NIEHS/EPA CEHCs: Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center: Formative Center - University of California, San Francisco
People encounter a wide range of chemicals in their everyday lives, some of which may be harmless and some of which are not. Potentially harmful chemicals in the environment are of particular concern for pregnant women, because exposure to toxic chemicals in the womb can increase future risks of adverse health effects for the developing child. Early life exposure to chemicals can lead to adverse birth outcomes such as preterm delivery, low birth weight and greater risk for chronic illnesses later in life, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
At this Center, researchers are exploring how to measure intrauterine exposures to chemicals and how to study their health effects on early development. This Center focuses on early exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that may interfere with a person’s hormonal system. BPA is widely used in the lining of canned food and drinks, certain plastics, and other products. The research findings will also help scientists learn about the effects of other hormone-disrupting chemicals. The Center aims to develop new methods for early identification of harmful environmental exposures and to find ways to prevent diseases that may be triggered through such exposures. To help prevent early exposures to harmful chemicals, the researchers are sharing their findings with healthcare providers, policy makers and community groups.
Project 1: Assessing Maternal and Fetal Exposure to Chemicals
Often, the types and amounts of exposure to chemicals that will affect developing children are difficult to determine. In this project, researchers examine BPA levels during pregnancy to determine whether the levels of BPA measured in a pregnant woman can be used to predict intrauterine exposures. If such exposure could be accurately predicted, then ways of preventing further harmful exposure might be developed to better protect children’s health.
Project Leader: Tracey J. Woodruff, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco
Project 2: Assessing the Effects of BPA Exposure on Early Human Development
This project examines the effects of BPA on the early stages of human development. Researchers investigate how the presence of BPA affects development by changing which genes are turned “on” and “off.” Investigators hope to gain important information about the how BPA may interfere with early events in development.
Project Leader: Michael McMaster, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco
Project 3: Predictors of Maternal Exposure to BPA during Pregnancy
Although scientists know that people are exposed to dangerous chemicals, the actual ways people are exposed is much less clear. This study aims to find out how people are exposed to BPA in order to learn how to reduce and prevent harmful exposures. The study is also expected to provide valuable information on the biological half-life of BPA. Researchers are using questionnaires and biological specimens to study how pregnant women are exposed to BPA through their food and other sources.
Project Leader: Naomi E. Stotland, M.D., University of California San Francisco
Primary Environmental Exposures: Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) - bisphenol A (BPA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Primary Health Outcomes: Obesity, neurodevelopmental disorders such as problems with learning and behavior, gene-environment interaction