Accomplishments of Environmental Medicine

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

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

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

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

  • design a strategy for evaluating the carcinogenicity of environmental agents that will improve the ability to identify hazards and estimate risks while at the same time reducing the need for laboratory animals.

  • link asbestos exposure to an increased incidence of lung tumors and mesotheliomas, and establish that cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of cancer in asbestos-exposed workers.

  • show that exposure to very low levels of lead during early childhood can lead to significant delays in cognitive and behavioral development.

  • show that exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy can result in various reproductive abnormalities in both male and female offspring.

  • show that toxic and carcinogenic potential of such substances as benzene, butadiene, methylene chloride, benzidine and benzidine congeners, various dyes, and a host of drugs and food additives indicates that exposures to these substances should be limited or avoided entirely - which resulted in federal regulations regarding permissible exposure limits for each.

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