Breaking News
March 24, 2018 - Smartwatch App Might Help Detect A-Fib
March 24, 2018 - TAVR Reasonable for Low-Flow, Low-Gradient Aortic Stenosis
March 24, 2018 - Kids with severe brain injuries may develop ADHD: study
March 24, 2018 - Researchers explore ways to help older adults taper off and stop using sedatives
March 24, 2018 - Back pain being mismanaged globally
March 24, 2018 - Fingerprint test accurately and noninvasively detects heroin, cocaine users
March 24, 2018 - Leading experts to promote cardiovascular health at EuroPrevent 2018
March 24, 2018 - A Role for Rituximab in Lupus?
March 24, 2018 - New osteoarthritis genes discovered
March 24, 2018 - Maternal intake of DHA supplement linked to higher fat-free body mass in children
March 24, 2018 - Royal College of Pathologists‘ bulletin provides summary of Tissue Handling Workshop
March 24, 2018 - Maternal alcohol use early in pregnancy may be risk factor for infant abdominal malformation
March 24, 2018 - Savara Initiates Phase 2a Clinical Study of Molgradex for the Treatment of NTM Lung Infection
March 24, 2018 - Accelerated WBI Should be the Norm for Most Breast Cancers
March 24, 2018 - Experts seek to standardize treatments for childhood rheumatic diseases
March 24, 2018 - Foil-based measuring chip rapidly detects Legionella
March 24, 2018 - Bariatric surgery linked to positive outcomes in very obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes
March 24, 2018 - Are there risks from secondhand marijuana smoke? Early science says yes.
March 24, 2018 - New University of Bath project seeks to make injections safer
March 24, 2018 - Higher-dose RT does not improve survival but reduces recurrence risk for prostate cancer patients
March 24, 2018 - Researchers examine link between knee pain and depression in older adults
March 24, 2018 - FDA Alert: BD Vacutainer Blood Collection Tubes by Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD): Class I Recall
March 24, 2018 - Daytime Sleepiness Linked to Amyloid Accumulation Without Dementia
March 24, 2018 - Energy storehouses in the brain may be source of Alzheimer’s, targets of new therapy
March 24, 2018 - Praising people with autism shows promise for producing more exercise
March 24, 2018 - Using harmless red or infrared light to diagnose breast cancer
March 24, 2018 - Clash over abortion hobbles a health bill. Again. Here’s how.
March 23, 2018 - Virtual nature environment could be new way to recover from stress
March 23, 2018 - New study identifies key cellular mechanisms behind vascular aging in mice
March 23, 2018 - Nightmares Common Among U.S. Troops, But Seldom Reported
March 23, 2018 - Another Record Low for Tuberculosis in U.S.
March 23, 2018 - Changes in the eye connected to a decline in memory
March 23, 2018 - Radiologist creates dramatic teaching tool using power of VR
March 23, 2018 - Grilled meat could be raising the risk of hypertension finds study
March 23, 2018 - Mutations found in bassoon gene may help explain cause of rare brain disorder
March 23, 2018 - Childhood Brain Injuries May be Linked to ADHD Years Later
March 23, 2018 - Why treating addiction with medication should be carefully considered
March 23, 2018 - Researchers make key discovery about cellular pathway linked to myriad of diseases
March 23, 2018 - Researchers uncover cause of rare childhood neurodegenerative disease
March 23, 2018 - Measles infection in early childhood could contribute to later COPD
March 23, 2018 - Opioid painkiller is top prescription in 11 states
March 23, 2018 - Sienna Biopharmaceuticals Announces First Patient Dosed In Proof-of-Concept Trial of Topical By Design™ JAK Inhibitor SNA-125 for Atopic Dermatitis
