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Agricultural Health Blog

Dr. Curl Awarded NIH Grant to Study Herbicide Levels in Pregnant Women

Dr. Curl has been awarded a three-year, $457,537 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to measure herbicide levels in pregnant women – specifically, glyphosate, an active ingredient found in many herbicides, including Roundup. There is emerging literature suggesting that in utero exposure to glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides may affect reproduction and may adversely affect developing fetuses. Dr. Curl’s research will attempt to quantify how much glyphosate pregnant women are exposed to and how that exposure is occurring.

Dr. Curl’s three-year research project begins this fall with the development of an exposure assessment strategy to determine the number of individual spot urine samples required to reasonably represent long-term exposure. This will be particularly important, since existing studies of human exposure to glyphosate are limited. Once an exposure assessment strategy has been designed, Dr. Curl and her research group will use this strategy to assess glyphosate exposure within a cohort pregnant women. Participant recruitment will occur during year two of the study; half of participants will be recruited from areas near agricultural fields treated with glyphosate, and the other half from urban areas. The researchers hypothesize that those women living near glyphosate-treated fields will have higher exposures than those in urban areas, but this remains to be seen.

During year three of the study, half of the women will be provided with a fully organic diet for seven days, and the other half will receive a conventional diet. A series of urine samples will be collected from each participant, and the analyses of these samples will allow Dr. Curl to attribute glyphosate exposure to dietary and agricultural sources. The data collected from these two groups of pregnant women will allow Dr. Curl and other researchers to understand the contribution of diet and residential proximity to agriculture to total glyphosate exposure.

Dr. Curl Selected as one of 20 Pioneers in Environmental Public Health Under 40, and Presents Webinar Describing her Work

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the distribution of evidence-based knowledge and resources to improve individual and community health, nominated Dr. Cynthia Curl as one of 20 pioneers under 40 who are contributing exceptional work related to environmental and public health concerns. These nominees each developed content for a webinar describing their work to inspire further exploration of the links between the environment and public health, and a total of 10 webinars were created.

Dr. Curl contributed information about her pilot research project in the webinar titled, “Pesticide Exposure in Vulnerable Populations: New Horizons for Evaluating Sources and Health Outcomes.” In her portion of the webinar, Dr. Curl discussed both dietary ingestion as a potentially important pathway by which the public may be exposed to agricultural pesticides and the importance of evaluating in utero exposures to pesticides. This period is a critical part of development, and pesticides are associated with a wide range of adverse health outcomes; therefore, it is crucial to evaluate pesticide exposures among pregnant women. If you’d like to know more about Dr. Curl’s research, check out the current projects being conducted through her lab here.

Dr. Curl Presents New Research at the North American Agricultural Safety Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona

Dr. Cynthia Curl recently attended the North American Agricultural Safety Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona to present findings from her project, “Recognizing and Reducing Safety Hazards in Northwest Potato Production.” The summit was hosted by the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America, to connect farmers, farmworkers, safety professionals, and academics. The conference aimed to create and communicate best practices to address agricultural safety issues across various sectors of the industry.

Dr. Curl’s presentation focused on hazard prevention within potato production — a vital part of the agricultural industry in Idaho and in the larger Pacific Northwest. In collaboration with Dr. Karin Adams, she worked with the Idaho and Washington State Potato Commissions to survey potato growers regarding their perceptions of the frequency and severity of injuries associated with various potato production tasks and operations. Growers primarily reported concerns with activities requiring bending, twisting and lifting, as well as falls, as the most frequent causes of injury. Ultimately, the results of this research will lead to the development of health and safety interventions for potato production.

Learn more about this project and about Dr. Curl’s research overall.

Professional Training Opportunities Project Presented by Jessica Porter at the Northwest Occupational Health Conference

Jessica Porter, the former Research Coordinator for the Curl Agricultural Health Lab, presented her work Professional Training Opportunities Project (PTOP) at the Northwest Occupational Health Conference in Spokane, WA. The goal of her project, “Job Hazard Analysis in Agriculture: Developing Tools to Evaluate the Effect of Alternative Production Systems on Worker Health,” was to identify those pest management practices that differed the most between conventional and organic potato production so that differential hazards between the two production systems could be determined. Learn more about this project and about opportunities to apply for a PTOP grant.

Ian Penwell Represents Curl Agricultural Health Lab at the National WIC Association’s Annual Education and Training Conference

Ian Penwell represented the Curl Agricultural Health Lab (CAHL) with a poster presentation on the successful partnership between the CAHL and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clinics in Idaho at the National WIC Association’s Annual Education and Training Conference in downtown Philadelphia. WIC representatives and partners from around the country attended the conference, which took place on April 2-4, to discuss issues important to maternal and infant nutrition, including breastfeeding rates, community outreach, and evidence-based nutritional practices during pregnancy. Hundreds of attendees visited the poster exhibit hall and viewed the work being done in the Curl Agricultural Health Lab at Boise State University.

Dr. Curl Speaks at Boise State University’s “Celebrate Science” Event

Dr. Cynthia Curl was invited to speak at Boise State University’s “Celebrate Science” event on Thursday, April 20th in the Student Union Building. This event was hosted in light of Earth Day in order to highlight how science contributes to creating and maintaining the health of our planet and communities. “Celebrate Science” consisted of information booths and a series of five minute presentations, each presentation contributing to one of five set topics; Dr. Curl spoke as part of the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” segment of the event, and talked about how science and the government play a vital role in promoting food safety here in the United States.
Boise State plans to continue hosting “Celebrate Science” annually, so if you would like to read more information about what the event entailed this year, you can check out the details at the Celebrate Science event description.

Jessica Porter Presents at the Northwest Occupational Health Conference

Jessica Porter, the Research Coordinator for the Curl Agricultural Health Lab, recently presented a research proposal to the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety’s (NWCOHS) Professional Training Opportunities Program (PTOP) at the Nortwest Occupational Health Conference in Portland. The PTOP is a new program that will offer students, non-profit staff, and other eligible applicants funding to support activities that address health risks associated with work and the workplace. Learn more about this new program being offered through the NWCOHS.

Ian Penwell Awarded HERC Fellowship to continue Research in the Curl Agricultural Health Lab

Ian Penwell, a student volunteer in the Curl Agricultural Health Lab, is one of only six students to be awarded the HERC Fellowship through the Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives out of a total of 174 applicants. This fellowship is providing the award recipients with an opportunity to conduct undergraduate research with a Boise State University faculty member, so Ian will continue working with Dr. Cynthia Curl on her research. Learn more about the HERC Fellowship and the research that Ian will continue to be a part of.

Curl Interviewed about Organic Dietary Intervention Pilot Study

Dr. Cynthia Curl is an Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) Research Scholar and Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Health, and Dr. Curl was recently interviewed about her Pilot Study to Evaluate the Effect of an Organic Diet During Pregnancy. Read about the interview and how this pilot study will help Dr. Curl in designing a future study geared toward providing conclusive evidence to help women decide between eating conventional or organic food throughout their pregnancies.

Dr. Cynthia Curl’s Pilot Study and Former Research Discussed in TakePart Article

Cynthia Curl, an Assistant Professor for Boise State University’s Department of Community and Environmental Health, contributed to a TakePart article that addresses an unresolved, health-related question: what does long term, low-level exposure to pesticides mean for your health? The author interviewed Dr. Curl about her previous research and current pilot study in order to understand what progress is being made to produce the much needed answers to this question.