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Extramural Research

UC Berkeley Center for Children's Environmental Health Research (2003-2010)

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Center Director: Brenda Eskenazi

Project 1: CHAMACOS Community Based Research Project

Project 2: Pesticide Exposure Assessment Project

Project 3: Mechanisms of Pesticide Neuro- and Immunotoxicity

Project 4: Community Outreach and Translation Core


UC Berkeley The activities of the Children’s Center at UC Berkeley are based in the Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural region located southeast of the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Salinas Valley is often referred to as the “nation’s salad bowl”, growing primarily lettuce, strawberries, artichokes, broccoli, and grapes.  More than half a million pounds of organophosphate (OP) pesticides are used each year in this region.

The Salinas Valley is home to an estimated 38,000 farmworkers and the region is approximately 85% Hispanic.  The Centers work focuses on learning about and preventing environmental exposures to the children of low-income families.  Many of these families are farmworkers and recent immigrants from Mexico. 

Environmental Exposures and Health Outcomes

Primary Environmental Exposures: Pesticides, Manganese, PBDEs (Brominated Flame-Retardants), DDT/E
Primary Health Outcomes: Childrens neurodevelopment, growth and timing of puberty

Research Projects

CHAMACOS Cohort Study

The largest project of UC Berkeley’s Children’s Center is the Center for the Health Assessment of Mother and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), a community-based longitudinal birth cohort study of children in the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region of California.  CHAMACOS means “young child” in Mexican Spanish, reflecting a study population of predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American families.

The goal of this ongoing study is to assess the health effects of environmental exposures to children living in an agricultural community.  Center researchers are studying many different exposures, including chemicals used in pesticides, flame retardants, and plastics; pollens and mold; and physical and social factors like housing quality and neighborhood conditions. The initial study population included 536 infants, born in 2000-2001, whose mothers were enrolled during pregnancy.  Currently, over 300 of these children are still participating and they are now turning 10 years old. We are also enrolling 300 new 9 year old participants (150 boys and 150 girls) to increase the size of the cohort and to have more power to examine the relationship of environmental exposures to the onset of puberty and to neurodevelopmental functioning.

Project 1: Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research – CHAMACOS Community Based Research Project
Project 1 is a community-based epidemiologic study that will continue our long-term cohort study. Specifically, we will be determining the association of exposures to persistent and non-persistent pesticides, manganese, and brominated flame-retardants with neurodevelopment and the timing and tempo of puberty in the children at ages 9-12.

Project 2: Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research – Pesticide Exposure Assessment Project
Project 2 includes several exposure studies. We will validate new and innovative methods to measure manganese in deciduous teeth and compare them to biological markers of manganese exposure. We will then examine the association of the use of common fungicides that contain manganese with the levels of manganese in teeth. We will also measure manganese in house dust, and determine whether dust is a pathway linking pesticide use to human manganese exposure. Finally, in support of Project 1, we will identify determinants of flame retardant and DDT exposure among the CHAMACOS children.

Project 3: Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research – Mechanisms of Pesticide Neuro- and Immunotoxicity
For Project 3 we will test the hypotheses that epigenetic changes in children differ by age and sex and are associated with prenatal and early life exposures to PBDEs and DDT/E, and may be related to onset of puberty.

Project 4: Community Outreach and Translation Core
COTC activities will continue to include outreach to community members and groups about CHAMACOS study findings and strategies to improve environmental health. We will also work with a Grower Council to more directly disseminate study findings to the agricultural industry. Finally, we plan a new focus on youth in our community in two different ways: Children in the CHAMACOS study will be transitioning from childhood to adolescence. With annual events, we will inform and educate them about our study results directly and engage them in activities to encourage their interest in science, the environment, and participating in our study. We will also work with local Salinas Valley high school youth and develop strategies for disseminating research findings to their peers and communities and build the next generation of childrens environmental health advocates and experts

Community Partners


Publications (2004 - 2010)
Publications (1998 - 2003)

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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