Abstract: The US National Research Council recently released a report promoting sustainability assessment as the future of environmental regulation. Thirty years earlier, this organization (under the same senior author) had issued a similar report promoting risk assessment as a new method for improving the science behind regulatory decisions. Tools for risk assessment were subsequently developed and adopted in state and federal agencies throughout the US. Since then, limitations of the traditional forms of risk assessment have prompted some dramatic modifications toward cumulative assessments that combine multiple chemical and non-chemical stressors in community settings. At present, however, there is little momentum within the risk assessment community for abandoning this evolved system in favor of a new sustainability-based one. The key question is, how best to proceed? Should sustainability principles be incorporated into current risk assessment procedures, or vice versa? Widespread recognition of the importance of sustainability offers no clear guidance for the risk assessment community, especially in light of institutional commitments to sustainability tools and definitions that appear to have little in common with cumulative risk notions. The purpose of this paper is to reframe the sustainability challenge for risk assessors by offering analytical guidance to chart a way out. We adopt a decision analysis framework to overcome some conceptual barriers separating these two forms of assessment, and thereby, both escape the either/or choice and accept the inevitability of sustainability as a central regulatory concern in the U.S.
Abstract: Thyroid hormones (TH) regulate biological processes implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders and can be altered with environmental exposures. Developmental exposure to the dioxin-like compound, 3,3',4,4'-tetrachloroazobenzene (TCAB), induced a dose response deficit in serum T4 levels with no change in 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine or thyroid stimulating hormone. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were orally gavaged (corn oil, 0.1, 1.0, or 10 mg TCAB/kg/day) two weeks prior to cohabitation until post-partum day 3 and male offspring from post-natal day (PND) 4–21. At PND21, the high dose showed a deficit in body weight gain. Conventional neuropathology detected no neuronal death, myelin disruption, or gliosis. Astrocytes displayed thinner and less complex processes at 1.0 and 10 mg/kg/day. At 10 mg/kg/day, microglia showed less complex processes, unbiased stereology detected fewer hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and dentate granule neurons (GC) and Golgi staining of the cerebellum showed diminished Purkinje cell dendritic arbor. At PND150, normal maturation of GC number and Purkinje cell branching area was not observed in the 1.0 mg/kg/day dose group with a diminished number and branching suggestive of effects initiated during developmental exposure. No effects were observed on post-weaning behavioral assessments in control, 0.1 and 1.0 mg/kg/day dose groups. The demonstrated sensitivity of hippocampal neurons and glial cells to TCAB and T4 deficit raises support for considering additional anatomical features of brain development in future DNT evaluations.
Abstract: Developmental exposure to neurotoxic chemicals presents significant health concerns because of the vulnerability of the developing central nervous system (CNS) and the immature brain barrier. To date, a short list of chemicals including some metals have been identified as known developmental neurotoxicants; however, there are still numerous chemicals that remain to be evaluated for their potential developmental neurotoxicity (DNT). To facilitate evaluation of chemicals for DNT, the zebrafish vertebrate model system has emerged as a promising tool. The zebrafish possesses a number of strengths as a test species in DNT studies including an abundance of embryos developing ex utero presenting ease in chemical dosing and microscopic assessment at all early developmental stages. Additionally, rapid neurodevelopment via conserved molecular pathways supports the likelihood of recapitulating neurotoxic effects observed in other vertebrates. In this review, we describe the biological relevance of zebrafish as a complementary model for assessment of DNT. We then focus on a metalloid and two metals that are known developmental neurotoxicants (arsenic, methylmercury, and lead). We summarize studies in humans and traditional vertebrate models and then detail studies defining the toxicity of these substances using the zebrafish to support application of this model system in DNT studies.
Abstract: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are implicated in the epigenetic regulation of several brain developmental processes, such as neurogenesis, neuronal differentiation, neurite outgrowth, and synaptic plasticity. The main aim of this study was to evaluate whether miRNA expression profiling could be a useful approach to detect in vitro developmental neurotoxicity. For this purpose, we assessed the changes in miRNA expression caused by methyl mercury chloride (MeHgCl), a well-known developmental neurotoxicant, comparing carcinoma pluripotent stem cells (NT-2) with human embryonic stem cells (H9), both analyzed during the early stage of neural progenitor commitment into neuronal lineage. The data indicate the activation of two distinct miRNA signatures, one activated upon neuronal differentiation and another upon MeHgCl-induced toxicity. Particularly, exposure to MeHgCl elicited, in both neural models, the down-regulation of the same six out of the ten most up-regulated neuronal pathways, as shown by the up-regulation of the corresponding miRNAs and further assessment of gene ontology (GO) term and pathway enrichment analysis. Importantly, some of these common miRNA-targeted pathways defined in both cell lines are known to play a role in critical developmental processes, specific for neuronal differentiation, such as axon guidance and neurotrophin-regulated signaling. The obtained results indicate that miRNAs expression profiling could be a promising tool to assess developmental neurotoxicity pathway perturbation, contributing towards improved predictive human toxicity testing.
Abstract: Cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) are toxic metals with increasing interest due to their tendency to bioaccumulate in fish tissue which may pose a threat to human health via fish consumption. This review of the recent literature on Cd, Pb, Hg levels summarizes data of fish biomonitoring studies in the Mediterranean Sea in order to determine potential risks due to dietary intake of metals. The analytical methods applied are described, with Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy being the most popular. Most of the literature reviewed is focused on the Eastern Mediterranean. Results from the studies indicate that metals mostly accumulate in liver, followed by muscle. Although there are few studies reporting metal levels in fish exceeding the maximum residue levels (MRLs), the bulk of the studies cite levels below the MRLs. The hazard index (HI) of fish consumption, namely the ratio of estimated weekly intake to provisional tolerable weekly intake (EWI/PTWI) was estimated for adult consumers and no risk emerged. The EWI/PTWI ratios of lead and mercury for Italy (0.14 and 0.22 respectively) represent the highest HI levels estimated. In view of maximizing the benefits while minimizing the risks of fish consumption, a more detailed fish-specific database on intakes for consumers is required and extended bimonitoring in as many regions as possible.
Abstract: Most patients who receive unconventional testing for metals do not have any remarkable exposure history and typically lack symptoms or objective findings compatible with classic heavy metal intoxication. Unconventional tests results are usually promoted by alternative practitioners as the basis for recommending, promoting, and selling to the patient questionable and often inappropriate therapies/interventions supposedly aimed at “detoxification”. Most of these patients will have no evidence of overexposure to metals on the basis of a thorough history and will have levels of metals on conventional tests performed at reliable laboratories that are undetectable, within population background ranges or above population background, but well below levels associated with toxicity.