Newsflash: New Biomarker detects Low Levels of Domoic Acid

©2012 Jupiterimages
A recent PloS ONE article co-authored by several CEEH researchers (Richard Beyer, Theo Bammler, and Frederico Farin), is getting a lot of attention. In the article, A Novel Antibody-Based Biomarker for Chronic Algal Toxin Exposure and Sub-Acute Neurotoxicity, NOAA scientist Kathi Lefebvre, reports on the authors' discovery of a biomarker present in zebrafish and sea lions that indicates repeated exposure to low levels of domoic acid (DA), a known neurotoxin to marine mammals, seabirds, and humans at high concentrations and/or chronic low-level exposure. Exposure to DA is especially of concern in coastal and tribal communities where shellfish is a major food source. The discovery is important in detecting low levels of DA exposure but also suggests that it may be possible to develop tests for exposures to other environmental toxins as well.

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Event Highlight: Public Health Café - Air Pollution

Drs. Julie Richman Fox and Sverre Vedal discuss an air pollution study in South Seattle.

May 17, 2012. To try to figure out the health effects of air pollution, researchers are studying traffic! Twenty-five UW students, faculty, and neighbors talked about air pollution and health at the Public Health Café at Chaco Canyon on May 15th from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.

Prof. Sverre Vedal told us that air pollution is everything that reduces visibility. In Puget Sound, most air pollution comes from two sources: traffic and burning wood. Air pollution contains many different things. Sverre focused on 3 of them: Particulate matter (PM) gets breathed deep into our lungs and causes blood vessels to contract. That makes blood pressure go up and can lead to cardiovascular disease. Ozone forms from chemical reactions between sunlight and nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from vehicles. Breathing ozone is associated with respiratory diseases like asthma. Finally, volatile organic compounds or VOCs are carbon-based molecules from vehicle engines that can cause cancer.

Dr. Julie Richman Fox talked about the research she’s doing to measure exposure to diesel exhaust in the south Seattle neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park. There are many kinds of air pollution on the south side, but a door-to-door survey found the people are most concerned about diesel exhaust from truck traffic. Julie showed us small exposure monitors that will be placed on light poles to measure outdoor pollution, and small plug-in monitors that will be used to measure air pollutants inside homes.

After the presentations, we had small group discussions at our tables. My table group talked about retrofitting diesel trucks to be less polluting and what regulations are already in place. One group pointed out that many residents of the area rely on local industries for jobs. This might mean tough choices between staying employed and cleaning up the air. Another group was concerned about how to best protect ourselves. A few ideas? It’s healthy to get exercise by walking, running or biking outside. If possible, however, do so away from traffic - especially heavy traffic. When you drive in traffic, roll up your windows and turn on your heater or air conditioner with the "recirculate air" feature on. In many newer cars this actually causes the air to go through a HEPA filter that removes many of the pollutants.

To close the evening, participants were asked to write a bumper sticker about health and air pollution. Here are a few of their responses:
  • If you can read this, you are being exposed to air pollution
  • Breathe through your nose
  • Don’t die from diesel: Get your truck serviced
  • Air pollution is happening right now!
  • Clean Air = Healthy Hearts

Event Highlight: Public Health Café - Biobanks

Participants at the Public Health Cafe during the table discussions

May 17, 2012. If you were asked to create a bumper sticker about donating tissue or DNA to research, what would it say? At our second Public Health Café  at Chaco Canyon Café we focused on what needs to happen to build better biobanks – and wrapped up the event by asking participants to give us their bumper sticker ideas. Sharon Terry of Genetic Alliance was the guest presenter; she weaved her personal story of her daughters’ rare genetic disease into the history and opportunities in biobanking. She showed us how it is possible to motivate researchers to collaborate and how much can be done when we work in partnership. It was a moving and very accessible way to get people thinking about what is at stake when someone is asked to decide whether to become a donor for biomedical research. Here are some of the wonderful slogans our participants shared with us:

  • Biobank: Invest in our future
  • Biobanks - A Way to Build a Better World
  • Biobanks Benefit Humans
  • I'm in! You're welcome.
  • I'm a Donor
  • Biobanks Save Lives
  • Data Sharing Means Researcher Caring
  • Don't let our biobanks go bankrupt, invest your DNA
  • Collect interest on your DNA - Invest in a biobank
  • Ask Me About Biobanking
  • That's my Data!
  • Biobanks - Get Involved!
  • Give, Live & Learn

On Our Minds: NPR Reviews New EH Book

© 2012 Jupiterimages Corporation

May 16, 2012. I just read a great article on the NPR website about the new book "Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History." Terry Gross also interviewed the author, Florence Williams, on Fresh Air - there's a link to that on the same page. The caption of the provocative photo on the page sums up the book's subject matter nicely: "Breasts are getting bigger and arriving earlier. They're also attracting chemicals and environmental toxins, which are getting passed along in breast milk." What really made an impression on me was the balanced view that the book's author presents about what we know, what we don't know, and what we can (and can't) do about it on an individual level. This is definitely a book worth adding to our CEEH Resource Library!