- "Approximately half of all pregnancies in
the United States result in prenatal or postnatal death or an otherwise
less than healthy baby."
- NAS 354 page review 2000 says ~50% failed pregnancies
- Scientific Frontiers in Developmental Toxicology and
- Committee on Developmental Toxicology, Board on Environmental
- Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council
- 354 pages, 6 x 9, 2000, hardback, $ 47.20
- Approx 1/2 of all pregnancies in U.S. result in miscarriage
- or unhealthy babies.. a stunning, hidden report
- This stunning press release came out of the National
Research Council of the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine
in June 2000 -- but the public did not hear about it and Congress and the
states have not followed-up. I first heard about it from Betty Mekdeci,
Executive Director of Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc. I searched
several times over the past two years but was unable to find a web-based
link to the NAS site until today. The full 354 page report is accessible
from the NAS site but requires payment. Here is a riveting quote from the
second paragraph of the press release:
- "Approximately half of all pregnancies in the United
States result in prenatal or postnatal death or an otherwise less than
healthy baby."NAS says that manufactured chemicals should be assessed
for developmental effects before marketing. See report at: http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309070864?OpenDocument
- Here is the text:
- Major Advances in Biology Should Be Used to Assess
- Birth Defects From Toxic Chemicals
- Date: June 1, 2000
- Contacts: Bill Kearney, Media Relations Associate
- Megan O'Neill, Media Relations Assistant
- (202) 334-2138; e-mail <email@example.com>
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- WASHINGTON -- New discoveries in developmental biology
and genetics should be used when scientists analyze chemicals for their
potential to cause birth defects, says a new report from the National Research
Council of the National Academies. Given recent advances in understanding
how the process of normal development occurs, methods can now be devised
to determine how chemicals disrupt it in humans.
- Approximately half of all pregnancies in the United States
result in prenatal or postnatal death or an otherwise less than healthy
baby. And major developmental defects, such as neural tube and heart deformities,
occur in approximately 120,000 of the 4 million infants born here each
year. Exposure to toxic chemicals, both manufactured and natural, cause
about 3 percent of all developmental defects, and at least 25 percent might
be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
- "Many manufactured chemicals, as well as chemicals
that occur in nature, have not been adequately evaluated for developmental
toxicity," said Elaine Faustman, chair of the committee that wrote
the report and professor of environmental health and director of the Institute
for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication, University of Washington, Seattle.
- "Our report provides a blueprint for using new findings
about the dynamic processes involved in normal development to further our
understanding of how human development may be affected by potentially toxic
chemicals. Collaboration among scientists from many disciplines will be
key in this endeavor, as will the integration of information from various
- New approaches to developmental toxicology are needed
that emphasize simultaneous research on several fronts by experts from
multiple scientific disciplines, the report says. It urges scientists to
take advantage of new knowledge about the human genome when studying how
genes and the environment interact to cause developmental defects. The
report also calls for an intensified effort to expand the understanding
of how even the smallest, simplest laboratory animals can serve as toxicological
models for human biological systems, given recent advances in this area.
In most animals -- including those commonly used in laboratories, such
as the fruit fly, roundworm, zebrafish, and mouse -- scientists recently
have discovered how specific cells communicate with each other, ultimately
activating proteins that turn particular genes on and off, thus regulating
development. These "signaling pathways" are used repeatedly in
various combinations at different times and locations in the embryo and
fetus. Chemical disruption of these pathways could lead to abnormal development.
Strikingly similar pathways are found in a wide range of animal species,
including humans, and have changed very little over the course of time,
which means that studying the effects of chemicals on signaling pathways
in animal models could help facilitate understanding of abnormal development
in humans, the report says.
- Relatively simple assessments using animal models, such
as the roundworm and fruit fly, could be used more effectively to provide
clues about which developmental pathways are most affected by specific
chemicals, the committee said. Based on findings from these tests or general
concern about a chemical's prevalence in the environment, more extensive
studies could be conducted on animals whose biological systems more closely
resemble those of humans.
- In addition, major new advances in genetics will help
researchers gain insight into how chemicals affect human development, the
report says. Mapping the human genome will increase understanding of gene
function and expression, and help researchers identify unique alterations
in genes, known as polymorphisms. Recent research has shown that individuals
with certain polymorphisms, who are also exposed to certain chemicals in
utero, have a higher occurrence of specific developmental defects than
the general population. New information on genetic variability in humans,
especially polymorphisms, is seen as key to understanding how the relationship
between genes and the environment leads to developmental defects.
