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Environmental specialist discusses sickness causes

Dr. Winnie Hamilton, CIP speaker, with chart showing how many factors are involved in environmentally causes sickness.
Dr. Winnie Hamilton, CIP speaker, with chart showing how many factors are involved in environmentally causes sickness.

GALENA PARK – The CIP group (Community Industry Partners) heard from Environmental Scientist Winnie Hamilton at their monthly meeting last Thursday at the Baggett Center.

Hamilton is Baylor College of Medicine’s Director of Environmental Health Service.

She presented an explanation of how researchers look for links between air pollution and health effects, and presented facts on previous and current studies.

Although many citizens want to draw a causal relationship between plant emissions and high cancer rates, she said that in reality the situation is much more complex than that, and many studies do not support this theory.

She cited a recent study comparing illnesses in Pasadena and Bellaire, where poisons in the air are different, but sickness rates and types are similar.

She said that many people had inflammation as a result of obesity, and obesity as a result of inflammation. This condition makes a person more susceptible to illnesses such as cancer, she said.

When trying to studying environmental stress factors and pollution, she presented a slide that showed how many factors might be involved, and said that studies must account for interactions and usually more than one factor involved in causing a disease.

She did acknowledge, however, that lung cancer can be related to the location one lives or works, as can cardiac arrest, and asthma. She said that these diseases have a significant correlation to air pollution.

In a study of cancer “hot spots” in the whole nation, or those areas that have the highest risk for cancer, she said that Los Angeles and Houston were prominent. She said that studies show that in Houston, the cancer risk is 4 to 10 times higher in the poorest neighborhoods.

For further information, Hamilton referred the audience to a website: www.bcm.edu/environmentalhealth.

CIP Facilitator Diane Sheridan referenced a cancer study done by the Texas Health Department last year. It showed in zip codes 77015, 77547, and 77029 that lung cancer in males was slightly higher than the State average. The complete study is at the TX Health Dep’t / Cancer Cluster registry.