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Research Grants

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health Centers The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH)

Institution: Columbia University
Center Director: Frederica Perera, Ph.D.
Project Period: July 2015 – June 2019

Research Questions

Project 1: How does air pollution affect brain development in children and adolescents?
Project 2: What is the effect of air pollution on obesity in childhood and the persistence into adolescence and adulthood?
Project 3: What are the effects of air pollution on brain development in pre-adolescence? How do these changes in brain development affect the ability to regulate thought, emotion and behavior in adolescence?

Keywords: ADHD, Air Pollution, Neurodevelopment, Obesity, Prenatal Exposure

Overview

Since 1998, the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) has followed a group of New York City children since birth to study the effects of air pollution on brain development. Earlier studies have shown that exposure to air pollution, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), is associated with abnormal brain development, obesity and inability to regulate thought, emotion and behavior. This center is examining how prenatal and early childhood exposures to air pollution disrupt brain development. Researchers are also investigating if these changes in brain development can lead to serious cognitive, emotional, behavioral and adiposity (CEBA) problems during adolescence. Preliminary findings suggest that these CEBA problems in adolescence will include increased rates of depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), physical aggression and substance abuse.

Project Abstract and Annual Reports: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health
Center Website: Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Exit

  • Research Projects

    Project 1: The Impact of PAH Exposure on Adolescent Neurodevelopment: Disruption of Self-Regulatory Processes
    Babies and children are even more susceptible than adults to the effects of environmental toxins. Early exposures to air pollution may be associated with increased risk for brain damage. This project studies children and adolescents to assess the cognitive, emotional and behavioral consequences of early exposures to air pollution. The adolescent years are a critical developmental period in which behavior disturbances, social problems, substance use and depressive symptoms frequently emerge for the first time, with serious adult consequences.

    Project Leaders: Virginia Rauh, Sc.D., Columbia University

    Project 2: The Impact of PAH Exposure on Childhood Growth Trajectories and Visceral Adipose Tissue Mass in Adolescence: Linkages to Disrupted Self-Regulatory Processes
    Childhood obesity remains a clinical and public health emergency in the U.S. Understanding environmental factors that influence child growth is a priority for preventing obesity. Earlier studies show that childhood obesity is associated with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy. This project studies the effects of air pollution on childhood obesity and whether these effects continue into adolescence and then into adulthood. Obesity in adulthood influences risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and some cancers.

    Project Leaders: Andrew Rundle, Dr.P.H., Columbia University

    Project 3: An MRI Study of the Effects of Prenatal and Early Childhood PAH Exposure on Brain Maturation and Its Mediating Influences on Adverse Adolescent Outcomes
    In an earlier study, center researchers identified abnormalities in the brains of children that were associated with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy. This project evaluates if air pollution causes changes to brain structure and function in children and if these changes result in an inability to regulate thought, emotion and behavior in adolescence. Results from this study will determine whether early life air pollution exposures will continue to disrupt brain development later in life, or if any strategies may help to prevent the negative effects.

    Project Leaders: Bradley Peterson, M.D., Children’s Hospital Los Angeles