“The fact that we don’t know a great deal about this area doesn’t mean it’s daunting,” said George Daston, research fellow at Procter & Gamble. “We just need to build on what we have. Microassays already show how chemical exposures change the gene expression in certain parts of the genome. The fact that we don’t know a lot doesn’t mean we can’t start testing quickly.”
Birnbaum, who formerly was head of experimental toxicology at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said regulators and industry don’t have to start from square one.
“We’re already marching down this road,” said Birnbaum. “The National Toxicology Program is already talking about including some epigenetic studies in the program.”
The most important public health issue that arises from epigenetics, Birnbaum told Environmental Health News, is that the current environment may not be the crucial factor to consider when examining what causes diseases.
“Asking heart attack victims what they ate this year or last may be far less important than what they were exposed to in the womb and shortly after birth,” she said.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.