Aug 26, 2016

Intern Perspective: Toxic chemicals in our homes, The pollution we can control

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During Summer 2016, the Community Engagement team of the MADRES Environmental Health Disparities Center at USC began to host public health interns from Cal State LA. In response to a request that came from community groups in the LA area, interns began their work developing content and implementing workshops for local community groups around the theme of toxic chemicals in the homes. After conducting the first workshop in the series, interns Andrea Calderon and Giovanna Manson-Hing reflect upon their experience below. 

Every day people are exposed to hidden toxins whether it be at school, at work or even at home. Pollution is all around us and most times we can’t control it, but sometimes we can. One of the many ways we can control the pollution in our homes is through awareness of toxic chemicals found in cleaning products. Whether you are cleaning once a day or once a week, it is important to know what common chemicals found in products are harmful to you and your family. Chlorine, ammonia, sodium hydroxide, 2-butoxyethanol, PERC, triclosan, and added fragrance are just some of the many chemicals that have been found to cause short-term and long-term health effects. Short-term symptoms include skin irritations, sore throat, dizziness, and loss of coordination. Studies have shown that exposing yourself to these harmful toxins over the years may lead to chronic bronchitis, liver and kidney damage, asthma, reduced sperm counts, birth defects and even cancer. Who is vulnerable to these damaging health effects? Everyone at home, especially pregnant women and children.

Raffle basket of green cleaning products.
Many of these harmful chemicals are not listed on the back of the cleaning products because it is not federally regulated. The Toxic Chemicals in Our Homes workshop is designed to provide the knowledge and awareness to the community about the potential health effects linked to commonly used cleaning products at home. The workshop also teaches greener alternatives through DIY product recipes which include multipurpose cleaners, furniture polish, laundry detergent, and more. 
With resources from the Environmental Health Centers at USC, our first successful workshop took place on August 3 at Villa Esperanza in Los Angeles. Residents of this low-income apartment complex primarily spoke Spanish and were very interested in the information.  We facilitated the workshop in collaboration with community leaders from Esperanza Community Housing Corporation.
Workshop participants making a "green" all-purpose cleaning product.
Workshop presenters: Andrea Calderon (L) and Giovanna Manson-Hing (R).

From the 20 participants, we discovered that many of them used common household cleaning products like Windex, Pledge, Clorox Bleach, and a variety of air fresheners; all found to have chemicals with harmful health effects. When asked what symptoms they experienced while cleaning at home, many replied that they experience headaches, loss of coordination, skin irritations and respiratory effects. We then were able to explain, that these symptoms experienced were short term but could eventually develop into long term health effects.  

After all the information was presented, we provided recipe cards to each participant so that they could make take home samples of a toxic free all-purpose cleaner. As an incentive for their presence and participation, we raffled a Go Green Basket filled with recipe cards and already made furniture polish, multi-purpose cleaner, and laundry detergent. We left with a feeling of motivation to continue our work because it was clear that the majority of our participants had limited knowledge of the potential health effects linked to cleaning products that they use in their homes on a daily basis.

By Andrea Calderon and Giovanna Manson-Hing
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Aug 23, 2016

SCEHSC Seminar Series: "Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public"

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The SCEHSC Seminar Series presents


Jo Kay Ghosh, PhD

Health Effects Officer

South Coast Air Quality Management District


Friday, September 9, 2016

"Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public"

11:45am-1:00 p.m.

Soto Street I Building, Room 116

2001 North Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90032

If you would like to attend the FREE seminar, please email jacy@usc.edu

Dr. Jo Kay Ghosh is the Health Effects Officer at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). She earned her doctorate in Epidemiology from the UCLA School of Public Health, with her work on air pollution and birth outcomes. She also conducted post-doctoral research at the USC Department of Preventive Medicine, examining the effects of air pollution on cancer risk. Previously, she worked at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, where she managed the Epidemiology and Research Unit of the Tuberculosis Control Program. 

Visitor parking at the Soto Street Building is limited. If you are planning to park at the Soto building during the seminar please contact Marissa Jacy (jacy@usc.edu) for more information. If you are a USC employee, please plan to take the free USC shuttle to our seminars whenever possible. Information about the USC shuttle can be found at http://transet.usc.edu/index.php/bus-map-schedules/.

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Aug 19, 2016

AirPollBrain and CEHC Presents: "Perinatal Metal Exposure and Neurodevelopment: Identifying Windows of Susceptibility"

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Megan Horton, PhD

Assistant Professor


Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Perinatal Metal Exposure and Neurodevelopment: Identifying Windows of Susceptibility"

11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

AirPollBrain Mini-Symposium: "Air Pollution and Adolescent Brain Development"

12:00 p.m.-1:30p.m.


