International experts gathered on October 26-29, 2014 in Boston, U.S., at the fourth summit of Prenatal Programming and Developmental Toxicity (PPTOX IV). The PPTOX conference series addresses environmental hazards during the vulnerable phases of prenatal and postnatal development and their long-term impact on health.
Philippe Grandjean from the University of Southern Denmark, Denmark/Harvard School of Public Health, U.S., opened the meeting, summarizing the history of research on later-life consequences of early-life exposures and outlined the history of PPTOX. In the following, Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), U.S., addressed attendees emphasizing the need of reducing exposure to environmental agents during multiple developmental windows and thus of primary disease prevention. “A good start will last a lifetime”, Birnbaum concluded. Finally, Emiko Todaka, representing the World Health Organization (WHO), talked about the importance of birth cohort studies in providing evidence of a causal relationship between exposure and disease. Further, the conference then covered a wide range of topics including the developmental origins of endocrine disorders, advances and insights from epigenetics, the role of placenta in prenatal programming, novel strategies for prospective birth cohorts, and how to translate scientific research to improve public health, amongst others.
Delivering the conference’s closing remarks Grandjean challenged the meeting participants to remove common misconceptions of the past that are harming public health, giving examples such as placenta acting as a barrier to protect the fetus against exogenous hazards.
The conference statement will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Endocrinology. PPTOX V will take place November 13–16, 2016 in Kitakyushu, Japan.