Hunters Point Biomonitoring Detects Maternal /Child Transmission of Radioactive Metals in Simultaneously Collected Urinary Screenings.
Prepared for the Scientific Guidance Panel — Biomonitoring California July 16, 2021
“The heavy metals mercury, lead and cadmium are toxicants, which are well known to cross the placenta and accumulate in fetal tissues. Prenatal exposure to mercury and lead poses a health threat to the developing brain. Fetal exposures to lead and cadmium correlate with reduced birth weight and birth size.” Heavy Metals and Placental Fetal-Maternal Barrier— Caserta et al - European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Biomonitoring research on the effects of perinatal exposure to toxic heavy metals has been conducted in recent years. Most studies rely on analysis of umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid or breast milk using mass spectrometry. Mass spec is an analytic tool capable of sorting multiple molecules in a sample by determining the exact mass to charge ratio (m/z) and molecular weight of each.
This is called aggregate analysis and the 1993 National Human Exposure Assessment Survey (NHEXAS) was the first large scale human biomonitoring program to incorporate complex measurement studies documenting population distributions of exposure to “high-risk target chemicals” including metals, VOCs and pesticides.
Phase I NHEXAS studies — sponsored by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development- addressed important scientific issues including patterns of exposure by demographic group, the identification of “high exposure” groups and the impact of diet and activity in exposure over time.
Research published in the July 2011 issue of Neurotoxicology examined the adverse impacts of prenatal exposure to five heavy metals on neurobehavioral development in 1652 maternal-infant pairs in Shanghai, China. The detection of increased levels of cadmium, mercury, arsenic and thallium in cord blood was associated with decreased scores on Neonatal Behavioral Neurological Assessments. [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21664460/]
Cord blood concentrations of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (CD), arsenic (As) and thallium (TL) were stratified by exposure level. The median blood concentrations of all five toxicants were deemed safe except arsenic. High level exposures that exceeded median concentrations for Hg, Cd and TL were associated with lower NBNA scores. Lower NBNA scores were seen for arsenic at all exposure levels.
In contrast with conventional human biomonitoring research methods, this case presentation documents the matching profile body burden of radioactive metals detected in simultaneous screenings of a mother and child… born three years after the mother relocated five miles west away from the contaminated region.
The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program offers a multimedia chronicle of known environmental impacts that adversely impact the life of a woman who grew up in three high risk neighborhoods within 0.5 miles of a federal Superfund system in heavily industrialized southeast San Francisco.
In June of 2021 she underwent biomonitoring evaluation and urinary toxic exposure screening conducted by the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program and processed by Genova Diagnostics — a certified laboratory.
The Comprehensive Urine Elements Profile test (CUEP) detected high normal elevations in arsenic, nickel and copper and toxic levels of thallium, tin, uranium, manganese and vanadium — along with deficiencies in essential nutrient elements needed for optimum immune and musculoskeletal function.
Uranium was detected in a concentration almost double the maximum allowable for the reference concentration:
All of the toxins detected in her urine have cancer risks, hazard indices and preliminary remediation goals set by the US EPA in 2002 and are identified as chemicals and radionuclides of concern by the US Navy and known to be present in soils, landfills and groundwater at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Yosemite Slough federal Superfund sites . On July 1, 2005 demolition and deconstruction began on Lennar Corp.’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Parcel A, a $100 million development expected to create 1,200 homes and 80,000 square feet of commercial space.
Between 2006 and 2007 an estimated 1.2 million tons of serpentinite rock was graded from the Hunters Point hilltop overlooking the shipyard to make way for the controversial mixed development plan that remains a historic subject of fierce community divide.
For decades residents of Bayview Hunters Point complained of asthma and environmentally linked cancers and chronic illness many believed to be caused by direct exposure to contaminants documented by both the Navy and EPA to be present at the decommissioned naval base once called “the world’s greatest shipping yard.”
In 1995 Department of Public Health Investigators identified a cluster of breast cancer in 60 African American women- many of whom were under the age of 50. According to Jennifer Mann, an environmental and cancer epidemiologist, studies showed breast cancer mortality rates for African American women in Bayview were 82% higher than for white women in the Bay Area.[https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/High-Rates-in-Bayview-Hunters-Point-3023861.php][https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/reports/StudiesData/DiseaseInjury/bvhuntca.pdf]
In 2004 the Environmental Health Division of the San Francisco Department of Public Health documented a surge in hospitalizations for adult and childhood asthma, emphysema and congestive heart failure in the 94124 zip code incorporatingBayview Hunters Point.
The 2007 Bay Area Air Quality Management District Report Card found air pollution in the 94124 zip code ranked in the high 80th percentile for particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds and in the 90th percentile for sulfur dioxide.
The EPA Office of Air & Radiation identifies particulate matter as a mixture of microscopic solids and droplets suspended in air containing diesel soot, acids, allergens, chemicals and cancer causing heavy metals bound to fine particles. In neighborhoods adjacent to the shipyard these airborne soils are volatilized by deep excavations of radiation contaminated soils at a property on the National Priorities List with one of the nations highest hazard ranking scores and an exhaustive list of contaminants catalogued by the EPA.
