In focus – Dr. Carl-Gustaf Bornehag

The research performed in EDC-MixRisk helps to expand our knowledge on mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Meet our EDC-MixRisk scientists and hear their story on what they are doing and why it matters. This time in line is Carl-Gustaf Bornehag who is professor in Public Health Sciences and head of Public Health Sciences at Karlstad University, Sweden. He is an environmental epidemiologist with a major focus on health risks related to endocrine disrupting chemicals. He is also an adjunct professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.


Hi CG – What are you and your research group studying in the project?

Our focus is on population based epidemiological studies. Our main study – the SELMA study – includes around 2,000 mother-child pairs followed from early pregnancy and birth up to school age. In EDC-MixRisk, we are addressing a broad spectrum of exposures during early life (pregnancy and infancy period) that are significant for health and development during childhood in the three different health domains (sexual development, neurodevelopment, metabolism and growth). Our goal is to identify risk factors during sensitive periods of early life, e.g., environmental chemicals including endocrine disrupting chemicals, maternal stress, life styles etc. These risk factors can then be tested in controlled experimental studies in animal and cell models, which is our overall goal within the EDC-MixRisk project. Such interaction between epidemiology and experimental toxicology is a good platform for development of new and useful methods and tools for better risk assessment of harmful chemicals. The project brings together the experts from different disciplines and thus we have been able to develop good collaboration e.g. on risk assessment with Stockholm University and the group lead by professor Christina Ruden. We also have a major interest in exposure for mixtures of chemicals and have a deep collaboration with professor Chris Gennings and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York which is also where I hold an adjunct professorship.


What preliminary results or interesting aspects have you discovered?

We have generated a lot of important data in the project. So far, some of the key results from our epidemiological efforts are:

– Prenatal exposure for phthalates (mainly from soft plastics) are associated to impaired sexual development in baby boys.

– Prenatal exposure for per fluorinated compounds (PFAAs) is associated to a lower birth weight with some differences between girls and boys.

– Prenatal exposure for mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the association to health effects in different domains.

– In terms of exposure, PVC flooring material is a strong source for human uptake of phthalates in pregnant women.


What are the potential implications of your findings and their usefulness for society?

I think that our epidemiological findings from the SELMA study may bring results of interest to the society, not least regarding the problem with mixture exposure where there is much more results to come but also clear needs for further research efforts and policy actions. However, I am more and more convinced that it is when we are putting our epidemiological efforts into a broader context – i.e., into an interaction with experimental studies and risk assessment activities- we will bring true societal impact and gains. Here we are just one part in a broader context, bringing one piece to the puzzle in the challenge to improve risk assessment of endocrine disrupting chemicals, mixtures and human health effects. And the main platform for this interaction is Swetox, collaboration between the Swedish universities, and of course all our international collaborators in this EC funded research project.



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