Economic Stimulus to aid Environmental Toxin Research

By Claire Webber

Check the headlines of celebrity news lately and you may see a recent rash of articles slamming Gwyneth Paltrow for voicing her concern about environmental toxins and their impact on children.  It’s mind boggling to see that most of these articles label her as a ‘nut’ and ‘loopy’ or out of her mind.  Thankfully celebrity gossip magazines and blogs aren’t controlling our nation’s future, and our recent economic stimulus package actually includes funding to increase the research regarding this very real threat.

According to Elaine Shannon, who writes for Enviroblog, $10.4 billion dollars has been allocated for ‘biomedical and behavioral research.’  These funds, which are to be distributed through the National Institutes of Health, will help keep important government programs alive.

According to the report, microbiologist Linda Birnbaum, who heads up The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, plans to direct the funds to areas that researchers have determined need attention the most.  And it may come as some surprise to celebrity blog writers that topping this list is research relating to our understanding of environmentally triggered diseases. 

At least $200 million dollars will go towards programs of this nature that continue to investigate the complicated relationship between environmental contaminants and the human body, as scientific research in these areas is still in early stages of development.

According to Shannon’s report other areas that the NIEHS intends to focus on include:

–    Health effects in relation to climate change

–    Stem cell research as an alternative to lab animal use to predict toxicity of chemicals

–    Genetic changes caused by prenatal environmental exposure to chemicals causing conditions that may not present themselves until later in life or even in future generations

–    Studying the risks associated with different materials, like plastics, on a cellular level

As years of progress have gone by, little has been studied to understand the complex interaction between humans and compounds we have created.  Recent reports related to toxic chemicals in the home, in places previously assumed to be safe, can be found almost everywhere on the net. 

Developing new products and compounds to make our life ‘easier’ it is comforting to know that the government is at least taking note of certain risk factors.  And while studies in the area of environmental contaminants are a long way off in many areas of understanding, it is encouraging to see growth in research and research funding.  


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