Dr. Duk-Hee Lee is a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea. She holds a MD and PhD in preventive medicine. As an epidemiologist, her research area is health effects of low dose chemical mixtures, especially persistent organic pollutants (POPs), in human. In particular, her publications have suggested that lipophilic chemicals like POPs accumulated in adipose tissue may play a more important role in the pathogenesis of obesity-related health problems rather than obesity itself. Recently, she pointed out the limitation of traditional approaches to protect public from environmental chemicals and proposed the modification of lifestyle as a practical solution to cope with possible harms of low-dose environmental chemicals. She has published more than 180 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals. She served as an associate editor of Environment International and is serving as an editorial member of Environmental Research, Current Environmental Health Reports, and Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Topic: “A role of low dose environmental chemicals in human health: what can we do against them?“
- To understand a role of low dose environmental chemical mixtures in the development of common chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and dementia
- To understand complicated interactions between obesity and lipophilic chemical mixtures in the development of obesity-related diseases
- To understand why traditional approaches against environmental chemicals such as risk assessment-based regulation or avoidance of exposure sources cannot protect human in the real world
- To understand why the modification of lifestyle can be a practical solution to cope with possible harms of low-dose environmental chemicals.
Low dose environmental chemicals including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can disturb endocrine, nervous, and immune systems. In particular, the evidence is accumulating that the chronic exposure to low dose lipophilic chemical mixtures such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is linked to the high risk of many chronic diseases belonging to metabolic syndrome. Traditional chemical-focused approaches, strict regulation and avoidance of exposure sources, can help protect humans from individual or several chemicals in the high dose range, but their value in the low dose range is questionable. First, exposure to problematic environmental chemicals is omnipresent and many common pollutants present no safe level. In this situation, the value of any effort focusing on individual chemicals is very limited. Second, critical methodological issues, including the huge number of environmental chemicals, biological complexity of mixtures, and non-linearity, make it difficult for risk assessment-based regulation to provide reliable permissible levels of individual chemicals in the situation of low dose chemical mixtures. Third, the largest exposure source is already internal; human adipose tissue contains the most complex chemical mixtures. Thus, in the low dose range, a paradigm shift is required from a chemical-focused to a human-focused approach for health protection. Two key questions are (1) how to control toxicokinetics of chemical mixtures to decrease their burden in critical organs and (2) how to mitigate early harmful cellular effects of chemical mixtures. Many lifestyles can be evaluated for these purposes. Although both the chemical-focused and human-focused approaches are needed to protect humans, the human-focused holistic approach must be the primary measure in the low dose range of environmental chemicals.