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Transgenerational Effects of Toxic Chemicals

The Environmental Working Group has come out with a new report about how the toxics we are exposed to today can affect the health of our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren by altering the way genes function. These exposures are cumulative not only in the individual but across generations. Please read and reconsider your use of pesticides, endocrine disruptors, and other common toxic chemicals.


WASHINGTON The harmful effects of some chemicals can be passed down not only to children, but also to grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, according to a new EWG report on the growing body of transgenerational toxicity research.

The impact of toxic chemicals on generations of offspring with no direct exposure to the contaminant is known as a transgenerational effect. A limited number of new studies suggest that short-term exposures to some chemicals during pregnancy can cause reproductive system damages, alter body weight, and even increase the risk of cancer for great-grandchildren of exposed animals.

“New science suggests that exposure to contaminants during pregnancy can have health impacts decades later,” said EWG Senior Analyst Sonya Lunder, author of the report. “We need to know more about this phenomenon in order to protect our children and great-grandchildren from the effects of harmful pollutants.”

Groundbreaking research by Mohan Manikkam and Michael Skinner of Washington State University at Pullman helped establish the principle of transgenerational toxicity by showing how toxic chemicals affect subsequent generations that are not directly exposed. In one study, the researchers tested the transgenerational impacts of mixtures of chemicals that people are commonly exposed to in everyday life, including bug repellents, plastics additives and jet fuel. After exposing pregnant rats, they bred three subsequent generations of animals with no exposure to the contaminants.

Despite no direct exposure to the chemicals, the third-generation rats had damaged reproductive systems. Females had an earlier onset of puberty and fewer undeveloped eggs in their ovaries. Male rats had higher levels of dead sperm.

Very few studies of multigenerational health effects in people have been conducted so far. More experimental research is necessary to learn more about this phenomenon and shed light on several concerning health trends including infertility, obesity, and even cancer.

You can read more at here or here.

60 MiNuets: Toxics

Thanks to the Environmental Health Team at UCSF for this fun and educational series on environmental toxics!

They said lead was safe. They said smoking was good for you.
What are they selling now?

A new team of reporters investigates how toxic chemicals are undermining our health and why government is failing to stop it. Modeled after the original 60 Minutes legendary journalists, you can meet the 60 MiNueTs Toxic team here:

Brought to you by University of California, San Francisco’s Environmental Health Initiative and the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, we will unveil one segment a week for the next six weeks featuring scientists and physicians from Columbia, Harvard, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and, of course, UCSF.  Each segment is about 2 to 3 minutes.

As we premiere them on our social media channels, we hope you will share them with your networks.  You can follow and share from our Twitter and Facebook.  Or copy and paste these sample posts:

Facebook: They tried to keep their findings a secret. Find out what these investigative reporters uncovered. #60MiNueTs @UCSF.PRHEhttp://bit.ly/60MiNueTsPlaylist #HealthNotToxics #SaveEPA

Twitter: A new team uncovers the shocking truth about environmental health threats. @UCSF_PRHE http://bit.ly/60MiNueTsPlaylist #60MiNueTsToxic #HealthNotToxics #SaveEPA

In addition to the series preview, the segments include:

We want to thank the scientists who participated in this project as well as puppeteer Liz Joyce who brought our reporters to life and the Public Interest Media Group for producing the series.

Thank you and we look forward to your thoughts.

Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH
Professor and Director, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
Co-Founder, Environmental Health Initiative
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences
University of California, San Francisco


Fifteen Years: Remembering Katherine


Fifteen years ago today, my eight-year-old daughter Katherine died of a preventable leukemia caused, we have every reason to believe, by mosquito spraying with chlorpyrifos, without permission or notification. Most parents cannot imagine what it is like to wake up and find their beloved child dead beside them. Let’s fight to make sure fewer parents ever do.

This week, as part of my MPH internship, I begin working with the Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health to distribute educational materials to Pediatrician and OB/Gyn offices in the Chicago Region. Anyone should feel free to email me (jkauth@ben.edu) for copies to take to their own providers. If only we had known that this pernicious practice still existed — of broadcast spraying deadly pesticides down streets, in homes, coating every object and piece of vegetation — we would have stopped it. We did stop it, too late for Katherine. And mosquito spraying is only one route for exposure. But right now, you and I can work to help prevent children’s exposures today and tomorrow, exposures that often cause cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, birth defects, and auto-immune disease. Pesticide exposures even contribute to the obesity epidemic. If we can reduce the average person’s exposure to tobacco smoke, with long-lasting health benefits for all, we can do the same thing for exposure to toxics.

