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Accomplishments of Environmental Medicine

Since its establishment in 1966, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has sponsored successful programs to:

  • Describe 11 important categories of diseases and other health consequences of global climate change. 

  • Identify liver enzymes which decrease drug metabolism. 

  • Collaborate with other agencies to use state-of-the art technology to evaluate possible chemical and environmental toxins.

  • Study how the environment and genes together affect the chance that a woman will get breast cancer by studying women and their sisters.

  • Develop small, wearable electronic sensor technologies ("electronic noses") to detect high exposures to toxic chemicals that pose serious health risks in the workplace or through accidental exposure.  

  • Show a statistical link between the level of methylmercury exposure in mothers during pregnancy and their children's performance on neurological tests.

  • Show that calorie-restricted diets may slow the development of bladder cancer.

  • Show that children who are exposed to relatively small amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) before birth have higher rates of low-normal IQ scores, poor reading comprehension, and memory problems.

  • Show that boys with relatively high levels of lead in their bones are more likely to engage in aggressive acts and delinquent behavior.

  • Show that phenolphthalein, a widely used laxative, causes ovarian and other cancers in laboratory rats and mice.

  • Show that intercourse during the six days leading up to a woman's ovulation is most likely to result in conception of a child.

  • Show there is a depletion in the earth's ozone shield.

  • Isolate the tumor-suppressor gene, BRCA1, that is thought to play a critical role in the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

  • Show an association between exposure to fine particles, sulfur dioxide, and acid aerosols, and an increase in respiratory symptoms, reduced lung capacity, and risk of early death.

  • Show that reducing the organic contaminants in chlorinated drinking water may enhance the benefits of this water treatment method.

  • Show that asbestos and other fibrous materials stimulate the release of a highly reactive form of oxygen that has been shown to damage lung tissue.

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