March 23, 2018 - In Teen Girls, Neural Patterns May Drive Emotional Resilience
March 23, 2018 - Gene-based test for urine detects, monitors bladder cancer
March 23, 2018 - BD to introduce new digital solution for IV chemotherapy administration process at EAHP 2018
March 23, 2018 - New computational method helps to identify tumor cell mutations with greater accuracy
March 23, 2018 - Researchers identify potential obesity treatment in freezing hunger-signaling nerve
March 23, 2018 - Wales participates in the 100,000 Genomes Project
March 23, 2018 - 24-Hr Paging Cuts ED Visits for Kids with Endocrine Issues
March 23, 2018 - The brain learns completely differently than we’ve assumed since the 20th century
March 23, 2018 - Less nutritious diet mainly contributes to Type 2 diabetes among U.S.-based South Asians
March 23, 2018 - Stony Brook Medicine expert provides tips for healthy diet to decrease cancer risk
March 23, 2018 - New findings could have revolutionary impact on quality of life of older people
March 23, 2018 - Restoring enzyme may help reverse effects of vascular aging, study shows
March 23, 2018 - Protein profiling reveals new prostate cancer mechanisms
March 23, 2018 - Depression may be linked to increased risk of atrial fibrillation
March 23, 2018 - FDA Takes Aim at Flavored Tobacco
March 23, 2018 - SMART Strategy Lowers Asthma Exacerbation Risk
March 23, 2018 - Cold open water plunge provides instant pain relief
March 23, 2018 - Portable and wearable technology supports future of military medical devices
March 23, 2018 - Patients with vascular malformations have poor health-related quality of life
March 23, 2018 - Researchers develop unique technology to overcome global antibiotic resistance crisis
March 23, 2018 - New DOD grant to support testing of promising therapy for triple-negative breast cancer
March 23, 2018 - Novel vaccine technologies can help better prepare for future infectious disease threats
March 23, 2018 - OncoBreak: Colonoscopy TV; Coverage for Genomic Testing; Care for Caregivers
March 23, 2018 - For some surgeries, nerve blocks mean better outcomes, fewer opioids
March 23, 2018 - Maternal obesity and androgen excess induce sex-specific anxiety in offspring, study suggests
March 23, 2018 - The tale of Theranos and the mysterious fire alarm
March 23, 2018 - USC researchers create algorithm to optimize substance abuse intervention groups
March 23, 2018 - Impulsivity may be associated with greater weight loss during treatment in obese children
March 23, 2018 - CTI BioPharma Announces Publication of Pacritinib Phase 3 PERSIST-2 Clinical Trial in JAMA Oncology
March 23, 2018 - Senate Panel Addresses Native Americans’ Opioid Troubles
March 23, 2018 - Brain connections in schizophrenia
March 23, 2018 - Mental health assessment in health checks can help detect psychologically vulnerable people
March 23, 2018 - New test for urothelial cancers offers less invasive, more accurate detection
March 23, 2018 - Groundbreaking 100,000 Genomes Project achieves important milestone to transform NHS care
March 23, 2018 - Mice getting a new lease of life with anti-aging pills
March 23, 2018 - Obesity kills taste buds and dulls taste sensation finds study
March 23, 2018 - Medical students get less formal education in radiation oncology, study finds
March 23, 2018 - Researchers find investigational compound to treat triple negative breast cancer after brain metastasis
Pilot study raises concerns about exposure of pregnant women to benzene in British Columbia

