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Students & Scientists 2009

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rehmanpost-smThe Long Island Teen Environmental Activists (LITEA)
by Rubab Rehman, 2009 President

Background: The Long Island Teen Environmental Activists (LITEA) is a community based, volunteer driven organization comprised of like-minded high school teenagers who wish to heighten the public’s awareness of environmental pollutants and their effects on human health.

Hypothesis/Objectives: It is our goal to identify toxic triggers within our environment that mimic endocrine-disrupting cells and potentially contribute to breast cancer. We believe that if today’s youth become advocates of environmental safety then it will compel the local community to take action.

Work Performed: At monthly meetings, students discuss methods on how to reduce their exposure to these deleterious contaminants through interactive methods such as quiz bowls and movie nights. This past March, students presented testimony in front of the Suffolk- County Legislature to secure the “first in the nation” ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA), known as the Toxin Free Toddlers and Babies Act. The chemical BPA, which is used to make certain plastics and canned food liners, has been linked to breast cancer. Furthermore, last year, members cleaned a portion of Heckscher State Park in celebration of Earth Day. LITEA initiated a school-wide recycling program, which will be implemented soon at Walt Whitman High School. This year, LITEA members intend to visit local middle schools to educate students on how many heavy metals have been identified as environmental estrogens. These metals are found in electronics that many teenagers use, such as cell phones, and may end up in landfills. LITEA members have certainly put their newfound knowledge to good use. They take a cautious approach when purchasing household products and are on the lookout for goods that may contain environmental estrogens by clearly reading ingredient labels. Some of them write articles about the information they have learned for international publications such as Teen Ink Magazine and Pakistan Post. Others aspire to pursue careers in environmental advocacy or environmental health.

Conclusions: LITEA members have realized that there is in fact no planet B, and it is up to us to actively make sure that our planet Earth will continue to be habitable for future generations. They feel it is their obligation to try and eradicate the illnesses that are plaguing the environment and take proactive measures to preserve it.

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TravisFarooqpost-smEffect of Prepubertal Exposure to Environmental Contaminants in the Rat Mammary Gland

Farooq Ansari*(1), Travis Fishstein*(1), Johana Vanegas(1), Lucas Bidinotto(1), Fathima Sheriff(1), Kara Snider(1), Julia S. Pereira(1), Coral Lamartinere (2) and Jose Russo(1).

(1) Breast Cancer Research Laboratory, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, 19111, USA.

(2) Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, 35244, USA.

Background: Over the course of one month, we had the opportunity to participate in the BCRL through “The Students and Scientists Environmental Research Scholarship” sponsored by Prevention Is The Cure, Inc., a campaign of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC).

Objective: The aim of this internship was to learn how scientific research was conducted through studies on the effects of environment contaminants in the rat mammary gland.

Work performed: To accomplish our objective we studied the morphology and the effects of prepubertal exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), two well known endocrine disruptors (ED) in mammary glands. For our experiment we used whole mounts (WM) and tissue sections of mammary glands, collected and prepared at a collaborating institution. Lactating rats were treated either with solvent (control groups), BPA or TCDD. The treatments were given as follows, either: a daily intragastric administration of BPA for 21 days; or TCDD when the pups were 14 and 17 days of age. Tissue was collected from female offspring of all groups at 50 days of age. First, we learned about the mammary gland structures, by counting the number of terminal end buds (TEBs) from previously prepared WMs. Secondly, we learned how to recognize the cell division phases, counting cells that were in metaphase and anaphase, in 500 epithelial cells from hematoxylin and eosin stained sections. Ten slides per group were counted and the treatments were maintained blinded. Thirdly, to assess the interpersonal variation the individual results from both groups were counted by each researcher and compared. Lastly, we learned how to use the student t-test to assess the statistical significances of the data.

Conclusions: Through this experience, we gained an understanding of the research process and the significance of environmental contaminants to human health. We understand that it is possible that early exposure to hormonally active environmental compounds may affect the architecture and cell division of the rat mammary gland during critical stages of development. These effects could facilitate the occurrence of mutations and eventually initiation of cancer.

