New Horizons in Science

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Chemical exposures and consumer health: The case of uterine fibroids

Topic: Environmental health
Monday, October 15, 2018 -
4:05pm to 4:55pm
Lisner Auditorium

Phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals are widespread in food packaging, cosmetics, personal care products, and even household dust, breast milk and drinking water. Ami Zota’s work has documented many of the pathways of exposure to these substances, which have been linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive disorders. Some of the linked health problems are markedly more severe among vulnerable populations, but it can be hard to tease out the role of environmental chemicals from among many health stressors.

In a novel study, Zota currently is looking at a reproductive health issue, uterine fibroids, that disproportionately affects African-American women. She and her colleagues hope to understand whether chemical exposure might cause epigenetic modifications — changes in gene expression that could be heritable. Women recruited for the study are monitored over time for their exposure to beauty products and other sources of phthalates as well as psychosocial factors, and the biological action of the chemicals is traced through the expression of key microRNAs. Zota will report on interdisciplinary efforts to update regulations and industrial practices, and how such studies can inform changes that could reduce kinds of exposure that are hazardous to all. 

Social media hashtag: #DisruptedHealth
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