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Environmental Factor, December 2015

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This month in EHP

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The December issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) highlights the decline of fruit trees in Africa, and the need for greater racial diversity in health studies.

Africa’s Indigenous Fruit Trees: A Blessing in Decline

The indigenous fruits of sub-Saharan Africa, including baobab, desert date, black plum, and native varieties of mango, have long provided essential nutrients and other ecosystem services, including soil stability and carbon storage. Farmers have never needed to cultivate these once-bountiful wild trees. But as the trees’ natural habitats are lost, questions arise over where they will grow in the future and whether they will continue to provide the same wide range of benefits.

Racial Disparities in Research Studies: The Challenge of Creating More Diverse Cohorts

Minority populations are more likely to deal with pollution, poor housing, and certain other environmental factors than their white counterparts, yet are much less likely to be included in studies on environmentally related diseases that disproportionately affect minority communities. A failure to create more racially diverse research cohorts, some experts say, could worsen existing health disparities.

Research summaries featured this month include:

Unexpected Activity: Evidence for Obesogenicity of BPA Metabolite — A new study indicates that the metabolite beta-D-glucuronide, like its parent compound bisphenol A (BPA), can induce pre-adipocytes to develop into mature fat cells.

Low-Dose BPA and DNA Damage: Examining Mechanisms of Action — Previous studies have connected BPA exposure to molecular events in breast cells that are characteristic of cancer development. New research implicates a gene involved earlier in the molecular pathway than earlier studies have shown.

Identifying Potential Breast Carcinogens: A New Approach — A team of researchers used a novel framework to identify appropriate tests for disease-specific chemical risk assessment. They worked backward from a specific health outcome — in this case, breast cancer — through its associated biological mechanisms, to determine the right test.

Folic Acid and Reduced Blood Arsenic: Nutritional Remediation for a Toxic Exposure? — Researchers report that folic acid supplementation is associated with reduced average blood arsenic levels in Bangladeshi residents who drank arsenic-contaminated water.

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