The vision of the NIEHS is to use environmental health sciences to understand human disease and improve human health. Below are some research highlights from NIEHS scientists since its founding in 1966.
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Researchers identify first breast, ovarian cancer gene: BRCA1
NIEHS and collaborators at the University of Utah isolated a tumor-suppressor gene known to play a critical role in the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. BRCA1 was the first breast cancer gene to be identified.
Former Scientific Director Rodbell awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine
In 1994, Martin Rodbell, Ph.D., an NIEHS scientist emeritus and former scientific director, was bestowed with the highest honor a scientist can receive, the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Pioneering studies by Rodbell and his colleagues at the NIH, laid the ground work for the discovery of “G-proteins” and their role in signal transduction, which regulates the human body's cellular “communication” activities. This discovery informed us about hormone function. It also played a role in demonstrating how light and odors are perceived, how signals travel between neurons in the brain, and how some diseases affect the function of our vital organs.
Particulate exposure linked to increased respiratory problems and risk of early death
Researchers discovered a strong association between exposure to fine particles, sulfur dioxide, and acid aerosols, and an increase in respiratory symptoms, reduced lung capacity, and risk of early death.
NTP issues 1st Report on Carcinogens
The National Toxicology Program released the 1st Report on Carcinogens, which listed 26 chemicals and industrial processes with potentially harmful effects on human health. The Report on Carcinogens is an informational scientific and public health document that identifies and discusses agents that may pose a hazard to human health by virtue of their carcinogenicity. It lists these agents in two categories - "known to be human carcinogens" and "reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens." Some examples of substances identified as known to be carcinogenic include benzene; asbestos; dioxin, such as 2,3,7,8- Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin; environmental tobacco smoke; and tobacco smoking. The NTP is currently reviewing additional nominations for possible listing in or removal from the 12th Report on Carcinogens. The NTP has identified additional nominations that it may consider for review as either a new listing in or changing the current listing in the 12th RoC.
Cognitive, behavioral development delayed in children exposed to lead
Children's health researchers demonstrated that exposure to very low levels of lead during early childhood can lead to significant delays in cognitive and behavioral development.