Pilot study raises concerns about exposure of pregnant women to benzene in British Columbia

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Université de Montréal research reveals that 29 pregnant women living near natural-gas hydraulic fracturing sites had a median concentration of a benzene biomarker in their urine that was 3.5 times higher than that found in women from the general Canadian population.

Peace River Valley, in northeastern British Columbia, has become known in recent years as a place of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas – “fracking,” as it’s commonly called. What are the health impacts related to living near fracking sites where contaminants, including volatile organic compounds, are released? To try to answer that question, élyse Caron-Beaudoin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Université de Montréal Public Health Research Institute, studied a group of pregnant women who live in the area. Her results were published this week in Environment International.

High concentrations of muconic acid – a degradation product of benzene (a volatile, toxic and carcinogenic compound) – were detected in the urine of 29 pregnant women who participated in the pilot study. Their median concentration of muconic acid was approximately 3.5 times higher in these women than in the general Canadian population.

In five of the 29 participants, the concentration of muconic acid surpassed the biological exposure index (BEI), a measure developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) to protect the health of people in the workplace. Caron-Beaudoin informed the five women of the results and communicated with their attending physicians. Guidelines of acceptable amounts of muconic acid in urine exist only for the workplace; there are none for the general population.

Not beyond a reasonable doubt

“Although the levels of muconic acid found in the participants’ urine cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were exposed to high levels of benzene, these results do clearly demonstrate the importance of exploring human exposure to environmental contaminants in natural-gas (fracking) regions,” said Marc-André Verner, the lead researcher on the study. Verner is a professor at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health and specializes in toxicological risk assessment.

“Muconic acid is also a degradation product of sorbic acid, which is often used as a preservative in the food industry,” said Caron-Beaudoin. “However, we believe that diet alone is unlikely to explain the concentrations we found in our participants. A more extensive study needs to be conducted with additional measures – to test the air and drinking water, for example – to confirm or refute the results of our pilot study.”

Health hazards of benzene include birth defects

The health impacts of benzene are well-documented. “High exposure to benzene during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, an increased risk of childhood leukemia and a greater incidence of birth defects such as spina bifida,” said Caron-Beaudoin. “We were therefore very concerned when we discovered high levels of muconic acid in the urine of pregnant women.

It should be noted that there are multiple routes of exposure to benzene, including inhaling cigarette smoke, filling your car’s gas tank, driving, and drinking benzene-contaminated water.

“Many reports have been written on the contamination of air and water by volatile organic compounds near natural-gas well sites,” said Verner, who is also a researcher at the Public Health Research Institute. “Northeastern British Columbia is a region that supports the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Despite the fact that many chemicals used or emitted by this industry are toxic to humans, no biological monitoring programs have been implemented in the region.”

Indigenous people at the root of the study

Why did Quebec researchers lead a study exploring a public-health issue that mainly concerns people in Western Canada? Good question, Caron-Beaudoin replied. “At a conference, Professor Verner and I learned that certain indigenous communities, including the West Moberly First Nations, were concerned about the contaminants released by the many natural-gas sites on their territory, and about how this was affecting people’s health. They were looking for researchers to conduct a formal impact study. We expressed our interest, but were very surprised that this kind of study had never been carried out before.”

Among the pilot study’s 29 participants, 14 were indigenous. Results revealed that the median concentration of muconic acid in the urine of these 14 women was 2.3 times higher than in non-indigenous participants, and six times higher than in women from the general Canadian population. However, it is important to note that the different levels found in indigenous and non-indigenous participants was not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of women involved. A study with a larger sample size would be necessary to verify if this difference is significant.

‘Environmental racism’ – a new concept

Nonetheless, these results raise the issue of “environmental racism,” a concept that is being increasingly explored by public-health researchers. Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional discrimination in the development and implementation of environmental policy, which disproportionately favors the installation of facilities that are potentially harmful to human health in areas populated by cultural minorities and in low-income communities.

For example, a study done in 2016 in Texas (Johnston et al., 2016*) revealed that wells used to dispose of wastewater coming from hydraulic fracturing sites were disproportionately permitted near communities with higher proportions of people of colour. “Environmental injustice is a major concern, particularly in indigenous communities where health inequalities are already an issue,” said Verner.

A large-scale study now needed

What’s next? Caron-Beaudoin and Verner have applied for funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to conduct a major study of 100 pregnant women, using the same research methodology as in their pilot study. The study will involve doing an analysis not only of benzene biomarkers and other volatile organic compounds, but also of certain heavy metals in urine and hair samples. An environmental analysis of the participants’ exposure to contaminants in the air and water will also be conducted. The data will then be modeled by Verner to estimate the fetal concentrations of these compounds, and thus more adequately measure the effects this type of exposure has on fetal development.

A second study led by Caron-Beaudoin will examine the medical data of approximately 6,000 babies born in the region over the past 10 years. “The goal is to assess the overall health of the babies (birth weight, pre-term births, head circumference and the prevalence of certain congenital birth defects) in relation to their proximity to natural-gas well sites and the number of active wells in their environment,” the researcher said.


Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles