Kentucky Wesleyan Grad Speaks Oct. 3 about Her Career Researching Environmental Toxins

Oct 3, 2018

Dr. Kim Cecil
Credit Dr. Kim Cecil

An Owensboro native who does research on how chemicals in the home and air affect the brain says we can make informed choices to minimize exposure.

Researcher Kim Cecil will discuss how she discovered her career path and her work at her alma mater, Kentucky Wesleyan College, on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Rogers Hall at the  Winchester Center.

Cecil’s presentation titled, “Finding Significance: How We Make A Difference in the World,” at Kentucky Wesleyan is the annual Ellie Magnuson Lecture in Literature and Science. The event is open to the publc.

Cecil works with Magnetic Resonance Imaging, commonly known as  M-R-I, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to study brain diseases in children. She studies environmental exposure to materials including lead, tobacco smoke, pesticides and nonstick coatings like the material used on pans. She said flame-retardant materials commonly used on furniture are also a concern.

“With the furniture exposure, when you buy a sofa, and they discontinue a flame-retardant that was used in that sofa, you generally don’t know,” said Cecil. “You sit on it for 10 years and then you give it to your nephew who’s gone to college and needs his first apartment furnishings. So they stick around for a really long time.”

Cecil said over the last 30 years there’s been a dramatic increase in learning disabilities.

”And we believe that some of that increase is due to all the prevalent toxicant exposures that we all either breathe in or we take in with our food or when we sit on a sofa with certain flame-retardants, it gets absorbed in our skin,” said Cecil. “We think all of those things are getting into our bloodstream and changing our brain.”

Cecil said as consumers, we can make choices that limit our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. For instance, instead of nonstick cookware, we can use cast iron pans.

Cecil has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics from Kentucky Wesleyan and a master’s degree and Ph.D in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. She completed a fellowship in Magnetic Resonance Imaging at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. She was featured the NOVA episode on PBS in 2017, “Poisoned Water: The Story behind the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis.”