Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

EPA Improves Access to Information on Hundreds of Chemicals


From the 15 June 2011 EPA Press Release

Searchable databases on chemical toxicity and exposure data now available

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making it easier to find data about chemicals. EPA is releasing two databases – the Toxicity Forecaster database (ToxCastDB) and a database of chemical exposure studies (ExpoCastDB) – that scientists and the public can use to access chemical toxicity and exposure data. Improved access supports EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities of protecting Americans’ health by assuring the safety of chemicals and expanding the conversation on environmentalism.

“Chemical safety is a major priority of EPA and its research,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These databases provide the public access to chemical information, data and results that we can use to make better-informed and timelier decisions about chemicals to better protect people’s health.”

ToxCastDB users can search and download data from over 500 rapid chemical tests conducted on more than 300 environmental chemicals. ToxCast uses advanced scientific tools to predict the potential toxicity of chemicals and to provide a cost-effective approach to prioritizing which chemicals of the thousands in use require further testing. ToxCast is currently screening 700 additional chemicals, and the data will be available in 2012.

ExpoCastDB consolidates human exposure data from studies that have collected chemical measurements from homes and child care centers. Data include the amounts of chemicals found in food, drinking water, air, dust, indoor surfaces and urine. ExpoCastDB users can obtain summary statistics of exposure data and download datasets. EPA will continue to add internal and external chemical exposure data and advanced user interface features to ExpoCastDB.

The new databases link together two important pieces of chemical research – exposure and toxicity data – both of which are required when considering potential risks posed by chemicals. The databases are connected through EPA’s Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR), an online data warehouse that collects data on over 500,000 chemicals from over 500 public sources.

Users can now access 30 years worth of animal chemical toxicity studies that were previously only found in paper documents, data from rapid chemical testing, and various chemical exposure measurements through one online resource. The ability to link and compare these different types of data better informs EPA’s decisions about chemical safety.

More information about the databases:

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Annual Health Care Costs Rise Dramatically, Says New Study

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Atte...

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: National Survey of Children's Health, 2003

Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to authors of a new study in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase in recent years, rising from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008…

Click here for a Medical News Today summary of the research article (May 3, 2011)


Researchers used recent data to estimate the number of environmentally induced conditions in children and then calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and indirect costs, such as lost productivity resulting from parents’ caring for sick children. They found that the aggregate cost of environmental illness in children was $76.6 billion in 2008 dollars.

The study provides an update to an analysis of 1997 data that documented $54.9 billion in annual costs of environmentally contributable childhood diseases in the United States. In comparing the two studies, researchers found that diminished exposure to lead and reductions in costs for asthma care were offset by diseases newly identified as environmentally induced, including attention deficit disorder,[Editor Flahiff’s note: see above map] and the added burden of mercury exposure. This toxic metal, from contaminated fish and coal-fired power plants, can harm the developing brain and is associated with intellectual disability.

Key findings from the study:

– Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion
– Autism cost $7.9 billion
– Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion
– Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion
– Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5.0 billion
– Asthma cost $2.2 billion
– Childhood cancer cost $95.0 million

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pediatric Pros: 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act Needs Updating

From the 26 April 2011 Medical News Today article

Common household products are great disinfectants and ways to keep your habitation germ free, but there is still a high risk for children in particular who have not yet built up a solid immune system to be affected by exposure to chemicals. As a result, The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for stronger federal regulation of chemicals in consumer products. The law in place now dates back more than three decades. …

Under current law, new chemicals used in consumer products are assumed to be safe until proved otherwise. Therefore, pediatricians have teamed with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association in pushing for changes so that companies will be required to study the health effects of chemicals before marketing products that contain them.

Dr. Jerome Paulson with the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. stated:

“Under the current Toxic Substance Control Act, companies do not need to do research on the potential health impacts of the chemicals that they’re marketing before they put them out on the market.”

Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, a board member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health and the medical director of the poison control center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a leader for change:

“If we want to market a drug or pharmaceutical, we have to do some studies to say that they’re safe. But companies can enter hundreds of thousands of tons of chemicals into the country and the burden isn’t on them to prove that that chemical’s safe.”

In a written statement, the AAP recommends any chemicals policy should consider the consequences on children and their families. Among the other recommendations:
The regulation of chemicals must be based on evidence, but decisions to ban chemicals should be based on reasonable levels of concern rather than demonstrated harm.
Any testing of chemicals should include the impact on women and children, including potential effects on reproduction and development.
Chemicals should meet safety standards similar to those met by pharmaceuticals or pesticide residues on food.
There should be post-marketing surveillance of chemicals, and the EPA must have the authority to remove a chemical if needed.
Federal funding should be provided for research to prevent, identify and evaluate the effects of chemicals on children’s health.

Related Resource

[Toxicology Resources] Especially for the Public (below are 2 links of 11)

          “What’s under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room?
Learn more about what’s in these products, about potential health effects, and about safety and handling.”

  • Tox Town  —Interactive guide to potentially toxic substances and environmental health issues in everyday places

April 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD)© – Resource for Environmental Chemicals/Human Disease Relationships

Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD)© – Resource for Environmental Chemicals/Human Disease Relationships

From the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Fact sheet

The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD) elucidates molecular mechanisms by which environmental chemicals affect human disease. CTD is a data file on the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET®). It contains manually curated data describing cross-species chemical–gene/protein interactions and chemical– and gene–disease relationships. The results provide insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying variable susceptibility and environmentally influenced diseases. These data will also provide insights into complex chemical–gene and protein interaction networks. CTD is compiled by the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL), with support from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Once in the complete CTD site via TOXNET, users can perform several types of searches, for example:

• Browse relationships among chemicals, and obtain detailed information about them, including structure, toxicology data and related genes, diseases, pathways and references. See: Chemicals

• Browse relationships among diseases, and obtain detailed information about them, including related chemicals, genes, pathways and references. See: Diseases

• Browse search for genes from diverse vertebrates and invertebrates by symbol, synonym, accession ID, organism taxon, chemical, interaction type, disease or Gene Ontology annotation. See: Genes

• Search for cross-species chemical–gene and protein interactions curated from the published literature. Interactions may be retrieved by chemical, interaction type, gene, organism or Gene Ontology annotation. See: Chemical–Gene Interactions

• Search for references by gene, organism taxon, chemical, chemical–

gene interaction type, disease, citation information or accession ID. See: References

Further examples of searches that can be conducted once users are in the complete CTD site via TOXNET include:

• Which human diseases are associated with a gene/protein? (Sample query)

• Which human diseases are associated with a chemical? (Sample query)

• Which genes/proteins interact with a chemical? (Sample query)

• Which chemicals interact with a gene/protein? (Sample query)

• Which references report a chemical–gene/protein interaction? (Sample query)

Which cellular functions (GO terms) are affected by a chemical? (Sample query)
Users can also easily conduct their CTD search strategy against other databases, e.g., Hazardous Substances Data Bank®, TOXLINE®, and ChemIDplus®.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment


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