Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 7th annual EHS Symposium. This year’s theme, “Children’s Environmental Health: Cutting-Edge Solutions for the 21st Century,” featured some of the amazing work going on in EHS to protect the health of children in local and global communities. It was a pleasure seeing everyone and we look forward to seeing you again next year!
In a new study published in Environmental Research last week, EHS doctoral student Carly Hyland found that an organic diet intervention significantly reduced exposure to a range of common agricultural pesticides among four U.S. families. The study, co-authored by EHS faculty Dr. Asa Bradman and EHS alum Dr. Robert Gunier, enrolled families from Oakland, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Baltimore and monitored urinary pesticide levels over six days on a conventional diet and six days on an organic diet.
The researchers observed decreases in urinary biomarkers of exposure to over 40 of the most commonly used agricultural pesticides following the switch to an organic diet. The greatest reductions were observed for markers of exposure to classes of insecticides known as organophosphates (OPs) and neonicotinoids. For example, concentrations of metabolites of the OPs malathion and chlorpyrifos decreased by 95% and 61%, respectively, among all participants following the switch to an organic diet. They also observed an 83% decrease in concentrations of clothianidin, which is one of the most highly used neonicotinoid insecticides in U.S. agriculture.
This study contributes to the growing body of literature indicating that an organic diet can significantly reduce exposure to a range of potentially harmful pesticides. While the majority of Americans cannot afford to eat a fully organic diet, Hyland highlights that there are still steps we can take to reduce exposure to pesticides, such as washing produce properly. Additionally, each year the Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the “Dirty Dozen" produce items that have the greatest amount of pesticide residues, and Hyland encourages trying to prioritize purchasing those fruits and vegetables organically.
Dr. Bradman is the Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health and has been involved in CHAMACOS, a longitudinal birth cohort study investigating the impact of prenatal exposure to pesticides and other environmental contaminants, since its inception in 1999. Dr. Gunier is an Assistant Researcher at CERCH and Carly Hyland is a Graduate Student Researcher at CERCH working on the CHAMACOS study.
Please join us for the 7th annual EHS Symposium. This year’s theme is “Children’s Environmental Health: Cutting-Edge Solutions for the 21st Century” and includes the distinguished speakers listed below. We look forward to seeing you at this special event!
Justin Remais, EHS Division Head, PhD, MS
Brenda Eskenazi, PhD, Director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health
Lessons from the Fields
Andrés Cárdenas, PhD, MPH
Epigenetics in Children’s Environmental Health
Jay Graham, PhD, MPH, MBA
Antimicrobial Resistance Transmission in Domestic Animals and Children in Peri-Urban Communities of Quito, Ecuador
Carly Hyland, PhD Student
Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Neurodevelopment in CHAMACOS
EHS study shows the importance of environmental measurement to accurate understanding of climate impacts on health
Heavy rainfall and flooding have long been known to increase the risk of waterborne infectious diseases by exposing people to contaminated floodwaters and overwhelming water and sanitation systems. In a study published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers in EHS found that, without accurate measurement of climate variables like rainfall, we may substantially underestimate the impact of extreme weather on the global incidence of diarrheal diseases, which remain among the leading causes of child mortality.
“Pathogens spread by water can disperse and persist in the environment during heavy rainfall and floods, causing disease in locations and among people far from their original sources,” said Dr. Morgan Levy, a postdoctoral fellow and environmental scientist in EHS who led the study. “In our collaboration between earth scientists and epidemiologists, we found that the greater the distance between measurements of extreme rainfall and vulnerable populations, the more we underestimate the impact of extreme events on health,” says Levy.
Using simulation studies and an analysis of health and environmental data from research in northern coastal Ecuador, the study found that when rainfall is measured far from a vulnerable population, the estimated effect of extreme rainfall on diarrheal disease incidence is underestimated by as much as 45%.
“Our results demonstrate how important it is to accurately assess exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries where environmental information is limited, and where the frequency and intensity of extreme weather are expected to change with a changing climate,” Levy added.
As the global climate changes, populations are vulnerable to a range of new conditions—from more frequent heat waves to more intense hurricanes—that will impact health. “What Morgan’s research shows is that rigorous epidemiological research on the health effects of a changing climate will require deep collaboration with earth scientists,” said Prof. Justin Remais, Head of Environmental Health Sciences at the Berkeley School of Public Health. “By committing to improved characterization of environmental processes, including rainfall and other variables, we stand the best chance of understanding and responding to the health effects of extreme climate, and can take the most appropriate actions to protect populations from these exposures.”
The research team included scientists from the University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Emory University and University of Nevada Reno.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Center.
EHS Graduate Group faculty member Prof. Rachel Morello-Frosch has been honored with the Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence and Equity (CAAIEE) for her achievements in advancing equity, inclusion, and diversity through research, teaching, and public service.
Prof. Morello-Frosch’s research is focused on health and other concerns faced by vulnerable and marginalized populations in relation to their exposures to air pollution, chemicals, climate change and other hazards. Her work has had broad influence on policies and programs across government agencies, foundations, community organizations, the California legislature, the state Department of Public Health, and the EPA, and has shaped the academic fields of environmental health sciences and environmental justice.
