Friday, March 31, 2017

In the April issue of EHP [2/2]: News article: Relative risks for PM 2.5 exposures estimated from ground and satellite sources

Here's my second article in the April 2017 issue of EHP, a news story (or Science Selection) on a study published in the same issue. If the cover story is a bit of a think piece, this article veers more toward the technical side of things by discussing the relative accuracy of satellite (i.e., remote sensing), ground, and combined data sources for estimating cardiovascular health risks attributable to exposure to fine particular matter (PM 2.5). Got all that? Yeah, it's a bit wonky, but it's also directly relevant to a lot of research (and thus policy) in the U.S. and around the world that seeks to understand/limit human health effects associated with PM 2.5, the most insidious (and widely studied) form of air pollution on the planet. Find my article here and the original study here.

In the April issue of EHP [1/2]: Feature: How population-level health protections sometimes fail the individual

I have two articles in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. First is the cover story, a 3,000-word, slightly philosophical piece on the ethics (and, to an extent, logistics) of centralized vs. distributed (i.e., personalized/individualized) approaches to reducing harmful exposures via air and water. An early draft of the article also addressed chemical exposures via food, but that section was cut during editing and the other two expanded. I'm happy with how it turned out, and I hope readers (including researchers and policy makers) find it not only interesting but also insightful, and maybe even useful. Instead of trying to explain any more, I'll direct you to the piece straight off: Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Countering extremism with technology

This story for UC Berkeley's Berkeley Engineer magazine is a twist on my usual beat, centering on the nexus of social science and technology. It covers a new interdisciplinary class at Cal that teaches students to design and then build software-based solutions to a pressing real-world problem: violent extremism, or, put another way, ideologically motivated violence. At the helm are a pair of professors with considerable expertise in design thinking, foreign policy, and computer science. They hope the class not only opens students' eyes to the general possibility of using technology to solve real problems, but also leads to the development of truly useful tools for countering violent extremism.

Read more here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New study in EHP: Still more questions than answers about safety of soy-based infant formula

Sometimes when I post my articles here, I preface them with a brief intro or explanation. Sometimes the first paragraph or two of the story itself does the trick best. This is one of those cases. So without further ado, here's the first graf of my latest "Science Selection" for EHP, a news story on a newly published paper identifying a potential link between soy formula intake and changes to DNA in baby girls:

For years, parents have contended with conflicting reports in the media and blogosphere on the safety of soy infant formula. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, which under some conditions mimic or interfere with the estrogens within the human body. However, the National Toxicology Program concluded in 2009, based on the research to that point, that exposures to phytoestrogens in soy formula are of “minimal concern.” Research in the field continues apace, with a new study providing evidence of an association between soy formula consumption and differences in gene methylation in baby girls—although any health implications remain unknown.