Keynote Speech Links Neurological Disease with Occupational and Environmental Exposures

Thomas Sinks from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention underscored the influence of environmental and occupational health in neurological disorders during his keynote speech at UCSF’s Continuing Medical Education (CME) Update held from October 31 to November 3, 2012, at Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

While delivering his address, the deputy director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and National Center for Environmental Health recounted how U.S. legislation to phase out the use of lead in gasoline changed the course of childhood neurologic disease resulting from lead poisoning over the last century. At the same time, he raised awareness of the re-emergence of fatal lead poisoning in Nigeria where, since 2009, more than 400 children have died from mining and smelting lead-rich gold ore. The CDC is working with Nigerian officials to investigate and address this problem, he reported in his presentation.

In total, 125 health professionals, including nurses, physicians and industrial hygienists, attended the four-day event. Attendee James Moeller, MD, came from McChord, WA, to learn more about industrial–related exposures and health. In his position with the United States Army he finds noise induced hearing loss is an important issue for aviation workers. Others, like Michael MacLean, MD, from Hanford, CA, the Health Officer for Kings County, attended to widen their knowledge in occupational health practice and research.

The combined program of Occupational and Environmental Factors in Neurological Disease and Occupational and Environmental Medicine Update was co-chaired by COEH faculty member Paul Blanc, a UCSF professor of medicine, endowed chair, and division chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Robert Kosnik, a UCSF associate professor and the medical director of Occupational Health Services in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

COEH members who presented at the CME Update included Robert Harrison, Rupalis Das, Rachel Roisman, Barbara Burgel, and director John Balmes. Gina Solomon, deputy secretary for Science and Health at the California Environmental Protection Agency and a member of COEH’s Advisory Committee, also presented.

The event was supported with assistance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Society of Toxicology, the International Commission on Occupational and Environmental Health, the Southern California COEH, and the Council for Education and Research on Toxins, along with COEH at UC Berkeley.

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