EPA Workshop on Epigenetics and Cumulative Risk Assessment
[UPDATE] Thank you for attending the EPA Workshop on Epigenetics and Cumulative Risk Assessment on September 2-3, 2015. The workshop materials, agenda, and a glossary of epigenetic terms are available from the tabs below.
Download the Workshop Agenda (PDF)
The workshop included presentations and discussions by scientific experts pertaining to three topics (i.e., epigenetic changes associated with diverse stressors, key science considerations in understanding epigenetic changes, and practical application of epigenetic tools to address cumulative risks from environmental stressors), to address several questions under each topic, and included an opportunity for attendees to participate in break-out groups, provide comments and ask questions.
The workshop seeks to examine the opportunity for use of aggregate epigenetic change as an indicator in cumulative risk assessment for populations exposed to multiple stressors that affect epigenetic status.
Epigenetic changes are specific molecular changes around DNA that alter expression of genes. Epigenetic changes include DNA methylation, formation of histone adducts, and changes in micro RNAs. Research today indicates that epigenetic changes are involved in many chronic diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, mental health disorders, and asthma). Research has also linked a wide range of stressors including pollution and social factors with occurrence of epigenetic alterations. Epigenetic changes have the potential to reflect impacts of risk factors across multiple stages of life.
Only recently receiving attention is the nexus between the factors of cumulative exposure to environmental stress, epigenetic change, and the development of chronic disease. In the terminology of environmental science, epigenetic changes may be able to play a role as both biosensors of cumulative exposure and biomarkers of effect for disease processes.
This workshop examined the concept of "epigenetic load" - accumulated epigenetic marks as influenced by multiple stressors - and how it can inform cumulative risk assessment. Important questions for understanding as the field develops include possible "tipping points" for cumulative epigenetic change, which when exceeded would compromise health. And whether, in a population already exposed to significant stressors, an additional stress (even if not large in magnitude) can lead to some increase in the probability of disease.
Registration/NominationThis event is over, so this feature is closed.
EPA will hold a workshop in Arlington, VA on September 2-3, 2015 to examine the role that data on epigenetic changes may play in assessing cumulative risk in human populations exposed to multiple stressors.