If you would like to attend this FREE seminar, please email Marissa Jacy at jacy@usc.edu 
Dr. Horton earned her doctoral degree in Environmental Health Sciences at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. During her doctoral training, she gained expertise in the development and use of biological markers to measure prenatal and early life exposures to environmental toxicants, focusing mainly on residential exposure to pesticides. Subsequently, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sergievsky Center for the Epidemiologic Study of Neurologic Diseases. The focus of this postdoc was to explore the use of brain imaging to investigate the impact of prenatal exposure to pesticides and secondhand smoke on neuropsychological and behavioral function throughout childhood. Dr. Horton was recently awarded an NIH career transition award and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her current work combines her experience with biomarker development and neuroimaging to understand the mechanisms of neurodevelopmental toxicity following exposure to chemical mixtures.

Visitor parking at the Soto Street Building is limited. If you are planning to park at the Soto building during the seminar please contact Marissa Jacy (jacy@usc.edu) for more information. If you are a USC employee, please plan to take the free USC shuttle to our seminars whenever possible. Information about the USC shuttle can be found at http://transet.usc.edu/index.php/bus-map-schedules/.
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Aug 16, 2016

Special Seminar with Manish Arora, PhD: "Reconstructing Early Life Environment Exposures Using Tooth Matrix Biomarkers"

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Manish Arora is Director of Exposure Biology and Division Chief of Environmental Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. He graduated as a dentist from India, undertook postgraduate public health training in Australia and postdoctoral training at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has used a number of advanced analytical chemistry and nuclear beam methods, including laser ablation-coupled mass spectrometry, and synchrotron and proton-based x-ray emission for bio-imaging of hard and soft tissues. Dr. Arora has published his work in leading journals including Nature and Nature Reviews Neurology, and his work was recently recognized by the New Innovator Award from the NIEHS and NIH Director's office. 


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Aug 4, 2016

Air pollution affects lung cancer survival time

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Exposure to higher levels of air pollution shortens survival after lung cancer diagnosis

PRESS COVERAGE: The Guardian, Press Enterprise

Exposure to air pollution has many impacts across the lifespan and has now been linked to survival of patients after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer has been the most commonly diagnosed cancer over the past several decades. Patterns of lung cancer incidence and mortality have been closely tied to exposure to tobacco smoke across time and place. There is also a growing body of evidence that shows that air pollution exposures are associated with lung cancer incidence and mortality but, since survival times after lung cancer diagnosis can be quite short, few studies have attempted to disentangle the two. In addition, the International agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified ambient air pollution as carcinogenic.

“We thought that if ambient air pollution is a carcinogen that can drive lung cancer development, then exposure to air pollution in patients already diagnosed with lung cancer could promote the progression of their disease through the same biological pathways.” said Sandrah Eckel, PhD, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and lead author of the research. Therefore, Dr. Eckel and colleagues at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California decided to more closely explore the question of whether lung cancer survival times might be affected by air pollution.

The research, published this month in Thorax, shows that the length of time that lung cancer patients live after diagnosis varies depending on their exposures to regional pollution. Researchers found that the median survival for people diagnosed with early stage lung cancers who lived in areas with high levels of regional pollution was approximately 3 years shorter than for people who lived in areas with lower levels of pollution.  “We focused on California, since there are a wide range of air pollution levels here and one of the largest and longest running air quality monitoring networks and cancer registry system in the US,” said Eckel.


Dr. Eckel and her team of researchers looked at lung cancer data from over 350,000 patients in the California Cancer Registry who were diagnosed with lung cancer between 1988-2009. From the extensive and detailed dataset, the team assigned air pollution exposure levels based on the average exposure at the patient’s residence at diagnosis. The pollutants that were used included: nitrogen dioxide (NO2, ppb), ozone (O3, ppb), and particulate matter with diameter <10 μm (PM10, mg/m3) and 2.5 μm (PM2.5, mg/m3).  “This study is unique in that it looks at another modifiable risk factor, besides smoking, that can impact lung cancer survival after diagnosis. The California Cancer Registry data provided a large, population-based sample of all lung cancer cases diagnosed in California over the last 20 years, minimizing the biases often encountered in other types of study designs,” said Dr. Eckel.

In general, the stage of cancer at diagnosis is a major determinant of survival, with patients diagnosed with earlier stage cancer living longer. As expected, the impacts of air pollution on survival were most evident in patients diagnosed at an early stage, when their cancer was localized to only their lungs. The median survival in patients with localized cancer at diagnosis living in areas with higher levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was only 2.4 years as compared to 5.7 years in patients living in areas with lower levels of PM2.5. Patients whose cancer had spread to other parts of their bodies had shorter survival times overall and showed little difference in survival time whether they had high or low exposures to air pollution. These patterns of association persisted even after adjusting for numerous socio-demographic characteristics and type of cancer treatment.

The study’s findings are intriguing, but additional research is needed to determine the causality of the association between air pollution and lung cancer survival rates. Even so, these findings suggest that newly diagnosed lung cancer patients might want to consider taking precautions to reduce their own exposures to air pollution. As we continue to see increased emphasis on lung cancer screening, we will see more and more patients diagnosed with lung cancer at early stages and these are the patients that could potentially benefit the most from reduced air pollution exposures.

What can lung cancer patients with a locally diagnosed cancer do to take action that may effectively extend their survival times? Dr. Frank Gilliland, senior investigator on the study said, “In the short-term, common-sense precautions to reduce personal exposure to air pollution exposures include avoidance of places and times with high air pollution levels and using indoor home filtration systems. In the long-term, air quality standards should be evaluated to consider whether they are adequately protecting human health.”