Prof. Morello-Frosch plans to use the $10,000 CAAIEE award grant to develop and test new community-engaged strategies for recruiting underrepresented minority students to STEM fields that emphasize environmental science and health.
In new research appearing in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Jason Su and colleagues examine the relationship between asthma symptoms and pollution, and estimate the economic benefits of pollution reductions. Dr. Su and colleagues used a nationwide dataset tracking the use of rescue medication by asthmatic individuals in a study group of more than 2,800 participants over 6 years. The study participants’ activity spaces and associated air pollution exposures were also tracked and assigned. These data were then used to estimate the relationship between pollution and inhaler use. Dr. Su and colleagues found that a 12% increase in weekly exposure to PM2.5 increased weekly inhaler use by approximately 1%; the response to pollution exposure was found to vary according to season, region, and income within the study population. The researchers combined the results of their statistical model with prior findings on people's willingness to pay to avoid asthma symptoms, concluding that a 12% nationwide reduction in PM2.5 concentration would generate nearly $350 million annually in economic benefits. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Propeller Health, and the full study can be viewed here.
EHS students, faculty and staff are excited to welcome the newest additions to our faculty: Prof. Andres Cardenas and Prof. Jay Graham. Please join us in welcoming them to Environmental Health Sciences!
Andres Cardenas, PhD, MPH (starting January 1, 2019)
Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences
Dr. Andres Cardenas develops and applies computational approaches in environmental epigenomics, examining molecular and epigenetic targets of exposures to environmental hazards and their role in the development of disease. He is investigating the prenatal influence of metals, air pollution, endocrine disrupting compounds, diet and prenatal maternal medication use on the epigenome of infants and children. His current research evaluates the role of environmental exposures in utero, epigenetic modifications, and their potential role in the developmental origins of health and disease. Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty, Dr. Cardenas was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.
Jay Graham, PhD, MPH, MBA (starting January 1, 2019)
Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences
Dr. Jay Graham's research applies epidemiologic methods and next-generation DNA sequencing to refine our understanding of the spatial and temporal transmission of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and zoonotic infectious diseases. He has worked collaboratively in many settings in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and has extensive experience working on the US-México border where he conducted research on the primary prevention of diarrheal diseases and pneumonia within informal settlements of Ciudad Juárez, MX. His work has contributed to more efficient and cost-effective approaches to scale-up public health initiatives for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. Dr. Graham holds an M.P.H. and an M.B.A., and he received his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Prior to joining the Berkeley faculty, he served as a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow within the Bureau for Global Health at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he provided technical leadership on water, sanitation and hygiene and household air pollution programs. He also served on the faculty of the School of Public Health at George Washington University, where he directed the graduate program in Global Environmental Health.
A new study has found that people who ate more fast food were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates than people who ate more home-cooked meals.
Lead author Julia Varshavsky, who did the research while she was a grad student at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and is now a post doc in reproductive health and the environment at UCSF, studied data from the 10,253 participants in a national survey. They were asked to recall what they ate and where their food came from in the previous 24 hours. The researchers analyzed the links between what people ate and the levels of phthalate breakdown products found in their urine.
“People who ate the most fast food had phthalate levels that were as much as 40 percent higher,” said senior author Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University. “Our findings raise concerns because phthalates have been linked to a number of serious health problems in children and adults.”
People who ate in restaurants and cafeterias also had higher levels of phthalates than people who ate home-cooked meals. The study is the first to compare phthalate exposures in people who reported dining out to those more likely to enjoy home-cooked meals.
Story by Brett Israel, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Read the full story at Berkeley News
Research by Profs. Eskenazi, Bradman, Holland and others highlighted in the New York Times.
Professor John Casida taught in our program and was highly valued by our faculty and students. He will be greatly missed.
“Professor John Casida was a special person. A mentor to so many, including me, and a wonderful, kind man. The most brilliant scientists I have known are humble and always willing to help young people. John was one of those brilliant scientists. A world leader in the field of toxicology, member of the National Academies and Royal Society, and vibrant to the end - John will be remembered with fondness and gratitude by a new generation who can only hope to emulate him.”
Read the article honoring his life and service to UC Berkeley.
Join the EHS community for the PhD Colloquium and also featuring Masters students' Thesis and Capstone Poster session! This event will highlight the achievements of EHS students and recent graduates! Please RSVP
FRIDAY, MAY 11TH, 3:00-6:00 PM
Jessica An, PhD Candidate
The Effects of Air Pollution, Social Stressors, and Neighborhood Characteristics on Asthma and Related Outcomes Among Minority Children Living in California
Diane Garcia-Gonzales, PhD Candidate
Investigating the human health impact zone and exposures near oil and natural gas development and storage during both routine and non-routine operations
Phum Tachachartvanich, PhD Candidate
Investigating the effects of chemical exposure on steroid hormone receptor bioactivity in human populations and cell cultures
Tomas Leon, PhD Candidate
Elucidating Liver Fluke Transmission Dynamics: Synthesizing Lab, Field, and Modeling Methods
We hope that you'll be able to join us for this special event and support the Environmental Health Sciences Division.