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    Both parents matter: a national-scale analysis of parental race/ethnicity, disparities in prenatal PM2.5 exposures and related impacts on birth outcomes
    (Springer Nature, 2022-05-06) Payne-Sturges, Devon C.; Puett, Robin; Cory-Slechta, Deborah A.
    Most U.S. studies that report racial/ethnic disparities in increased risk of low birth weight associated with air pollution exposures have been conducted in California or northeastern states and/or urban areas, limiting generalizability of study results. Few of these studies have examined maternal racial/ethnic groups other than Non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic White and Hispanic, nor have they included paternal race. We aimed to examine the independent effects of PM2.5 on birth weight among a nationally representative sample of U.S. singleton infants and how both maternal and paternal race/ethnicity modify relationships between prenatal PM2.5 exposures and birth outcomes. We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS–B), a longitudinal nationally representative cohort of 10,700 U.S. children born in 2001, which we linked to U.S.EPA’s Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ)-derived predicted daily PM2.5 concentrations at the centroid of each Census Bureau Zip Code Tabulation Area (ZCTA) for maternal residences. We examined relationships between term birthweight (TBW), term low birthweight rate (TLBW) and gestational PM2.5 pollutant using multivariate regression models. Effect modification of air pollution exposures on birth outcomes by maternal and paternal race was evaluated using stratified models. All analyses were conducted with sample weights to provide national-scale estimates. The majority of mothers were White (61%). Fourteen percent of mothers identified as Black, 21% as Hispanic, 3% Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and 1% American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN). Fathers were also racially/ethnically diverse with 55% identified as White Non-Hispanic, 10% as Black Non-Hispanic, 19% as Hispanic, 3% as AAPI and 1% as AIAN. Results from the chi-square and ANOVA tests of significance for racial/ethnic differences indicate disparities in prenatal exposures and birth outcomes by both maternal and paternal race/ethnicity. Prenatal PM2.5 was associated with reduced birthweights during second and third trimester and over the entire gestational period in adjusted regression models, although results did not reach statistical significance. In models stratified by maternal race and paternal race, one unit increase in PM2.5 was statistically significantly associated with lower birthweights among AAPI mothers, -5.6 g (95% CI:-10.3, -1.0 g) and AAPI fathers, -7.6 g (95% CI: -13.1, -2.1 g) during 3rd trimester and among births where father’s race was not reported, -14.2 g (95% CI: -24.0, -4.4 g). These data suggest that paternal characteristics should be used, in addition to maternal characteristics, to describe the risks of adverse birth outcomes. Additionally, our study suggests that serious consideration should be given to investigating environmental and social mechanisms, such as air pollution exposures, as potential contributors to disparities in birth outcomes among AAPI populations.
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    Reducing Anxiety with Nature and Gardening (RANG): Evaluating the Impacts of Gardening and Outdoor Activities on Anxiety among U.S. Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    (MDPI, 2022-04-22) Gerdes, Megan E.; Aistis, Lucy A.; Sachs, Naomi A.; Williams, Marcus; Roberts, Jennifer D.; Rosenberg Goldstein, Rachel E.
    The COVID-19 pandemic impacted mental health. Growing research has identified the mental health benefits of nature contact, including gardening. We used a cross-sectional survey to investigate the association between gardening and other outdoor activities with anxiety among U.S. adults. The RANG (Reducing Anxiety with Nature and Gardening) survey was distributed online from June–September 2020 through social media (Twitter and Facebook) and a national Master Gardeners listserv. Survey questions captured demographics, COVID-19 experiences, gardening, outdoor activities, and anxiety using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale. Data were analyzed using chi-square, Fisher’s exact, and Kruskal–Wallis tests, as well as logistic regression. Among participants, 46% reported anxiety symptoms. Participants who had gardened ≥ 15 years and those gardening > 8 h over two weeks had lower anxiety scores. Spending more time outdoors on weekdays also decreased anxiety scores. After adjusting for covariates, lower odds of anxiety were identified for 50–69 and 70–89-year-olds vs. 18–29-year-olds; males vs. females; and Texas vs. Maryland residents. These findings confirm increased anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggest that sustained gardening and other outdoor activities could help reduce anxiety.
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    El Niño Southern Oscillation, monsoon anomaly, and childhood diarrheal disease morbidity in Nepal
    (Oxford University Press, 2022-03-29) Adams, Nicholas; Dhimal, Meghnath; Mathews, Shifali; Iyer, Veena; Murtugudde, Raghu; Liang, Xin-Zhong; Haider, Muhiuddin; Cruz-Cano, Raul; Thu, Dang Thi Anh; Hashim, Jamal Hisham; Gao, Chuansi; Wang, Yu-Chun; Sapkota, Amir
    Climate change is adversely impacting the burden of diarrheal diseases. Despite significant reduction in global prevalence, diarrheal disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among young children in low- and middle-income countries. Previous studies have shown that diarrheal disease is associated with meteorological conditions but the role of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and monsoon anomaly is less understood. We obtained 13 years (2002–2014) of diarrheal disease data from Nepal and investigated how the disease rate is associated with phases of ENSO (El Niño, La Niña, vs. ENSO neutral) monsoon rainfall anomaly (below normal, above normal, vs. normal), and changes in timing of monsoon onset, and withdrawal (early, late, vs. normal). Monsoon season was associated with a 21% increase in diarrheal disease rates (Incident Rate Ratios [IRR]: 1.21; 95% CI: 1.16–1.27). El Niño was associated with an 8% reduction in risk while the La Niña was associated with a 32% increase in under-5 diarrheal disease rates. Likewise, higher-than-normal monsoon rainfall was associated with increased rates of diarrheal disease, with considerably higher rates observed in the mountain region (IRR 1.51, 95% CI: 1.19–1.92). Our findings suggest that under-5 diarrheal disease burden in Nepal is significantly influenced by ENSO and changes in seasonal monsoon dynamics. Since both ENSO phases and monsoon can be predicted with considerably longer lead time compared to weather, our findings will pave the way for the development of more effective early warning systems for climate sensitive infectious diseases.
