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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Protecting Children's Health for a Lifetime

For more than 14 years, EPA has partnered with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to expand knowledge about children’s environmental health through the EPA/NIEHS Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Program. Together, they have invested more than $150 million to support a network of multidisciplinary Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers (Children’s Centers).

Through the collaborative network, scientists, pediatricians, epidemiologists, statisticians, local community representatives, and other experts engage in cross-cutting research to understand and reduce children’s health risks and promote health and well-being in the communities where they live, learn, and play.

Children’s Center researchers are investigating environmental, genetic, and epigenetic (changes in gene expression based on nutrition and other factors) components of disease and disease prevention, as well as how social and cultural factors may be linked to many of today’s most pressing children’s health challenges, including asthma, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), neurodevelopmental deficits, childhood leukemia, diabetes, and obesity.

By design, a major emphasis of the Children’s Center program is to effectively share research results with health care professionals, educators, community groups, and parents in accessible, practical ways that will have real-world impacts in preventing disease and improving the health and development of children.

Just a few of the many recent Children’s Center research findings over the past year include the following.

  • A study by researchers at the Children’s Center at the University of California, Berkeley found an association between levels of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and lower levels of thyroid hormones in pregnant women and newborn boys. Thyroid hormone during pregnancy and the neonatal period is critical to proper brain development.
  • Researchers from the Dartmouth Children’s Center suggest that rice and food containing organic brown rice syrup can expose children to arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also adversely affect neurologic, respiratory, hematologic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and other systems.
  • Researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) found that children with exposures to phthalates (chemicals found in personal care and plastic products) have elevated risk of asthma-related airway inflammation.
  • CCCEH researchers were the first to find a difference between how boys and girls respond to prenatal exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos. They found that boys appear to be more vulnerable and lower IQs have been seen in boys exposed in the womb to this chemical.
  • A brain imaging study by CCCEH researchers found that even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure consistent with deficits at age seven.

To learn more about EPA’s Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers, including how to sign up for monthly EPA-sponsored webinars presenting the latest research findings, please visit: www.epa.gov/ncer/childrenscenters/.

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