Environmental and Occupational Health in China

Group Leader: Dr. Tongzhang Zheng, Professor of Epidemiology

The extraordinary rapid economic development in China during the past 3 decades has led to severe environmental deterioration due to high energy consumption and increased automobile emissions.  Through support from two NIH Fogarty grants (D43 TW 008323, D43 TW 007864-01) by collaborating with China’s National Cancer Center, and China’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, we have established three large prospective cohort studies in China and have been utilizing the resources from these on-going prospective cohort studies to investigate the relationship between environmental and occupational exposures, gene-environment interaction and metabolic disease risk and women and children’s Health.

In establishing the Jinchang Metal Cohort Study, we conducted a retrospective cohort study in the population and found that there was an elevated risk of mortality from diabetes (SMR=148, 95% CI 123,178). We conducted cross-sectional studies of heavy metal exposures and T2D risk using the baseline survey data and the clinical physical biochemical tests from the Jinchang Metal Cohort Study and found an increased risk of T2D ( OR=3.8, 95% CI: 3.4, 4.3) for smelting/refining workers with high metal exposure. A large nested case control study is planned to investigate the role of toxic metal and essential metals in the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Bai YN, Yang AM, Pu HQ, Dai M, Cheng N, Ding J, Li JS, Li HY, Hu XB, Ren XW, He J, Zheng T. Cohort Profile: The China Metal Exposed Workers Cohort Study (Jinchang Cohort). International Journal of Epidemiology. 2016. PMID: 27836916.
  • Yang AM, Liu SM, Cheng N, Pu HQ, Dai M, Ding J, Li JS, Li HY, Hu X, Ren X, Zheng T, Bai YN. Dose-Response Analyses of Serum Uric Acid and Risk of Diabetes: an original cohort study and meta-analyses. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2016; 4 (22) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30377-1.

We have established a prenatal cohort study involving 4,000 mother-infant pairs in Wuhan, China, that have repeated ultrasound measures of fetal growth collected across all three periods of pregnancy; Birth outcomes have been collected and in-person interviews were conducted to collect and update information that may affect fetal growth, birth, catch up growth and children’s development.  Children are assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development by well-trained medical staff at the study hospital. These extensive prospective data including serial maternal blood and urine samples present a unique opportunity to comprehensively investigate the relationship between maternal exposures, obesity, dietary intakes, fetal growth trajectories, birth outcomes and children’s development.  Several studies are planned to investigate the role of Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and women and children’s health based on the prospective cohort study.

  • Xia W, Du X, Zhang B, Li YY, Bassig BA, Zhou A, Wang Y, Chao X, Li Z, Yao Y, Hu J, Zhao Y, Wang Q, Liu J, Xue W, Ma Y, Pan X, Peng Y, Zheng T, Xu S. A Case-control study of prenatal thallium exposure and low birth weight in China. Environ Health Perspect 2015 May 22. PMCID: PMC4710601
  • Xia W, Hu J, Zhang B, Li YY, Qian Z, Wise JP, Bassig BA, Zhou A, Wang Y, Xiong C, Zhao J, Li Z, Yao Y, Du F, Zhou Y, Wang Q, Liu J, Xue W, Ma Y, Pan X, Yang P, Zheng T, Xu S. A case-control study of maternal exposure to chromium and infant low birth weight in China.  Chemosphere 144 (2016) 1484e1489.

This study includes 100,000 coal miners in Kailuan coal mine industry and the study has been following-up the study subjects every two years to study coal miners’ health from occupational exposure to coal dusts.  Together with the study of Xuanwei lung cancer study, we are investigate the role of occupational and domestic coal exposure and lung diseases. We are currently working with U.S. NCI to study lung cancer risk among nonsmokers among the coal miners. 

  • Wang G, Chang S, Li N, Bassig BA, Guo L, Ren JS, Su K, Li F, Chen S, Wu S, Zou Y, Dai M, Zheng T, He J. A prospective follow-up study of the relationship between C-Reactive Protein and human cancer risk in the Chinese Kailuan Female Cohort. 2014. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 24(2): 459-65.
  • Shen M, Chapman RS, Vermeulen R, Tian L, Zheng T, Chen BE, Engels EA, He X, Blair A, Lan Q.  Coal use, stove improvement, and adult pneumonia mortality in Xuanwei, China: a retrospective cohort study.  Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Feb;117(2):261-6.

In 1992, the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) concluded that there was an epidemic of NHL. My research on NHL has led to 5 NCI funded epidemiological studies in Connecticut. The results from these studies have made significant contributions to our understanding of the mysterious increase of NHL.  The International Lymphoma Consortium is currently searching for both the environmental and genetic risk factors related to the risk of NHL

  • Zhang Y, De Sanjose S, Bracci PM, Morton LM, Wang R. Brennan P, Hartge P, Boffetta P, Becker N, Maynadie M, Foretova L, Cocco P, Staines A, Holford T, Holly EA, Nieters A, Benavente Y, Bernstein L, Zahm SH, Zheng T. Personal hair dye use may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes Am J Epidemiol 2008 167:1321-31. PMCID: PMC4025953.
  • Zhang Y, Lan Q, Rothman N, Zhu Y, Zahm SH, Wang SS, Holford TR, Leaderer B, Boyle P, Zhang B, Zou K, Chanock S, Zheng T. A putative exonic splicing polymorphism in the BCL6 gene and the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005;97(21):1616-8. PMID: 16264183.