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Prominent University and Government Scientists to Speak at National Pesticide Forum

(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2009) NIEHS staff scientist Freya Kamel, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health professor Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D., and Wake Forest University’s Center for Worker Health director Thomas Arcury, Ph.D. will speak as Science and Health panelists at Bridge to an Organic Future: Opportunities for health and the environment, the 27th National Pesticide Forum, April 3-4 in Carrboro, NC.

Freya Kamel, Ph.D.
Freya Kamel’s research interests focus on environmental determinants of neurologic dysfunction and disease, in particular, neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Kamel and her colleagues at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examined the relationship of farm work-related exposures to subclinical neurobehavioral deficits in farmworkers. Deficits in neurobehavioral performance reflecting cognitive and psychomotor function related to the duration of work experience were seen in former as well as current farmworkers, and decreased performance was related to chronic exposure even in the absence of a history of pesticide poisoning. Thus, long-term experience of farm work is associated with measurable deficits in cognitive and psychomotor function.

Dr. Kamel participated in work on the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a large cohort study of licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina. Using data from the AHS, Kamel found that use of fungicides and organochlorine insecticides was associated with increased risk of retinal degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in adults. Another analysis found that prevalence of neurologic symptoms was related to moderate levels of exposure to organophosphate and organochlorine insecticides and fumigants.

The AHS is the setting for a nested case-control study of pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease called the Farming and Movement Evaluation or FAME Study. In collaboration with Caroline Tanner, M.D., Ph.D., at The Parkinson’s Institute, FAME investigated the relationship of Parkinson’s disease to pesticides and other farm-related exposures in a population with a well-documented history of pesticide exposure. The study also evaluated the role of other environmental neurotoxicants, lifestyle variables and genetic susceptibility.

Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D.
Alex Lu is an assistant professor of Environmental Exposure Biology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health. His interests focus on the assessment of pesticide exposure resulting from indoor applications, agricultural spray drift, parental occupation, or from dietary intake. He would like to incorporate novel methods analyze the samples or to measure the exposure. His current research project includes using saliva samples as an alternative for biological monitoring, using Global Position Systems to assess children’s time-and-location in relation to their pesticide exposure, and assessing urban/suburban children’s long-term exposure to pesticides.

Dr. Lu co-authored, “Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides.” This study, published in a 2006 issue of Environmental Heath Perspectives, finds that switching children to an organic diet provides a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against exposures to two organophosphate pesticides commonly used in U.S. agricultural production. “Immediately after substituting organic food items for the children’s normal diets, the concentration of the organophosphorus pesticides found in their bodies decreased substantially to non-detectable levels until the conventional diets were re-introduced,” says Dr. Lu.

Dr. Lu currently serves as an ad hoc member on the USEPA Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel, and an ad hoc member on the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) grant peer-review panel.

Thomas Arcury, Ph.D.
Thomas Arcury is professor and research director in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, with cross-appointments in the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, and the Maya Angelou Research Center on Minority Health. He is also Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, Wake Forest University, and Adjunct Professor of Health Education and Behavior, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Arcury is also the director of the newly created Center for Worker Health at Wake Forest University. He describes the Center as a “way to facilitate the interactions of people interested in occupational health.” Among other things the center will focus on materials and circumstances that have the potential of causing illness and disease.

Dr. Arcury is a medical anthropologist and public health scientists with a research program focused on improving the health of rural and minority populations. Since 1996, he has directed a program of research on occupational and environmental health and justice among the families of immigrant workers in rural communities. This research program, funded by grants from NIEHS and NIOSH, as well as state agencies, has examined pesticide exposure, green tobacco sickness, skin disease, injuries, and food security among migrant and seasonal farmworkers. He is also involved in a study of the occupational health of immigrant poultry workers. These projects have been undertaken within the framework of community-based participatory research. In addition to empirical studies, this program has developed and implemented educational programs for immigrant workers and health care providers to prevent exposures and improve treatment. Finally, he has worked with advocacy groups to use the results of this research to change occupational and environmental health regulations.

Attending the Forum
Beyond Pesticides’ 27th National Pesticide Forum, Bridge to an Organic Future: Opportunities for health and the environment, will be held April 3-4, 2009 at the Century Center in Carrboro, NC. This national environmental conference, co-sponsored by Toxic Free North Carolina, will feature panel discussions, workshops and talks by Jim Hightower, Baldemar Velasquez and Philip and Alice Shabecoff. Register online, members $65, non-members $75, students $35.


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