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Under the pretense of a circular economy, plastic is being dumped in places where it shouldn't be – such as horse riding arenas, football fields and children's playgrounds. In this episode on the Plastic Health Channel, scientists question whether playing on these fields and playgrounds is actually safe.
"Prevention is the cure for child/teen cancer." This is the welcoming statement on a website called 'TheReasonsWhy.Us', where families affected by childhood cancers can sign up for a landmark new study into the potential environmental causes.
<p>The study is a joint project between Texas Children's Hospital, part of the world's largest medical center, and The Oliver Foundation, founded by the parents of a 12-year-old boy who died 36 hours after he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, one week after the onset of headaches.</p><p>After signing up, participants are contacted by the hospital's medical school, <a href="https://www.bcm.edu/news/baylor-launches-landmark-online-pediatric-cancer-study" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Baylor College of Medicine</a>, to fill out a questionnaire about their environment going back from pre-conception through pregnancy and childhood, to identify chemical contaminants in the places that they live, learn, work and play, to the point where they developed cancer. </p><p><a href="https://www.texaschildrens.org/find-a-doctor/michael-scheurer-phd-mph" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Dr. Michael Scheurer</a>, director of the childhood cancer epidemiology and prevention program at Texas Children's Hospital, the nation's largest pediatric cancer center, is quoted in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/30/toxic-america-families-seek-answers-childhood-cancers" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Guardian</a> saying: "[This research] … will allow families who might not live near one of the existing study centers to participate as they are comfortable. In the end, if we see that several kinds of cancers share some risk factors that's important information, but we want to start with a very homogeneous group of cancers and start looking into these patients first. Signposts will pop up along the way."</p><p>When Oliver died in 2015, his parents Simon and Vilma Strong struggled to understand what may have led to their son's cancer, and whether it could have been prevented. They agonized over having used Roundup – the herbicide containing glyphosate, which is <a href="https://www.iarc.who.int/featured-news/media-centre-iarc-news-glyphosate/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">linked to leukemia</a> – to kill weeds in their yard and garden. Or could it have been the crumb rubber artificial turf athletic fields, made with toxic petrochemicals, where their goalkeeper son had played soccer? </p><p>In addition to cancer, exposures to harmful chemicals can lead to learning and behavioral impairments, developmental delays, reproductive harm, and chronic diseases including autoimmune disease, asthma, and obesity. The important work of preventing these health harms can only be done if we increase our efforts to identify the causes— including industrial and environmental pollutants— and reduce or replace them to prevent harmful exposures.</p><p>Sadly, as the 2020 <a href="https://www.cancerfreeeconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/CFE_ChildhoodCancerPrevention_Report_F2.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Childhood Cancer Prevention Report</a> confirms, <a href="https://curesearch.org/Incidence-Rates-Over-Time" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">childhood cancer incidence rates</a>, the number of new cases per 1,000 children, have steadily increased over the last few decades across all racial/ethnic groups. Cancer is now responsible for more than <a href="https://curesearch.org/Childhood-Cancer-Deaths-Per-Year" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">half of all childhood and teenage deaths</a>, making this study all the more urgent.</p><p>Oliver's family may never know exactly what led to the cancer that took his life. But the study they've helped to launch can identify the environmental contributors to cancer and other diseases – and that knowledge can inform policies and practices to better protect families from toxic products and pollution.</p><p><em>If you're interested in participating in the study, please sign up at </em><a href="https://thereasonswhy.us/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://thereasonswhy.us/</a> <em>; if you have any questions about involvement, please contact </em><em>Simon Strong at firstname.lastname@example.org.</em></p><p><em>Jennifer Sass is a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Nsedu Obot Witherspoon is the executive director of the Children's Environmental Health Network; Dr. Philip Landrigan is director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good, director of the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health, a biology professor at Boston College; and Simon Strong is founder and executive director of TheReasonsWhyUs. </em></p><p><em>Banner photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ronsombilongallery/3874999965/in/photolist-6Uqoue-awCXnH-22M8U6w-EcL52g-zZQhTm-2khpp3m-22M8Tzm-22M8T9w-65J2QU-ggYwcg-anrg5x-nvs5WT-5mhwFb-zyVVCV-HWjDm-d5ao8q-pJ2Ym2-h7jxpM-NnHuWN-dRhsLD-7EPmgf-pEQkUA-e3Dzah-dt88Ko-7F4FcM-CrGpZs-LGQYw-ejvwef-2dnDGXr-dA4AsK-h22NDS-PVSd3E-2gcMm7W-2gcMm9Q-dfJsmn-MuCvUd-8TWAjA-LGQYE-LGQZ3-bpfAWr-q3SxwJ-MtdttL-anuKGE-Mt3CEv-fMfyCM-8EEP5H-8hrKUo-r6mR96-5fZMB7-gYpBne" target="_blank">SOMBILON STUDIOS/flickr</a></em></p>