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aliyzoepost-smMammary Gland Carcinogens and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Should Be Disclosed on Personal Care and Cleaning Product Labels

Aliyah Cohen, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Silent Spring Institute and Zoe Schacht-Levine, Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition

Collaborating with two Long Island breast cancer coalitions, Silent Spring Institute offered internships for two Long Island High School students. The Silent Spring Institute is developing recommendations to help consumers select products to reduce exposures to chemicals that can affect breast cancer risk, including mammary gland carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. The purpose of our summer research project was to determine if it is possible for an average consumer to follow the Institute’s selection criteria for personal care and cleaning products relying only on ingredient labels.

After visiting two stores one conventional, one alternative, we analyzed over 300 product labels. Notes were taken regarding the price, which ingredients were on the criteria list, and eco-claims made by the manufacturer. We collected and analyzed the data in Excel, quantifying differences between the alternative and conventional products, and noting challenges we encountered in applying the criteria.

We found that not all products in conventional stores are less expensive than those found in alternative stores. Also, just because a product is advertised as alternative, it doesn’t mean that the product meets the criteria. The same holds true for conventional products in that some products marketed towards the more conventional shoppers may meet the criteria and have a significantly lower exposure rate when compared to an “alternative” product. These and additional comparisons are important to consumer education and may lead to limiting exposure to harmful chemicals.

We found it very challenging for the average consumer to follow the criteria list. Ingredient labels tended to present misleading eco-claims. Manufacturers also neglected to disclose all ingredients because there are no regulating laws. As a result, consumers are left uncertain of the product’s contents. It took about five minutes to collect data from each label, while the average consumer typically does not have time to research each purchase.

The following federal policies should be implemented and enforced to assist consumers: 1) disclosure of all ingredients on product labels, 2) labels must identify ingredients as carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors, and 3) manufacturers may not falsely market products as “eco- safe” or “natural”.

If producers of personal care and cleaning products did not neglect to disclose all ingredients to the consumer and carried out safety tests for their products, the health of the general public would improve as exposure rates to mammary gland carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals diminish.

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Huntington’s 2009 Students and Scientists participants - Farooq Ansari, Travis Fishstein, Aliyah Cohen, and Rubab Rehman attend the 6th Annual Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers, California.


2009image001BCERC Conference 2009
By Rubab Rehman

The sixth annual BCERC conference was held in Sausalito, California- a city of breathtaking beauty. The conference exposed me to ongoing biological and epidemiological studies investigating the influence of environmental factors on pubertal maturation and mammary gland development. Abnormalities in development may cause a hormonal imbalance in cells, potentially heightening the risk of breast cancer. At times, the terminology of the research was difficult to comprehend. However, the presentations nevertheless brought up some truly interesting studies, such as the impact of soy products on the incidence of breast cancer. The conference integrated the advocate community with the scientist community, allowing members of the audience to express their concerns and ask questions after the presentations.


BCERC Conference 2009
By Farooq Ansari

Being given the opportunity to participate in a BCERC conference in California really changed my life. Presenting in such a professional atmosphere made the experience unforgettable. It was very interesting to be a part of such an exquisite level and area of research. By being present at the conference, I was able to learn what people and researchers are currently doing in order to decrease the spread of breast cancer. I also learned the significant and harmful effects of several chemicals in certain products. For example, a chemical compound that was discussed was Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA). This compound was interesting because this past summer I researched the compound Bisphenol A (BPA) and it was exciting to be able to learn about another derivative of the chemical.


2009image002BCERC Conference 2009
By Travis Fishstein

Following my internship at the Fox Chase Cancer in Philadelphia, granted by the HBCAC Students and Scientists Environmental Research Program, I had the distinct opportunity to attend the BCERC conference in Sausalito, California. At the conference, I was able to meet with world-renowned scientists in the field of Breast Cancer Environmental Research and reunite with my mentors from the past summer. The conference was conducted in a very professional manner and offered the latest findings on environmental agents which may induce the risk of breast cancer in humans.


2009image003BCERC Conference 2009
By Aliyah Cohen

Upon acceptance into the BCERC conference I felt an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. I was beyond astonished that the work that I had conducted on Mammary Gland Carcinogens and Endocrine Disrupters was worthy of such high applaud. But then, my ego deflated abruptly as I realized what was ahead. Presenting to a group of highly venerated researchers and activists was something I had anticipated and hoped for, but now that it was no longer a dream, but a reality, I became hesitant.