I laid flowers on my daughter’s grave tonight — including one of hers, pink, her favorite color — but that is not how I will remember her. I will remember my daughter by working every day to right the terrible injustice that killed her, that deprived her of all these years she should have had with us. That is what, in her precocious wisdom, she would have expected of me.

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Resources for Providers

Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU)


PEHSU’s Pediatric Environmental Toolkit


Great Lakes Center for Children’s Environmental Health


USCF: Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment: Clinical Practice


National Environmental Education Foundation: Health


EPA: Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings


Midwest Pesticide Action Network


American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on Pesticides


President’s Cancer Panel 2010: Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk


TENDR Consensus Statement


CDC Biomonitoring Project


Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA): Generation in Jeopardy

http://www.panna.org/resources/publication-report/report-generation-jeopardy or http://www.panna.org/resources/kids-frontline

Environmental Working Group (EWG): Dirty Dozen, Cosmetics, Ten Americans

https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php or http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ or http://www.ewg.org/news/videos/10-americans

CDC / ATSDR Environmental Health and Medicine Education: CME credit


Healthy Fish Choices: CME credit


Green Kids Doc Blog


Poisoning Children Blog


Last Chance to Speak out against Chlorpyrifos!

Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) offers a customizable petition to speak out against one of the worst pesticides around. Abundant evidence of the harm to children has been around for decades, yet it has not been banned, despite the EPA’s own recommendations before the election. I and both my children were acutely ill from exposure, and my daughter went straight from acute symptoms of exposure to leukemia. If only a generation previous had banned it, as they should have, she would have been twenty-three years old right now.

I mentioned Katherine, and all the other children who are affected by childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, and lowered IQs. Bouchard and others showed in 2011 that the children with the top fifth highest levels of chlorpyrifos in their blood were seven IQ points lower than those in the bottom fifth, and that’s not zero. This is one study showing one effect on children, but there are hundreds if not thousands of others. You can read more on my blogs here or here.

Visit Panna at http://www.panna.org/take-action/epa-follow-science-chlorpyrifos to make your comments.

EPA, follow the science on chlorpyrifos


14,002 Signatures Collected
Only 11,598 more until our goal of 25,600

To: Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator
From: Jean-Marie Kauth

Dear Administrator Pruitt,

The sudden reversal of your agency’s plans to get chlorpyrifos off the market was shameful. The March 29 decision cannot stand. All chlorpyrifos uses must be banned to protect children, workers and consumers from this brain-harming chemical.

The science is in: There are no safe uses of chlorpyrifos. Prenatal exposures to this chemical are associated with reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders and delayed motor development. Whenever chlorpyrifos is sprayed, it can cause immediate and long-term health harms to kids, farmers, farmworkers and others who are exposed.

In its latest risk assessment of chlorpyrifos, your agency’s scientists determined that:

* All food exposures exceed safe levels, with children ages 1-2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times what the EPA deems safe.
* There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
* Chlorpyrifos is found at unsafe levels in the air at schools and homes in communities in agricultural areas.
* All workers who mix and apply chlorpyrifos are exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide, even with maximum personal protective equipment and engineering controls.

Action on this neurotoxic chemical is long overdue. We insist that you follow your own scientists’ recommendations and take action to ban chlorpyrifos.

Fight against the new Anti-EPA!

Dear Readers,
I just donated to Earthjustice–because the earth needs a #goodlawyer! Join me: http://ejus.tc/2gKu2nW Earthjustice is fighting the reckless decision to approve the pesticide that killed our beloved daughter Katherine. Scott Pruitt does not care in the least how many of our precious children are killed by indiscriminate use of pesticides and other environmental chemicals. Chlorpyrifos has been linked to childhood cancer, autism, ADHD, and many other maladies. Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA is now working against its own mission to protect Americans from environmental hazards; rather, it is working to blind us to the damage done by the chemical and fossil fuel industries.

