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Transcript: "Kids and Chemicals" for EPA Children's Center website NOW with Bill Moyers Segment 1

Clip from “Kids and Chemicals” for EPA Children’s Center website
NOW with Bill Moyers Segment 1
Broadcast on PBS – May 10, 2002

MOYERS:
Already there's evidence none of these babies enter the world untouched by chemicals. .. The clues show up in the umbilical cord blood ... it's difficult to collect even a small amount. The blood is both light sensitive and time sensitive. It must be carried off immediately for processing in a darkened lab.

MOYERS:
So you are looking here in this blood for the evidence that a child has been exposed to chemicals.

DR. FREDERICA PERERA:
That's right, the blood samples are processed and analyzed here. And this is Dr. Deliang Tang.

DR. DELIANG TANG:
I cannot shake hands with you...

MOYERS:
The blood is spun into separate components in a centrifuge.

DR. TANG:
See, here on the top is the plasma, the bottom, red, is the red blood cells. In between there is a very thin layer.

MOYERS:
I see it.

DR. TANG:
That's white blood cells.

MOYERS:
A very, very tiny layer of white blood cells.

DR. TANG:
That's where the DNA is.

MOYERS:
In the white blood cells.

DR. TANG:
In the white blood cells. Then we are going to take the white blood cells and extract the DNA. I'll show you DNA.

MOYERS:
Okay, good. I have never seen DNA before. That's it? Oh yes.

DR. PERERA:
That white milky substance.

MOYERS:
That's what they call the stuff of life.

DR. PERERA:
That's the stuff of life.

DR. TANG:
All the information is in there.

MOYERS:
But it is in this milky looking fluid there, this DNA, that you will hope to find the fingerprints of the chemicals that you are looking for?

DR. PERERA:
That's right. There's a lot of monitoring of exposure. But that's not enough.  We really need to know how much that individual has actually absorbed of a particular chemical and whether there has been damage to key targets like DNA or the immune system. It's like fingerprints, almost, at the scene of a crime.

MOYERS:
This machine detects chemicals in DNA. The chemical fingerprint will show up as a peak in the DNA analysis.

DR. TANG:
We're only interested in this peak.

MOYERS:
This one right here.

DR. PERERA:
That's the benzopyrene.

DR. TANG:
This peak is representing the amount of adducts the baby has.

MOYERS:
The adduct is A D D U C T? It's not a word I was familiar with.

DR. PERERA:
An adduct is where the chemical is actually hooked on to DNA.

MOYERS:
This is a model of benzopyrene ... a chemical formed by burning fuels. When benzopyrene crosses the placenta it makes its way into the fetus, into the cell, and can bind itself to the DNA ... forming the adduct.
This is undeniable proof that the chemical has been there and damaged the baby's DNA.

MOYERS:
That's the fingerprint you're talking about.

DR. PERERA:
That's the fingerprint and if this adduct is not repaired properly, a mutation, a change in the coding sequence can result. And if other things happen down the road that cell can become a cancer cell.

MOYERS:
Six out of 10 of these babies have measurable adducts.
Earlier work by Dr. Perera determined that the greater the number of adducts, the greater the risk for cancer.

DR. SANDRA STEINGRABER:
And that's the missing link in all this. We know the exposures are happening, often. We know the cancers are happening, but being able to then trace the cause and effect link between the exposure and the biological damage that exposure does inside the body and then being able to say that that's the kind of damage that we know contributes to tumor formation, that's the link we're beginning to fill in and that's what's so exciting I think about the new science.


©Public Broadcasting System 2002

 

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