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Release: July 24, 2001

UI professor selected to advise World Health Organization

IOWA CITY, Iowa – A University of Iowa professor is one of about 15 people worldwide invited to participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) workshop in Geneva, Switzerland this fall. Kevin Kregel, a professor of exercise science in the College of Liberal Arts, was selected as a temporary advisor for the WHO Temperature Workshop Oct. 16-17.

The workshop will bring together an international panel of experts to present information on the effect of temperature on mammalian cells, tissues and organs and define the temperature levels causing adverse effects in these biological systems. The panel will then prepare a written report on recommendations for maximum permissible temperature elevations in human beings.

The workshop is being held in conjunction with the ongoing International Electromagnetic Field Project at the WHO, which seeks to identify the effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields—such as those created by cellular phones—and to make a concerted effort to identify gaps in knowledge in this area, Kregel said. The WHO wants to know at a basic science level what high temperatures can do to human beings, so it can address potential concerns about radiation effects which can increase body temperature and potentially damage sensitive tissues such as brain, eye, and testes, he said.

"I am looking forward to the discussions and the recommendations we’ll generate," Kregel said. "The scientific literature in this field has not been critically evaluated, so it has been difficult to generate a consensus related to these specific health concerns. There needs to be a sound scientific basis for guideline development and health risk assessment going forward."

Kregel said colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended him to the WHO for the workshop. One area of his research focuses on the effects of such stressors as hyperthermia and exercise on cardiovascular and thermoregulatory control systems at the organ, cellular, and molecular level.