HERMOSA: Hlth & Enviro Res on Make-up of Salinas Adolescents

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Investigator(s): Kim  Harley , Ph.D. - Kimberly  Parra , BA -
Award Cycle: 2012 (Cycle 18) Grant #: 18BB-1800 Award: $691,526
Award Type: CRC Full Research Award
Research Priorities
Etiology and Prevention>Prevention and Risk Reduction: ending the danger of breast cancer



Initial Award Abstract (2012)

Introduction. Synthetic chemicals are used extensively in cosmetics, shampoos, and other personal care products as fragrances, preservatives, or stabilizers. Some of these chemicals are “endocrine disruptors”, meaning that they mimic or block the effects of hormones, including estrogen, which is a key factor in the development of breast cancer. Some personal care product chemicals cause breast cancer in animal studies or increase the growth of breast tumors in human cells in laboratory studies. Nearly all Americans are exposed to these chemicals, but women tend to have higher levels in their bodies than men because of their greater use of personal care products. For many of these endocrine disruptors, higher levels are seen in adolescent and minority women compared with adults and non-Hispanic whites.

Research Questions. We will measure levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in adolescent Latina girls and then determine whether these levels decrease when the girls reduce their personal care product use or switch to low-chemical brands. We will determine which practices and products are associated with the highest levels of chemicals in the body and the greatest reductions.

Methods. This study will take place in the Salinas Valley of California, an agricultural region with a large Latino farmworker population, where our group has a long-standing, community-based project. Our group facilitates a Salinas-based Youth Community Council (YCC) of high school students interested in health and the environment. We will train the YCC in research methods and work with them to design the study, develop questionnaires, conduct interviews, and interpret the data.

The YCC will recruit 100 teenage girls from the Salinas Valley, interview them about their personal care product use, and collect urine samples. We will measure chemicals that come from personal care products in these samples. Next, we will provide the teens with fragrance-free, low-chemical shampoos, conditioners, and cosmetics and ask them to use only these products for seven days. On the seventh day, we will collect another urine sample and measure the same chemicals in the samples to see if they have decreased. Following the study, we will work with the YCC on the interpretation of the data and results. In collaboration with community partners and breast cancer and environmental advocacy groups, the YCC will learn to develop educational materials, disseminate this information (first, to the community and, then, nationally via the Web), and prioritize and implement advocacy projects based on our findings.

Innovation. This study of youth will be conducted by youth. We anticipate that teens who are employed by this project and conduct the research will be empowered, gain marketable skills, and will increase their interest in science, community issues, breast cancer, and the environment.

By intervening on the teens’ exposures and potentially showing a reduction in chemicals in their urine, we will identify ways for girls to reduce chemical exposures. Adolescence is a critical life-stage, not only because use of consumer products increases dramatically, but also because the body is undergoing rapid hormonal and developmental changes and exposure now may impact later breast cancer risk. In addition, by including teens in the study of exposures we are, in fact, reaching out to a larger community. We have learned that the children in this community, being more acculturated and advanced in English, are a conduit for educating parents. Thus, through youth, we hope to raise community awareness about breast cancer and chemicals in the environment.

Community Involvement. The proposed study is rooted in the 15 year-old CHAMACOS community-university partnership between the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) and Clinica de Salud del Valle Salinas (CSVS). CHAMACOS partners have engaged in extensive environmental health education activities, having reached over 15,000 area residents. The CHAMACOS project is guided by a Community Advisory Board with input from the YCC, Grower Council, and Farmworker Council. For this project, the CHAMACOS partnership will work with the YCC in conducting all phases of the study. The YCC, in partnership with CERCH and CSVS, and in consultation with other breast cancer and environmental advocacy groups, will develop education materials and strategies to reduce personal care product exposures in the Latino community based on results of the study.

Future Plans. The YCC, in partnership with CERCH and CSVS, will continue to participate in leadership and advocacy. We aim to disseminate the results of this study to local and statewide medical, health, and social service agencies involved in the health of Latino communities. We also aim to influence government and corporate policies about chemical use in personal care products with youth-driven advocacy and online social media.




Final Report (2015)

Many beauty products, including shampoo, perfume, and make-up, contain endocrine disrupting chemicals. The goal of the HERMOSA project is to determine sources and levels of 4 endocrine disrupting chemicals – phthalates (used in fragrances), parabens (a preservative found in make-up), triclosan (used in anti-bacterial soaps), and oxybenzone (a sunscreen agent) – among Latina teenage girls and to determine whether we can lower exposure by giving the girls low-chemical beauty products to use instead. The project is a community-based participatory research project that has an additional goal of empowering Latina and Latino youth by teaching them scientific research methodologies, training them as health educators, and working with them to develop advocacy projects aimed at lowering endocrine disruptor exposure to teens in their community.

We are currently on track to complete all the project specific aims. In the second year of the study, we completed enrollment and data collection for the HERMOSA Study. Twelve Youth Research Assistants were hired in June and July 2013 to recruit participants, schedule appointments, conduct interviews, collect urine samples, give the girls replacement products, and educate them about endocrine disrupting chemicals in personal care products. One hundred teenage girls enrolled in the study, provided detailed information about their recent personal care product use, provide urine samples, and agreed to use low chemical products for 3 days to try to lower their urinary chemical concentrations.

Preliminary analyses of baseline data suggest that use of certain products is associated with higher urinary chemical concentrations. For example, higher urinary triclosan levels were seen in girls using triclosan-containing toothpaste, higher oxybenzone levels were seen in girls using sunscreen, and higher paraben levels were seen in girls wearing foundation, mascara, and blush. Early results suggest that urinary concentrations of phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and oxybenzone decreased during the intervention phase of the study. Paraben levels decreased approximately 45% when the girls changed to alternate products, and triclosan and oxybenzone levels decreased by approximately 35%. Phthalate levels were harder to decrease, although metabolites of diethyl phthalate decreased by 28%.

We also conducted several activities in year 2 aimed at empowering youth and training them in scientific methods, health education, and advocacy. In addition to helping plan and implement a scientific study, the youth have also been involved in the data analysis process. Working with Dr. Harley, the youth research assistants have had the opportunity to compare the pre- and post-intervention levels of endocrine disruptors and generate and test hypotheses about which girls would be likely to have higher levels. The youth have given talks about the HERMOSA Study to community groups, developed health education materials, and organized tables with interactive quiz games, health education materials, and DIY recipes at local events. With supplemental funding, we have been able to hire 12 youth as research assistants again in June and July 2014. Summer projects include polishing their public speaking skills, planning and implementing the HERMOSA Community Forum to inform participants about the aggregate and individual results, developing additional education materials, and holding focus groups to refine their messaging to teenage girls about using low-chemical beauty products.

Publications:
US study raises new questions about parabens' link to breast cancer
Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study