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Early-life prevention of non-communicable diseases

For the first time, the leading international health journal, The Lancet has featured the need to address early-life and toxic exposures to metals, chemicals and air pollution in the prevention of non-communicable disease.

A commentary article on the Early-life prevention of non-communicable diseases appeared in The Lancet, 4 January 2013, was submitted by a team of experts who took part in the Prenatal Programming and Toxicity (pptox) III conference in Paris in May 2012. It says that much more attention should be given to “early-life interventions, optimisation of nutrition, and reduction of toxic exposures to curtail the increasing prevalence of non-communicable disease (NCDs)”.

Authors of the Comment are led by John M Balbus, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, USA; Robert Barouki, Université Descartes, Paris, France; Philippe Grandjean, University of Odense, Denmark; Maria Neira, World Health Organization, and some leading representatives of health and environment NGOs, including Genon Jensen, Executive Director of HEAL.

The article says that although causal relations have not yet been established, the new science of epigenetics offers insight into mechanisms of early life predisposition to adult disease risk. It states: “An increasing amount of evidence suggests that developmental exposure to nutritional imbalance or environmental contaminants including metals, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, and chemicals in drinking water, such as triethyltin, chloroform, and trihalomethanes can affect epigenetic changes, thus suggesting a mechanism for their effects on adult health. Similarly, prenatal exposure to air pollutants has been associated with epigenetic changes and subsequent effects on children’s respiratory health.”

The article concludes that the integration of NCD prevention with the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could leverage major worldwide investments in health and development.

Full article: Early-life prevention of non-communicable diseases, The Lancet, Volume 381, Issue 9860, Pages 3 - 4, 5 January 2013- please register online for free to download the article

Last updated on 9 January 2013

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