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    Mixture toxicity, cumulative risk, and environmental justice in United States federal policy, 1980–2016
    (Springer Nature, 2021-09-17) Hunt Sprinkle, Robert; Payne-Sturges, Devon C.
    Toxic chemicals — “toxicants” — have been studied and regulated as single entities, and, carcinogens aside, almost all toxicants, single or mixed and however altered, have been thought harmless in very low doses or very weak concentrations. Yet much work in recent decades has shown that toxicants can injure wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans following exposures previously expected to be harmless. Additional work has shown that toxicants can act not only individually and cumulatively but also collectively and even synergistically and that they affect disadvantaged communities inordinately — and therefore, as argued by reformers, unjustly. As late as December 2016, the last full month before the inauguration of a president promising to rescind major environmental regulations, the United States federal environmental-health establishment, as led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), had not developed coherent strategies to mitigate such risks, to alert the public to their plausibility, or to advise leadership in government and industry about their implications. To understand why, we examined archival materials, reviewed online databases, read internal industry communications, and interviewed experts. We confirmed that external constraints, statutory and judicial, had been in place prior to EPA’s earliest interest in mixture toxicity, but we found no overt effort, certainly no successful effort, to loosen those constraints. We also found internal constraints: concerns that fully committing to the study of complex mixtures involving numerous toxicants would lead to methodological drift within the toxicological community and that trying to act on insights from such study could lead only to regulatory futility. Interaction of these constraints, external and internal, shielded the EPA by circumscribing its responsibilities and by impeding movement toward paradigmatic adjustment, but it also perpetuated scientifically dubious policies, such as those limiting the evaluation of commercial chemical formulations, including pesticide formulations, to only those ingredients said by their manufacturers to be active. In this context, regulators’ disregard of synergism contrasted irreconcilably with biocide manufacturers’ understanding that synergism enhanced lethality and patentability. In the end, an effective national response to mixture toxicity, cumulative risk, and environmental injustice did not emerge. In parallel, though, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which was less constrained, pursued with scientific investigation what the EPA had not pursued with regulatory action.
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    Climate change, extreme events, and increased risk of salmonellosis: foodborne diseases active surveillance network (FoodNet), 2004-2014
    (Springer Nature, 2021-09-18) Morgado, Michele E.; Jiang, Chengsheng; Zambrana, Jordan; Upperman, Crystal Romeo; Mitchell, Clifford; Boyle, Michelle; Sapkota, Amy R.; Sapkota, Amir
    Infections with nontyphoidal Salmonella cause an estimated 19,336 hospitalizations each year in the United States. Sources of infection can vary by state and include animal and plant-based foods, as well as environmental reservoirs. Several studies have recognized the importance of increased ambient temperature and precipitation in the spread and persistence of Salmonella in soil and food. However, the impact of extreme weather events on Salmonella infection rates among the most prevalent serovars, has not been fully evaluated across distinct U.S. regions. To address this knowledge gap, we obtained Salmonella case data for S. Enteriditis, S. Typhimurium, S. Newport, and S. Javiana (2004-2014; n = 32,951) from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), and weather data from the National Climatic Data Center (1960-2014). Extreme heat and precipitation events for the study period (2004-2014) were identified using location and calendar day specific 95th percentile thresholds derived using a 30-year baseline (1960-1989). Negative binomial generalized estimating equations were used to evaluate the association between exposure to extreme events and salmonellosis rates. We observed that extreme heat exposure was associated with increased rates of infection with S. Newport in Maryland (Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR): 1.07, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.01, 1.14), and Tennessee (IRR: 1.06, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.09), both FoodNet sites with high densities of animal feeding operations (e.g., broiler chickens and cattle). Extreme precipitation events were also associated with increased rates of S. Javiana infections, by 22% in Connecticut (IRR: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.35) and by 5% in Georgia (IRR: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.08), respectively. In addition, there was an 11% (IRR: 1.11, 95% CI: 1.04-1.18) increased rate of S. Newport infections in Maryland associated with extreme precipitation events. Overall, our study suggests a stronger association between extreme precipitation events, compared to extreme heat, and salmonellosis across multiple U.S. regions. In addition, the rates of infection with Salmonella serovars that persist in environmental or plant-based reservoirs, such as S. Javiana and S. Newport, appear to be of particular significance regarding increased heat and rainfall events.