ECHO Researchers Analyze Potential Toxicity of Chemicals, Discover Gaps in Chemical Research

 

Edo Pellizzari, PhD, RTI International, ECHO Researcher

In a recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, ECHO researchers discuss their work on identifying and ranking chemicals that have not been biomonitored nationally but may negatively affect child health. Biomonitoring is a process that detects chemicals that people are exposed to and measures how much of those chemicals get into the body.

To collect information, researchers examined different environmental elements (i.e., food, water, air, house dust) and household products that may contain toxic chemicals. Among other tasks, they put the chemicals into three groups:

  1. Chemicals recommended for biomonitoring
  2. Chemicals that need more information
  3. Chemicals that are a low priority for biomonitoring

Of the identified 720 chemicals, 155 were selected for prioritization, and of these, 36 were recommended for biomonitoring, 108 need additional research, and 11 were considered low priority. The chemicals recommended for biomonitoring add to the list of those currently studied by the ECHO Program. The chemicals that did not meet the three criteria – prevalence in environmental media or biospecimens, toxicity and a biomarker for its measurement – show the gap in current chemical research.

“There is a large opportunity to expand our ability to measure and evaluate chemicals to which the public is likely exposed,” the authors note. “These opportunities include performing exposure measurements, developing methods for biomonitoring, and toxicity testing of chemicals.”

While several thousand chemicals are approved for use in the United States, there is little information on biomonitoring of exposures in pregnant women, babies, and children. This limits the ability to evaluate the potential health impact of a variety of chemicals.

Through this study, the research team hopes others in the science community will be encouraged to study the identified chemicals and improve understanding of the potential health consequences they present in pregnant women, infants, and young kids.

ECHO Researchers Identify Gaps in Prenatal Opioid Exposure Research

Elisabeth Conradt, PhD

This week, Pediatrics published results from ECHO researcher Elisabeth Conradt and her team’s efforts to learn more about prenatal opioid exposure and its effects on child development. Conradt and her team reviewed 52 publications to summarize what is known and make suggestions on how to expand knowledge in this area. The resulting article includes perspectives on how the ECHO Program can help learn more about this important topic.

“The number one question mothers, fathers, and clinicians have when they see that a mother is using opioids while pregnant is ‘how will this opioid exposure affect the child’s health?’ We cannot answer that question right now with the existing data,” Conradt said.

The team analyzed existing publications on three age groups: birth, infancy, and 2 years and older. Because of inconsistent and limited data, Condradt’s team was not able to understand a connection between prenatal opioid exposure and how children’s minds develop throughout life. However, they predict that the effects of the exposure at birth and infancy are small and subtle, but may increase as children age and have more demands on their attention at home and school.

Current studies were limited because of small sample sizes and difficulty controlling for confounding factors such as where a person lives or how much money their family makes.

Moving forward, the team will use ECHO data to test how prenatal opioid exposure affects learning, understanding, behavior, and attention span in middle childhood. They will also consider other possible factors such as poverty. Conradt noted that the team will also look at whether newborns who have neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) have worse effects compared with newborns exposed to opioids who do not have NAS/NOWS.

Read the study summary and full media release.

JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY

Research Review: Intergenerational transmission of disadvantage: epigenetics and parents’ childhoods as the first exposure

Scorza P, Duarte CS, Hipwell AE, Posner J, Ortin A, Canino G, Monk C.

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Scorza P, Duarte CS, Hipwell AE, Posner J, Ortin A, Canino G, Monk C. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 23. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12877. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed PMID: 29473646

Topics: Epigenetics

THE JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS

Advancing the Science of Children’s Positive Health in the National Institutes of Health Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Research Program

Forrest C, Blackwell C, Camargo CA Jr.

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Forrest C, Blackwell C, Camargo CA Jr. J Pediatr. 2018 May;196:298-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Mar 19. PubMed PMID: 29567045

Topics: Positive Health