Special session to examine effects of environmental factors on health
The evidence that environmental factors disproportionately affect the health of minorities continues to grow. Two sessions, including a morning-long special session, will address environmental threats and what physicians can do to combat them.
The special session "Environmental Health" will be presented from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday in Ballroom B. The session "Environmental Justice" will include a presentation from 3:10 to 3:40 p.m. in Room 208 AB offering tips to limit exposure in households.
"The Cobb Symposium on Sunday discussed how environmental factors contribute to disease. There are 110 health conditions related to environmental factors, and they affect all specialties," said Mark A. Mitchell, M.D., MPH, co-chair of the NMA Environmental Health Task force, adding that these diseases include cancers, diabetes, ADHD, cardiovascular disease and asthma.
"Communities of color and low-income communities have a disproportionate share of environmental hazards, and we are seeing resulting health disparities," he said.
The morning session, "Environmental Health," will feature five speakers, including representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, and the National Toxicology Program, will discuss the effects of endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system and are linked to cancers and developmental disorders. Dr. Birnbaum is expected to address the long-term effects of endocrine disruptors, such as endometriosis, diabetes and obesity.
Bob Perciasepe, EPA deputy administrator, who has a long history in environmental stewardship, advocacy and organizational management, will discuss efforts by the EPA to control environmental hazards. He is expected to focus on the EPA's role in examining the effect of toxics and dispersants following last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Mitchell will present "Environmental Justice, Health and Policy: Making a Difference in African-American Communities." He will review the life cycle of toxic materials, starting with refineries and industrial plants, the sale of toys and canned goods containing toxins, and finally their disposal in landfills. He will also examine legacy exposures, which are old facilities where toxins were buried before current regulations took effect.
Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, will present "Research on Endocrine Disruptors and Implications for Human Health." Dr. Hayes will review research about atrazine, the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S., and its affect on physical and behavioral changes in frogs.
The final speaker will be Jewel Crawford, M.D., co-chair of the NMA Environmental Health Task Force and a faculty member at Morehouse School of Medicine, who will present "How Do Environmental Hazards Affect Patients in Your Specialty?"
In the afternoon, "Environmental Justice" will feature Drs. Hayes, Crawford and Mitchell.
Dr. Hayes will present "Animal Studies Involving Pesticides and Reproductive Health and its Impact on the Environment." Dr. Crawford will present "The ABCs of Taking an Environmental Exposure History." Dr. Mitchell will present "A Common Sense Approach to Reducing Environmental Exposure in Our Patients," with tips about controlling hazards in the household.