Particulate exposure is linked to increased infant mortality rates and by 2007 infant mortality rates in the 94124 zip code increased from 12.5 per 1000 live births to 15 per 1000 — across all ethic groups in Bayview Hunters Point. [https://asumchai.medium.com/establishing-medical-necessity-for-implementation-of-a-human-biomonitoring-program-at-the-hunters-ca6c04a413c5]
“In order to speed up the process to have the lagging US Navy turn the property over to San Francisco, Pelosi used John Murtha, the powerful ranking Democrat on the House military appropriations committee, who did her bidding to press to have the Navy sign a binding agreement for the deal on a specific date.” [https://sanfrancisco.newsplus007.com]
“In early 2004, Murtha leaned on US Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the City , according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A company called Lennar, Inc. had right to the land, and Laurence Pelosi, nephew to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was an executive with the firm at that time.” [https://www.i-club.com/forums/teh-politics-forum-114/when-will-murtha-investigated-138096/]
From 1990–2000 she lived with her Mother on Revere Avenue within 0.5 miles of the radiation contaminated shoreline of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. On that nearby shoreline is sited the campus of the US Naval Radiological Defense Laboratories. Building 815 operated as main headquarters for the NRDL from 1955 to 1969 and can be seen from the terminal end of Revere Avenue where she lived for almost a decade.
In 2000 she moved to live with family on the Hunters Point hilltop overlooking the Superfund sites and in 2001 gave birth to a daughter. In 2002 she moved to Gilman Avenue south of Yosemite Slough where she lived with her first child until 2006.
In 2006 she married and moved five miles west to Holloway Avenue near San Francisco State University. Three years later she and her husband welcomed a son…a small for gestational age special needs child with global disabilities and neurodevelopmental delays. At age 12, he is underweight, requires a feeding tube and relys on a rescue inhaler five times a day for poorly controlled asthma. Additionally he suffers from a spectrum of allergies and food sensitivities. He was breast fed for a year and is intolerant of dairy, nuts and gluten. A feeding jejunostomy tube was surgically installed as a result of his cachexia that was complicated by post-surgical infections.
Using the advanced EPA mapping tool EJScreen to analyze environmental indicators at the Holloway Avenue residence the major environmental impacts are determined to be proximity to traffic and lead based paint. Traffic proximity exceeds the 95th percentile for the US population south of Holloway Avenue however, hazardous waste sites and Superfund proximity are not major impacts on the cities westside.
Additionally, a unit in the apartment building where mother and child live was cited by the San Francisco Department of Public Health for health code violations due to indoor mold. Exposure to indoor mold can trigger allergies, asthma, chronic cough,colds and CNS disturbances.
In June of 2021, her 12 year old son underwent biomonitoring evaluation and urinary toxic exposure testing. The screening was remarkable in its detection of a profile of heavy metals that closely matched or exceeded the body burden of chemicals detected in his mother. Arsenic was detected in both mother and child at 30ug/g.
The radioactive metal uranium was detected in an alarming concentration five times higher than allowable for the reference population. The detection of uranium in concentrations double the concentration of the mother suggests bioaccumulation the result of prolonged exposure from breast feeding and/or intrauterine transmission.
“Although breastfeeding of infants is recommended globally, the fact that maternal toxic metal stores are mobilized into breast milk implies infants, whose mothers live or work in mining [or industrial] communities, are at risk of multiple exposures to toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic through breast milk intake, in addition to in utero exposure.” Cross-Sectional Assessment of Infants’ Exposure to Toxic Metals Through Breast Milk. Bansa et al — BMC Public Health Article number:505(2017)
Breast feeding transmits nutrients and transfers immunity from mother to offspring…and acts as a pathway of exposure to the body burden of maternal toxins. For decades medical scientists have detected traces of heavy metals in breast milk disturbing because these toxicants are being transferred to infants who lack immunity.
The use of biomonitoring in toxicological assessment of mother and offspring during lactation was studied in mice by Cai and Wang who found a reduced body weight and survival rate in breastfed offspring of mice exposed to nanoparticles of heavy metals. Exposure via the airway route led to greater tissue injury and elicited an aberrantly high immune response.
Maternal exposure to environmental toxins is one of the biggest causes of growth retardation and developmental delays in children. The Navajo Birth Cohort Study examined levels of uranium in mothers and their children by testing urine samples of newborns in the Navajo Nation. They found high uranium levels despite the fact uranium mining and processing has been banned on Navajo nation Land for over 15 years. According to Dr. Loretta Christensen, “Neurodevelopment delays were apparent on testing by ten months of age.”
“Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year.” Loretta Christensen — Chief Medical Officer — Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service
“About a quarter of Navajo women and infants who were part of federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official Monday. The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen — Chief Medical Officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended in 2018.” [US Official: Research finds uranium in Navajo women and babies. https://apnews.com/article/334124280ace4b36beb6b8d58c328ae3]
Intrauterine Exposure and Lactation as Pathways of Exposure to Environmental Toxins
The finding of a matching profile of body burdens of heavy metals in a mother and child tested simultaneously in June of 2021 using a urinary toxicological screening raises obvious questions:
- Was the child directly exposed to radioactive metals resulting in a body burden higher than the mothers?
- Was the child exposed via the intrauterine route to radioactive metals that bioaccumulated resulting in a body burden of uranium higher than the mothers and five times higher than allowable for the reference population?
- Was the child exposed during lactation to radioactive metals that bioaccumulated in the mother during a year of prolonged exposure?
- Is the finding of uranium levels five times higher than reference range in a child with growth retardation and global developmental delays born three years after the mother relocated out of the contaminated region, the cumulative impacts of prolonged maternal/child transmission due to both intrauterine exposure and breastfeeding?
The evidence suggests a child with global developmental delays and a toxic body burden of radioactive heavy metals who never lived in the Superfund region but was breast fed by a mother with a matching exposure profile likely bioaccumulated the toxicants through breast feeding and intrauterine exposure.
The expression of environmentally linked diseases in the child includes poorly controlled inflammatory asthma and allergies triggered by chronic exposure to in-door mold, motor vehicle emissions and food allergies. Complexities in medical care are compounded by deficiencies in essential nutrients and side effects from frequent use of asthma inhalers and corticosteroids.
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