climate change and human health, in which Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH served as an expert panelist. The proceedings of this panel have been picked up by major news outlets like MSN Health, USA Today, and U.S. News & World Report
  • We provide an overview of Mount Sinai's annual global health conference, and we recap our doctors' other accomplishments over the past month.

Wishing the best to you and your family!



Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc

Director, Children's Environmental Health Center

Mount Sinai School of Medicine

New Study Links Low Sperm Count to Chemical Exposures

A new study published online in Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that male infertility may stem from in utero chemical exposures. In this study, a team of researchers - including Shanna Swan, PhD, who will join CEHC in April - found anogenital distance (AGD) to be a strong predictor of sperm count, motility, and shape. "AGD is now the strongest predictor of sperm count that we know of," Dr. Swan told Science News.

Previously, scientists had linked shortened AGD in rodents with reduced sperm count, birth defects affecting the genitals, and smaller male organs. However, these results had never been confirmed in humans.

In Dr. Swan's new study, published
on March 4, her team found that one in four of the 126 men tested appeared subfertile and possibly infertile, with sperm concentrations at or below 20 million per milliliters. Those with an AGD below the median distance for their build were 7.3 times more likely to be in the subfertile group, as were those with an AGD above the medium. The study reported a likelihood of less than one-tenth of a percent that this association was due to chance.

"Up until now, nobody has really understood what might be the impacts of shortened AGD on quality of life," Dr. Landrigan told Science News. "So this observation that a short AGD is correlated with low sperm count is new stuff and, I think, very important."

According to Dr. Landrigan, it is difficult to collect useful measurements of sperm. However, once AGD is measured in the womb, the number remains stable as long as it is adjusted for the overall size of the man. Ultimately, this provides doctors with a new method to screen men for sperm count, resulting in an important contribution to the scientific community.  


 Click here to learn more about Dr. Swan's study in Science News.   


This story has also been picked up by major news outlets  

like U.S. News & World Report and WebMD.


CEHC Provides Testimony for Connecticut Bill Banning BPA in in Cash Receipts Andrea WS 


In support of a Connecticut Senate Bill that would ban bisphenol-A (BPA) from thermal receipt paper, Andrea Wershof Schwartz, MD, MPH, postdoctoral fellow in pediatric environmental health at CEHC, wrote a testimony that outlined the harmful effects of this chemical.


Dr. Schwartz's letter of support was presented at a hearing of the Connecticut legislature on February 23, where support for this ban greatly outweighed opposition. This letter provided critically important written testimony for determining the next step of this bill, which would prohibit the manufacture, sale, and distribution of all thermal receipt paper containing BPA in Connecticut. 


BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen. It is often used in plastic containers and has been found to leach into the contents of these containers, bringing BPA into the body. The National Institutes of Health has linked exposure to higher risk of breast cancer, early puberty, and lower sperm counts. 


Recent studies have found high levels of BPA in cash receipts. According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 40% of receipts from major corporations were found to contain BPA. When used in cash receipts, BPA is unbound to the paper, meaning that it can rub off and stick to the skin of those who touch it. Ultimately, this exposes shoppers and cashiers to higher levels of the chemical.


On March 25, the Connecticut legislature will meet to decide if this bill will move forward. If the bill passes, it will become a law on October 1, 2013. 



Click here to read Dr. Schwartz's letter of support.


Click here to read about the hearing in the Hartford Courant.


Dr. Sheffield Participates in Expert Panel on Climate Change and Human Health
perry sheffieldOn February 24, CEHC's Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH participated in an expert panel on human health and climate change, organized by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American Medical Association (AMA).


In this panel, participants explained that global warming has affected our health, warning us that unless policy changes are enacted, climate change will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths from extreme weather.

Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, said Dr. Sheffield, which makes children with asthma grow sicker. She also cited evidence that climate change has caused pollen season to grow longer, which could lead to an increase in the number of people with asthma.

Ultimately, reducing air pollution can have immediate health benefits. For example, when air pollution was reduced during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, asthma attacks among children dropped by 44 percent, said Dr. Sheffield. In addition to air-related illnesses, Dr. Sheffield stated that extreme weather can have other devastating effects on health.  "As a result of global warming, extreme storms including hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and even snowstorms are expected to increase," she told the panel. "And these events pose risk of injury and disruption of special medical services, which are particularly important to children with special medical needs."


The panel concluded by emphasizing the importance of federal regulation, specifically by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget that would cut the EPA's budget by a third. A funding resolution has also been passed that would block the EPA from enacting a new greenhouse emissions rule. Ultimately, the panel worries that if the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases is restricted, health problems will rise.


 To learn more, see news coverage in:


MSN Health/HealthDay News


MedPage Today


The MSN Health/HealthDay News story has been picked up by major news outlets like USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Women's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Science Magazine News.


Toxins: A Global Threat


On March 11 and March 12, the Mount Sinai Global Health Training Center hosted its ninth annual conference, titled Toxins: A Global Threat.  


The event opened with a screening of Gaslands, a Sundance award winning documentary on hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." Hydraulic fracking is a means of natural gas extraction that is used in deep natural gas well drilling. Once drilling occurs, millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the well under high pressure. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well, affecting the quality of drinking water.  


The screening was followed by a webcast Q&A with the film's director, Josh Fox.


On the second day of the conference, we heard presentations by a variety of experts on toxins and global health. CEHC presenters included:


Plastics, Pesticides and Global Health

Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc

Director, CEHC


Remediating Toxic Waste Sites in the Developing World

Richard Fuller

Member of the Executive Board, CEHC


Hydrofracking and Advocacy: Panel Discussion

Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH (panelist) 

Assistant Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine



Click here to read summaries of the presentations, written by the environmental blog, The Green.


This Month at CEHC

Check out other CEHC doctors in the press:   
  • CEHC director Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc wrote a guest blog about the environmental causes of autism and learning disabilities for Maria Rodale's blog Maria's Farm Country Kitchen. Read part 1 and part 2 of the blog.
  • Maida Galvez, MD, MPH delivered a presentation for the Larchmont-Mamaroneck League of Women Voters, where she discussed simple steps for healthier living, focusing on phthalates and BPA. Click here to read the recap in the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch.
  • Perry Sheffield, MD, MPH was quoted in the Boston Globe about research Mount Sinai is conducting on toxic chemicals. Click here to read the article "Toxic or Not?". 
  • Stephanie Engel, PhD, MPH's landmark paper on prenatal phthalate exposure was the #2 most viewed paper in Environmental Health Perpspectives, the leading journal in environmental health, in 2010. Click here to read the paper. 


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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.
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The Mount Sinai School of Medicine

 ATTN: Children's Environmental Health Center


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Telephone: 212-824-7125
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