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Researchers Quoted in USA Today

By Blondell Peterson
September 2005

USA Today front page cover

Retha Newbold, a developmental endocrinologist, and Ken Korach, director of the NIEHS Environmental Disease and Medicine Program, were quoted extensively in a USA Today article Aug. 3. The article on the front page of the Life section was titled, "Are our products our enemy?"

The article focused on chemicals that are widely used for convenience but can be health hazards. Chemicals that keep food fresh, hair stylish, floors shiny and fabrics stain free may be endocrine disruptors.

Newbold said she was very pleased when she saw the article in USA Today. She believes that recognition of her research by the national media means that the lab's research is reaching the public and addressing public health concerns.

"Endocrine disruptor research has faced sharp criticism from both the public and the scientific community in the past but now it is becoming an accepted legitimate field of study for both wildlife and human health," she said. "It is gratifying to see the research move from debates on whether there are low dose effects from environmental exposure to what the effects are, which will then allow us to determine if the effects are harmful."

In the article, Newbold cited particular concern for developmental exposure of the fetus and young child. She said the protective mechanisms that adults have, such as DNA repair, the immune system, detoxification enzymes, liver metabolism and the blood/brain barrier are not fully functional in the fetus or newborn. Newborns may be exposed to endocrine disruptors during critical states of development and suffer permanent consequences. Some of these may not be detected until later in life, she said.

Korach said in the article that the past three years have seen significant advances in "epidemiological evidence and the development of animal models" to help scientists understand how endocrine disruptors work. However, he noted that scientists have not done enough research on looking at combinations of chemicals and the body's reaction. Most people are not exposed to only a single chemical, he said.


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