PRHEProgram on Reproductive Health and the Environment
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For those accustomed to the caveats of environmental health research, the concepts presented by the PRHE team and groups like them are not surprising: People's bodies carry measurable amounts of environmental chemicals.
Communicating about potential hazards requires delicacy and clarity, the PRHE researchers and others say, with full acknowledgment of the limits of current scientific understanding.
Called The Clinic, and hosted on Mission Loc@l (a San Francisco-based online news website run by the journalism program at the University of California, Berkeley), the blog contains essays by PRHE researchers and program fellows on topics such as possible links between estrogenic chemicals and uterine fibroids, the decision whether to buy organic or conventional produce, and placental transfer of chemicals.
To gauge what practitioners know about the impact toxic chemicals can have on their patients' health, PRHE is currently partnering with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to survey its membership across the country and to raise awareness of environmental health issues.
PRHE is partnering with California's statewide biomonitoring program to measure more than 100 chemicals in several dozen mother--infant pairs and see if they can tease out primary routes of exposure and potential relationships between exposures and birth outcomes.11 Synthesizing this kind of work with other relevant research could lead to what Conry calls "a green bible," with the same statistical rigor applied to outcomes of chemical environmental exposures as to those of pharmaceuticals.
But even once people know about environmental exposures, other underlying issues such as financial- insecurity can thwart efforts to change behaviors and consumer choices, PRHE researchers and others point out.
Conry sees PRHE's efforts to communicate the problems as a first step toward long-term, high-level measures to reduce toxic exposures among the general public.
Tracey Woodruff, PRHE's director and a researcher at UCSF, wants the UCSF program to take these messages not only to patients, who can act immediately for their own comfort level, and to clinicians, who can advise at the individual patient level, but community-wide.