- The committee emphasized that all stages of human development
-- from conception to puberty -- should be examined in toxicity studies,
since all developmental periods are potentially susceptible to toxic agents.
In addition, there is a need to look at all adverse developmental outcomes,
including growth retardation, behavioral effects, and death. The vast amounts
of data that could be generated by testing thousands of chemicals for potential
developmental toxicity will require new databases capable of organizing
this information in a way that is useful for risk assessment, the committee
said. The databases should include information from industry, academia,
and government researchers, and be linked with existing databases of developmental
biology and genomics, as well as those describing how drugs and chemicals
are metabolized by the body. A separate relational database should be set
up for chemicals that are found to interact with particular signaling pathways.
This would help researchers study whether different chemicals that affect
the same pathway are acting in a similar manner.
- The lack of opportunities for collaboration among scientists
from different fields has impeded the application of new information to
improve developmental toxicology and risk assessment, the committee said.
To overcome this, educational programs and professional workshops should
be organized to facilitate interaction among researchers in developmental
toxicology, developmental biology, genomics, medical genetics, epidemiology,
- The study was sponsored by the American Industrial Health
Council, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of
Defense, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs, National Center for Toxicological Research, National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National
Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private,
nonprofit organization that provides advice on science and technology under
a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.
- Read the full text of Scientific Frontiers in Developmental
Toxicology and Risk Assessment for free on the Web, as well as more than
1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are
available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web site or at the
mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242.
Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and
Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).
- NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
- Commission on Life Sciences
- Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
- Toxicology and Risk Assessment Program
- Committee on Developmental Toxicology
- Elaine M. Faustman, Ph.D. (chair)
- Professor, Department of Environmental Health, and
- Director, Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication
- University of Washington, Seattle
- John C. Gerhart, Ph.D. (vice chair)*
- Professor, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
- University of California, Berkeley
- Nigel A. Brown, Ph.D.
- Professor of Developmental Biology
- Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology
- St. George's Hospital Medical School, London
- George P. Daston, Ph.D.
- Miami Valley Laboratories
- Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati
- Mark C. Fishman, M.D.
- Chief of Cardiology; Director, Cardiovascular Research
- Chief, Developmental Biology Laboratory
- Massachusetts General Hospital, and
- Professor of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School, Boston
- Joseph F. Holson, Ph.D.
- President and Director
- WIL Research Laboratories Inc., Ashland, Ohio
- Herman B.W.M. Koëter, Ph.D.
- Principal Administrator
- Environmental Health and Safety Division
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
- Anthony P. Mahowald, Ph.D. *
- Louis Block Professor and Chair
- Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
- University of Chicago, Chicago
- Jeanne M. Manson, Ph.D.
- Fellow, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- Richard K. Miller, Ph.D.
- Professor and Associate Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
- Professor of Environmental Medicine
- University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry,
- Philip E. Mirkes, Ph.D.
- Research Professor, Department of Pediatrics
- University of Washington, Seattle
- Daniel W. Nebert, M.D.
- Professor, Department of Environmental Health
- University of Cincinnati Medical Center, and
- Professor, Department of Pediatrics
- Division of Human Genetics
- Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati
- Drew M. Noden, Ph.D.
- Professor of Embryology
- Department of Biomedical Sciences
- College of Veterinary Medicine
- Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
- Virginia E. Papaioannou, Ph.D.
- Professor of Genetics and Development
- College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Columbia University, New York City
- Gary C. Schoenwolf, Ph.D.
- Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and
- Member, Huntsman Cancer Institute
- School of Medicine
- University of Utah, Salt Lake City
- Frank Welsch, D.V.M.
- Senior Scientist and Head, Teratology Laboratory
- Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology
- Research Triangle Park, N.C.
- William B. Wood, Ph.D. *
- Professor, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental
- University of Colorado, Boulder, and
- Member, Cancer Institute
- University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver
- RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF
- Carol A. Maczka, Ph.D.,
- Director, Toxicology and Risk
- Assessment Program
- Abigail E. Stack, Ph.D.
- Project Director
- * Member, National Academy of Sciences