2019 Annual Conference

ISCHE held its 4th international retreat on "Purposeful Research: From Study Design to Prevention" from Jan 8-11, 2019 at the Hacienda Misné in Merida, Yucatan Mexico. 

The retreat drew together a broad community of researchers, clinicians, regulatory and advocacy professionals, as well as students interested in children’s environmental health from around the globe. Sessions focused on diverse themes, including nurturing young investigators, emerging issues (e.g., water contaminants, fluorinated chemicals), maximizing the impact of our work, and environmental issues of concern in Mexico and around the world.







Tuesday, January 8th


4:00 – 7: 00 p.m. - Registration

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Dinner

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.- Brief introductions, welcome, and icebreaker activity

  • Introduction: Horacio Riojas



Wednesday, January 9th


7:30 - 8:30 a.m. – Breakfast

 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – The Evolving Controversy: Is Fluoride Neurotoxic?

Over the past century, water fluoridation was established to prevent tooth decay. Beginning in the 1970s, fluoride was added to toothpaste. Since the, the prevalence of fluorosis rose and the amount of fluoride added to water was subsequently reduced to prevent fluorosis. More recently, studies have raised questions about the neurotoxicity of fluoride. The purpose of this session is to provide an overview of the benefits and potential neurotoxicity of fluoride, especially for the developing brain, followed by a discussion about whether ISCHE should craft a policy statement about the use of fluoride.


  • Christine Till – Fluoride: facts and fiction 
  • Angeles Martínez Mier - Fluoride, its dental benefits and toxic effects: understanding an entangled web 
  • Rivka Green – AWhy the F* in formula? 

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. - Break

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Expanding Exposures to PFAS in Water

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large group of chemicals that have been manufactured and unregulated since the 1940s when products such as Teflon brought convenience to society. These chemicals are not easily broken down and are present in all living organisms that have been tested. Humans are exposed daily since PFAS are found in food packaging, stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon) etc., as well as in their drinking water. It is estimated that at least 110 million people’s drinking water in the US alone is contaminated with these chemicals. In this session we will review the state of the science with a focus on the epidemiology, children’s health, the state of regulations and how they and other chemical groups with common characteristics could be regulated in the future. A discussion of ISCHE’s next steps regarding PFAS and how we can promote more efficient and effective frameworks for the regulation of harmful chemicals and pollutants that adversely affect human health.


  • Tom Webster – Overview and discussion on epidemiological research
  • Joe Braun – What's in the water? Do low levels of PFAS in drinking water threaten human health? 
  • Wendy Heiger-Bernays – The challenge of federalism: the status of PFAS drinking water guidelines 

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Protecting children from chemical mixtures: study design, mediators, and methods

Protecting humans from chemical mixtures is difficult. Most epidemiologists have quantified the impact of chemical mixtures using statistical methods. This session will involve novel study designs that will expand our conversation about ways to quantify the impact of chemical mixtures and transcend traditional reductionistic methods to identify innovative solutions to protect children from chemical mixtures. 


  • Merete Eggesbo – Infants under double attack: The interplay between gut microbiome and toxicants 
  • Margaret Karagas  - Private waters systems & infant diet - Can we intervene?
  • Carly Hyland - Impact of organic diet on urinary pesticide levels in U.S. children and adults 
  • Cynthia Curl - The effect of an organic diet on children's health: is it time for a large RCT?
  • Birgit Claus Henn - Metal mixtures and childrne's health: from methods to messaging 

2:00 – 3:15 p.m.– State of Children’s Environmental Health in Latin America


  • José Ricardo Suarez - The ESPINA study: Pesticides, transient neurobehavioral performance in children, and agroecology in Ecuador 
  • Joao Torres - DDT and other persistent toxic substances: persistence and child health issues in Brazil 
  • Mara Tellez Rojo - Towards a biomonitoring system of lead inMexico: what have we accomplished, challenges, and the way ahead 
  • Ana María Mora - Using innovative technologies in children's environmental health studies in global settings: fNIRS example 
  • Marcela Tamayo y Ortiz- Is stress a preventable exposure in children? 


3:15 – 5:00 p.m. – Working session and networking

5:00 – 6:00 – Happy Hour/Relax/Interact

6:00 – 7:00 – Dinner

7:00 – 8:00 – Social Event (Storytelling)


Thursday, January 10th

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. – Breakfast

8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Young Investigators Session


  • Margaret Willis - Assessing the integration of children's environmental health into medical education 
  • Joan Casey - Mediation of the relationship between unconventional natural gas development and birth outcomes by maternal anxiety and depression 
  • Jacqui Barkoski - Environmental health in the Information Age 
  • Lesliam Quiros Alcala - Exposure to antimicrobial agents in consumer products and asthma-related outcomes among African American children with asthma 
  • Kam Sripada - Toxins in a globalized world and the promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 
  • Dana Goin - Firearm violence and preterm birth: Evidence of stochastic mediation by pregnancy complications and health behaviors 

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. - Break

10:30  a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Scientist-activism and Careers

Scientists are often wary or uncomfortable translating their science for purposes of action, whether it be written or spoken support of changes to existing policy or engagement with communities or advocacy organizations. Recent criticism of the “activist” scientist requires that we identify when, where, an dhow we as environmental health professionals can be most impactful while retaining our reputations as excellent scientists. In this session we will explore the challenges of embracing translation, while recognizing the relationship between career stage and trajectory. The overall objective of this session to formally identify effective practices for scientists with the goal of preventing or controlling disease in children.


  • Irva Hertz-Picciotto  - A thirty-year perspective: personal decisions, challenges, and lessons I've gleaned as an environmental epidemiologist 
  • Todd Whitehead - Some pitfalls of 'crossing the line' from research to advocacy 
  • Mark Miller - Moving past roadblocks to prevention 
  • Discussion - where is the line between science and advocacy in protecting children's environmental health? 

 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch

1:00 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.  –Incorporating Interdisciplinary Research in Children’s Environmental Health: New Perspectives from Uncommon Disciplines

The more we learn about how environmental stressors affect children's health, the more we recognize that social, political and geopolitical factors are critical to understanding the disease pathways. Anthropologists have always studied these factors and yet it is only fairly recently that their work has been recognized as imperative to understanding individuals interaction with the environment, thus exposures and rates of poor outcomes to environmental stressors, and eventually propose a better design of interventions. In this session, colleagues who work at the intersection of anthropology and traditional environmental health methods will share their expertise in an effort to engage ISCHE in this critical interdisciplinary science.


  • Katarzyna Kordas - Considering context for translational environmental health research
  • Maryann Cairns - Making the leap from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary environmental health research: global perspectives from an anthropologist
  • Elizabeth Roberts - Ethnography and environmental health: a different kind of mixed method

2:30 – 4:30 p.m. – Working session and networking

4:30 – 6:00 p.m. – ISCHE Policy Statements and Campaigns

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Dinner in town


Friday, January 11th


8:30 – 9:00 a.m. - Herb Needleman Award Presentation

  • Neil Leifer - Significance of Herb Needleman's work form legal perspective 
  • Mark Miller - Introduction of Ruth Etzel 
  • Ruth Etzel - First recipient of the Needleman Scientist-Advocate Award

9:00 – 10:00 a.m. – Policy Statement Update and Discussion

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Where We’ve Come over the Last Two Years and Envisioning the Next Two Years

  • Mark Miller
  • Bruce Lanphear 

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch

Afternoon Field Trip – swimming in cenotes or visit Great Museum of Mayan World 

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