Voted for Trump? You will have had a hand in many more deaths like Katherine’s


Does that sound harsh? Harsh is waking up to the news that decades of work by scientists, activists, and environmental groups to ban the chemical that killed your daughter has been undone in one moment by an imbecile with no respect for truth or evidence, people or planet. If you voted for Trump and didn’t see this coming, you didn’t do your homework. Climate Change Denier and Head of the Trump EPA Scott Pruitt ignored his own scientists’ recommendations to ban chlorpyrifos, linked for decades to childhood cancer and significant neurocognitive impacts, and instead kowtowed to its producer, Dow Chemical. Children are constantly exposed to this chemical through food residues, contaminated drinking water, and pesticide drift from farm fields. Katherine was poisoned by mosquito spray, an application still permitted under current law, without permission or notification of residents. There are decades of evidence of chlorpyrifos’s acute and chronic toxicity, beginning with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — in 1962! Not banning this chemical sooner has meant the death of my beloved first-born child and countless others. There is not a person reading this who can protect their loved ones from exposures like this, regardless of income level and privilege. Once released into the environment, organophosphates like chlorpyrifos can drift and cause untold damage. Once brought inside through pesticide drift, mosquito application, or contamination on shoes, chlorpyrifos takes months to break down. And this is only one such pesticide and one such environmental threat. If Trump’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA passes, expect increases in childhood asthma, ADHD, autism, auto-immune disease, cancer, and more. Gone are our clean water and air.  Sadly, any government website, including the EPA and CDC, can no longer be trusted, and data is being deleted daily. Climate Change? Forfeiting the meager gains of the Paris Agreement will mean hundreds of thousands of additional deaths in coming years. It is no exaggeration at all to say that the future of civilization is under threat.

Abraham Lincoln once said “What is morally wrong cannot be politically correct.” He also reportedly said “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” This is the time for speaking out, for vehemence, even for truculence. Any friend I lose for posting the truth about the death of children, including my own, is well lost. Did you vote for Trump? It is not too late to oppose him — in the name of dead children, past and future, and the dead planet towards which we are tending.

Contact Scott Pruitt – Head of the EPA
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/EPA
Twitter: @EPAScottPruitt
Scott Pruitt – Head of the EPA – has decided to ignore the science and the recommendation of his own agency and has chosen not to ban a widely used but seriously harmful insecticide. Contact him to tell him this is not acceptable.
Thanks to Jen Breese for this suggestion.

The Role of the State in Regulating Disease and Death


This week, my Public Health Policy class asked us to debate a thesis about whether or not government should play a role in regulating behaviors that cause increases in death and disease. In the past, this kind of question might have seemed too obvious for debate; now such basic questions have gained in urgency and poignancy, as we face the destruction of even the most basic protections offered by the EPA.

The state absolutely has a legitimate role “in modifying, discouraging, burdening or even prohibiting behaviours that increase both morbidity and mortality.” I will leave aside such behaviors as truly affect only the individual, like, perhaps, obesity, even though the case could be made, on the basis of increased health care costs for all alone, that this too should be discouraged, perhaps by taxes on unhealthy food. But many of the behaviors that people feel entitled to engage in that increase morbidity and mortality do so by directly causing illness and death in other people. The famous dictum is that my right to swing my arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins. Well what about the chemical plume put out by industry, or the mercury and particulates emitted by coal-burning power plants, or the chlorpyrifos sprayed for mosquitoes on some summer night, without notifying or seeking permission from residents: where do those stop? I will tell you. They don’t stop. They end up contaminating every human being on the face of the earth to one extent or another, including Inuit with low-impact lifestyles whose breastmilk is among the most toxic on Earth because of their consumption of marine mammals; including people who live in the most remote reaches of southeast Asia, who burn Western electronics in open burn pits; including every single infant ever born now, and all those born for the foreseeable future (CDC 2009). We are all contaminated with hundreds of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and neurotoxic chemicals, and those are just the ones we know to test for (CDC 2009). The vast majority of the 80,000+ synthetic chemicals in production today in the U.S. have never been tested for safety, not even in the short-term, single-substance animal trials that pass for testing now. And this is the state of things WITH an EPA. People tend not to notice those things done to protect them. That is the nature of Public Health. Very few take the time to thank those researchers of past decades who decreased morbidity and mortality and saved their children by developing vaccines and antibiotics and sanitation and other public health measures — because they cannot know with certainty that it was their children who would have been saved. People forget that air and water are visibly and substantially cleaner than before the Clean Air and Water Acts of the 70s. People also tend not to notice a vast excess of morbidity and mortality when the link between cause and effect is obscured, by time, distance, or the deliberate efforts of an industry protecting selfish economic interests. But that is the case now with the increase in cancer, autism, ADHD, lower IQs, and higher rates of birth defects, auto-immune disease, diabetes, and obesity (PANNA 2016; AAP 2012; PCP 2010). All of these are linked to indiscriminate use of environmental chemicals. So yes, I would say it is one of the chief purposes and duties of the government to regulate such behaviors—because they have imperiled some and deprived others of their essential right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As Rachel Carson wrote more than 50 years ago, “If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem (Carson 1962, pp. 12-13). If only we had heeded her warnings, Katherine might now have been alive.



American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012). Statement on pesticides. Pediatrics 130 (6). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/6/e1757

Carson, R. (1962). Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). (2016). Kids on the frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children. Retrieved from https://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KOF-report-final.pdf

President’s Cancer Panel (PCP). (2010). Reducing environmental cancer risk: What we can do now. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf