Center for Early Lifestage Vulnerabilities to Environmental Stressors – Cumulative Health Impacts for Children in Underserved Rural Agricultural Communities in the United States
Protecting children’s health is one of the most important responsibilities of EPA. Children may experience different exposures than adults and may face a greater risk of health effects from these environmental exposures due to differences in behavior and biology. Environmental pollutant exposure during pregnancy and early childhood can impact neurodevelopment and may lead to childhood cancers and other adverse health outcomes that may arise in adulthood or in later generations. Currently, there is a critical gap in fully understanding the impacts of early lifestage chemical exposure on health later in life.
Children in underserved, rural agricultural communities may face increased health risks due to pollutant exposures like agricultural compounds in the air, water, and soil in combination with non-chemical stressors, such as poverty and limited access to services. There is an urgent research need to investigate adverse cumulative health impacts of chemical and non-chemical stressors for children in these communities to help reduce childhood and lifetime health disparities.
EPA awarded nearly $5.7M in grant funding to three institutions to establish transdisciplinary research centers to address the multidisciplinary cumulative health impacts in children’s health.
The research centers will investigate the cumulative health impacts of early lifestage (prenatal and childhood up to adolescence) exposures to pollutants and the added effect of non-chemical stressors among children in underserved, rural agricultural communities in the U.S.
To learn more, visit the RFA webpage.
The following institutions are receiving an award:
Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Project Title: The Bioecological Center for Rural Children’s Health (BeRCH)
Principal Investigator (PI): Gregg Stanwood
Award Amount: $1,900,000
The main goal of this research center is to evaluate chemical and psychosocial stressors while using multi-disciplinary approaches to promote children’s cumulative health in rural and agricultural communities. The center will support a participatory framework for increasing community engagement. The research goal will be leveraged by 1) documenting the chemical and non-chemical exposures of children in agricultural environments; 2) evaluating environmental stressor exposure data for changes to biobehavioral development; and 3) developing a cumulative impact statement. The center will produce new impact assessment tools, quantitative modeling of chemical and psychosocial stressor risk, and new data to improve understanding of stress exposures in childhood in rural communities.
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Project Title: Children’s Environmental Health Center in U.S. Southern Great Plains
Principal Investigator (PI): Changjie Cai
Award Amount: $1,898,738
This research center’s main objective is mitigating the chemical and non-chemical stressors that affect school absenteeism caused by gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases. This objective will be met by 1) identifying health impacts of infectious aerosol sampling data and health related social factors; 2) exploring connections between environmental engineering hazard controls (i.e., air purifiers), administrative environmental health interventions, and child gastrointestinal and respiratory disease; and 3) the utilization of sensors, machine-learning algorithms, and newly developed models for real-time air monitoring. The center aims to establish a Stakeholder-Driven & Data-Driven Children’s Health & Social Vulnerability Index (CHS) to better assess children’s health disparities in rural school systems and characterize the chemical and non-chemical stressors that promote child absenteeism in school due to gastrointestinal and respiratory illness.
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
Project Title: Integrating and informing actionable agricultural community tools (II-ACT): Using risk-based approaches for evaluating cumulative early life environmental stressors
Principal Investigator (PI): Elaine Faustman
Award Amount: $1,896,439
Project Summary: The research center will develop tools and approaches for characterizing the cumulative impact of chemical and non-chemical stressors and provide recommendations for improved approaches to cumulative mapping frameworks. The research team will accomplish this by: 1) integrating exposure and hazard data from multiple disciplines (toxicology, epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences) to identify relevant children’s health stressors; 2) using biomarkers to evaluate exposure and response data; and 3) comparing US EPA’s EJScreen, CDC’s Environmental Justice Index, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, Cal EnviroScreen, and the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map for consistencies and inconsistencies in chemical and non-chemical stressors of environmental health. Outputs of this research include models, recommendations to improve approaches for cumulative mapping frameworks, and the dissemination of research products.