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: $697,125
Award Type: CRC Full Research Award
Research Priorities
Prevention & Risk Reduction>Risk reduction and identification

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.

Progress Report 1 (2013)

Many beauty products, including shampoo, perfume, and make-up, contain endocrine disrupting chemicals. The goal of this 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. A main task of the first year was to engage and empower local youth through regular meetings and trainings. This year we held 8 Saturday meetings with our Youth Community Council of 15 Mexican-American adolescents from Salinas. Meeting topics included presentations by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (Sarada Tangirala), the California Biomonitoring Program (Nancy Palate), and UC Berkeley professors (Drs. Harley, Eskenazi, and Minkler). Additionally, we worked with the youth to design, develop, and implement the HERMOSA Study, an exposure assessment and intervention study to examine Latina girls’ exposure to endocrine disruptors in beauty products. Several meetings were devoted to testing alternative low-chemical products with the youth, teaching them about questionnaire design, and pilot testing study instruments. The youth provided valuable feedback on all aspects of the study, including developing the study logo and name (HERMOSA stands for “Health and Environmental Research on Make-up Of Salinas Adolescents”).

As a result of the monthly meetings, we selected 12 youth to be hired as Research Assistants to implement the HERMOSA Study in June and July 2013. The youth participated in a full-time, one week training during the first week of June and data collection for the study began on June 10. The study is completely implemented by the youth, with supervision and support from the Principal Investigators and study staff. The Research Assistants are responsible for recruiting participants, scheduling their appointments, compiling their data collection materials, conducting interviews, collecting urine samples, giving the girls replacement products, and educating them about why we are conducting the study. To date, we have enrolled 40 girls in the study and are on track to meet our goal of 100 by the end of July.

In Year 2, we will finish data collection, send urine samples to the California Biomonitoring Program laboratory for analysis, conduct statistical analyses, and begin to prepare manuscripts with our results. The youth will play a role in analyzing the data, returning results to the community, and developing advocacy activities.