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More than 349,000 lost pregnancies each year in South Asia are linked to excessive air pollution, according to a new study in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
<p>The research builds on previous evidence that small particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) can harm developing fetuses. The study is the first to estimate the air pollution burden on South Asian women and suggests that the excessive pollution may be responsible for up to 7 percent of pregnancy loss in the region from 2000 to 2016. </p><p>"South Asia has the highest burden of pregnancy loss globally and is one of the most PM2.5 polluted regions in the world," lead author, Dr. Tao Xue, a researcher at China's Peking University, said in a statement. "Poor air quality could be responsible for a considerable burden of pregnancy loss in the region."</p><p>Xue and colleagues collected health and household survey data from 1998-2016 from women in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh who had at least one lost pregnancy and one livebirth. They also estimated the women's exposure to PM2.5. </p><p>PM2.5 consists of toxic airborne particles much tinier than the width of a human hair, and is linked to a variety of health impacts including respiratory and heart problems, and altered brain development for children. It also affects proper development of the embryo in mothers' wombs and, along with other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, has been associated with <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7183911/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">stillbirths and spontaneous abortions</a>. </p><p>They modeled the risk for each woman for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase of PM2.5, and used this risk to look at the whole region from 2000 to 2016, estimating how many lost pregnancies could have been prevented with cleaner air.</p><p>Each 10 microgram per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 was linked to a 3 percent increase in the likelihood of a lost pregnancy, with the greatest risk for older women, those in rural areas, or young women from large cities. The researchers estimate for every year from 2000 to 2016 about 349,681 lost pregnancies were associated with air pollution exceeding India's regulatory standards for PM2.5. This represents 7 percent of the total lost pregnancies in the region over that period. </p><p>When air pollution exceeded the more rigorous World Health Organization standards, such exposure was linked to 29 percent of the pregnancy losses. </p><p>"Our findings suggest that a considerable proportion of the pregnancy loss burden in South Asia is attributable to exposure to ambient PM2.5 and that improving air quality would promote maternal and infant health globally," the authors wrote. </p><p>Previous studies have found similar associations between air pollution and lost pregnancies in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25861815/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">California</a>, other parts of the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31385588/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">U.S.</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29422441/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">China</a>, and <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(19)30047-6/fulltext" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Africa.</a> However, there's been less data on South Asia, even though it has the highest rate of pregnancy loss in the world. From 2010 to 2015, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh combined for 25 percent of all babies born globally, but accounted for 35 percent (917,800) of stillbirths across the globe. </p><p>The impact goes beyond lost pregnancies—a <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30298-9/fulltext#:~:text=Lost%20output%20from%20premature%20deaths,gross%20domestic%20product%20(GDP)." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">study last month</a> found India's air pollution resulted in 1.67 million deaths in 2019, the largest such toll on the planet. </p><p>The new study was limited in that they weren't able to differentiate between natural pregnancy loss and abortions, there could have been bias in women's reporting because of stigma. </p><p>However, the implications are enormous, the authors warned, and branch into mental health problems and gender inequality.</p><p>"We know losing a pregnancy can have mental, physical and economic effects on women, including increased risk of postnatal depressive disorders, infant mortality during subsequent pregnancy, and increase the costs related to pregnancy, such as loss of labor," co-author Dr. Tianjia Guan from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, said in statement. </p><p>"Therefore, reducing pregnancy loss may also lead to improvements in gender equality."</p>
<p><em>Banner photo: Mothers in India discuss breastfeeding. (Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/14214150@N02/8806268443" target="_blank">Russell Watkins/Department for International Development</a>)</em></p>
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