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AAAAI Annual Meeting / WAC 2018

Preview the 2018 Keynote

BirnbaumThe 2018 keynote speaker is Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Birnbaum is the first toxicologist and the first woman to lead the NIEHS/NTP. She has spent most of her career as a federal scientist and has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Birnbaum’s own research and many of her publications focus on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of actions of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking real-world exposures to health effects.

Birnbaum spoke with the AAAAI on the importance of studying climate and health and gave details about her keynote.

Why is it important to talk about how climate affects health?

Climate related issues are one of the biggest threats we face this century. Health is intimately related to climate and it affects everyone. Many of the larger issues you see in some regions are mirrored all across the globe.

What do you hope keynote attendees walk away with?

I’m interested in helping people understand that global issues and local issues are often the same thing. Sometimes low and middle-income countries may deal with issues on a larger scale, but don’t think those issues are not happening in high-income countries too.

We might think that our air is clean compared to other parts of the world, but their air doesn’t stay in one place. It will redistribute and come to us. We know that this affects health even when pollution levels are below our regulatory limits.

How has the research behind climate’s effect on health evolved?

To answer, I will use the example of air pollution. Up until the 1990s, people were talking almost exclusively about how air pollution affected the lungs and respiratory system. Scientists then began to talk about the effects on other parts of the body. In the 2000s, we started realizing that people were having heart attacks because of particulate matter in air pollution. It effects everything from learning and memory to the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, obesity, cancers and other diseases. My keynote will use many examples of how climate is relevant specifically to allergy/immunology.

Attend the “Global Environmental Change and Our Health” keynote on Saturday, March 3 at 3:30 pm.