The article, “Air pollution affects lung cancer survival time” by Sandrah P Eckel, Myles Cockburn, Yu-Hsiang Shu, Huiyu Deng, Frederick W Lurmann, Lihua Liu, and Frank D Gilliland. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207927) appears in Thorax, Published Online First (August 4, 2016)

Related links: 
Article
Editorial by Dr. Jamie E. Hart, Harvard
Podcast interview with Dr. Hart

This work was supported by the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (grant 5P30ES007048) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the Hastings Foundation; the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement U58DP003862-01 awarded to the California Department of Public Health.



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Jul 26, 2016

SCEHSC Workshop Seminar: High-Resolution Metabolomics: A Platform for Exposome Research

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The SCEHSC Seminar Series presents


Douglas Walker

PhD Candidate

Emory University, School of Medicine
Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine

Tufts University
Environmental Sustainability Laboratory
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Friday, August 12, 2016

"High-Resolution Metabolomics: A Platform for Exposome Research"

12:00-1:00 p.m.

Practical Considerations for Chemical Measurement by High-Resolution Metabolomics 

 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Soto Street II Building, Room 2902
2011 North Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90032

If you would like to attend the FREE seminar, please email jacy@usc.edu

Douglas Walker received his BS in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will be defending his doctoral dissertation in Environmental Engineering from Tufts University in September 2016, which was primarily completed in the laboratory of Dr. Dean Jones at Emory University. He is currently a member of the Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory and HERCULES Exposome Research Center, both at Emory University. The primary focus of his research is to integrate measures of environmental exposure, health outcomes and high-resolution metabolomics in both animal models and human populations. Application of this framework using advanced biostatistic/bioinformatic techniques provides a component for sequencing the human exposome and understanding the contribution of environmental exposures in disease pathophysiology.

 Seminar Abstract:

Sequencing the human genome considerably advanced the understanding of human disease but did not fully achieve expectations in the identification of genetic polymorphisms underlying risk. Current estimates suggest that only 10-20% of diseases have a strong genetic component, with the remaining 80-90% attributable to the environmental exposures or gene-environment interactions. A more complete understanding of how environmental factors contribute to disease susceptibility and progression is required for mitigating risk, developing effective treatment strategies and identifying at risk populations; however, no unified method exists to characterize the sum involvement of lifestyle and environment in disease. High-resolution metabolomics (HRM) using liquid chromatography interfaced to ultra-high accuracy mass spectrometers is a promising analytical platform for untargeted environmental chemical surveillance and bioeffect monitoring. Improvements in HRM have made it possible to measure and characterize upwards of 15,000 unique features in biological samples, which include metabolites from core nutrient metabolism, lipids, the microbiome, diet-derived chemicals, pharmaceuticals and environmental contaminants. In the Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory at Emory University, efforts are underway to develop HRM as a unifying platform linking environmental exposures to internal dose, biological response and underlying mechanisms of chemical toxicity that contribute to exposure-related diseases. To date, we have analyzed over 3000 human samples with a wide range of well-characterized exposures, including occupational exposure to volatile organic compounds, ultrafine particles, burn pit exposures, diesel exhaust, combustion products and persistent organic pollutants. Association of the metabolic phenotype with external exposure and body burden estimates determined using traditional epidemiological approaches shows HRM can detect dose-related changes in exogenous chemicals and metabolic pathway perturbations linked to disease outcomes. Combined with complementary measures, such as inflammatory markers, gene expression, protein levels and/or physiological changes, it is possible to develop a systems-biology based approach to understanding chemical toxicology in humans. Thus, HRM is poised to provide a robust foundation for exposome research and facilitate development of a knowledge base of environmental chemicals, their distribution and associated effects among human populations. 

Visitor parking at the Soto Street Building is limited. If you are planning to park at the Soto building during the seminar please contact Marissa Jacy (jacy@usc.edu) for more information. If you are a USC employee, please plan to take the free USC shuttle to our seminars whenever possible. Information about the USC shuttle can be found at http://transet.usc.edu/index.php/bus-map-schedules/.

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Jul 25, 2016

Event: Landscaping Environmental Equity in LA County

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016
9am-12pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health
11833 Wilmington Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90059
RSVP here.

The Community Outreach team will be participating in this meeting hosted by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Empowerment Congress, to provide a local look at recent environmental challenges and their impact on public health. 

The meeting will be held Wednesday, August 3 in Willowbrook at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health.  Join the meeting to learn about the impacts on public health, the new Toxic Strike Team, and an oil well inventory in LA County. Talk about your top environmental and health concerns, and how organizations, agencies, and residents can partner to continue to work on creating a healthier environment. 

Speakers include Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Bhavna Shamasunder of Occidental College, Angelo Bellomo: Deputy Director for Health Protection, and Luis Perez: MRS Environmental.   The Community Outreach team will provide a demonstration of monitors used to provide information about gas pollutants near homes.



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