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Extramural Research

Berkeley/Stanford Children's Environment Health Center - UC Berkeley

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University of CA -- Berkeley

Center Director: Ira Tager

Project 1: Effect of multi-level environmental exposure on birth outcomes
How does exposure to air pollutants and other environmental chemicals affect a child’s health at birth?

Project 2: Exposure to Air Pollutants and Risk of Birth Defects
Does exposure to air pollutants affect the likelihood of birth defects?

Project 3: Ambient Pollutant/Bioaerosol Effects on Treg Function
Is exposure to ambient air pollutants linked to changes in the immune system that can lead to development of childhood asthma?


The overall goal of this Center is to better understand the effects of exposure in the womb to air pollutants and airborne bacteria on newborn health, immune system health during childhood, and to understand the relationship of these early-life exposures to asthma in children.  Evidence suggests that exposure to air pollutants while in the womb may contribute to birth defects, the leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S.  Exposure to air pollutants is also linked to the development of asthma in children.  The study is being conducted in California’s San Joaquin Valley, which has some of the highest levels of air pollutants in the country.  As one of California’s fastest-growing areas, the region includes both industrial farming and expanding cities surrounded by mountains on three sides, which can trap air pollutants within the Central Valley. 

Environmental Exposures and Health Outcomes

Primary Environmental Exposures: Ambient air pollutants, endotoxin
Primary Health Outcomes: Asthma, birth outcomes (low birth weight), immune system/T cell regulatory function

Research Projects

Project 1: Effect of multi-level environmental exposure on birth outcomes
This project uses data on more than 300,000 births in the San Joaquin Valley to evaluate possible effects of mixtures of pollutants on birth outcomes. In addition to data on geographic distribution of air pollution, traffic density and vehicle counts, neighborhood density and demographic variables, this study uses census data and generated data models  to identify  groups of children in the population who are more susceptible.   Investigators are also looking analyze saliva samples for genetic and epigenetic factors which might make some children more susceptible from the effects of exposure to air pollutants.

Project Leader:  Ira Tager, M.D., University of California, Berkeley

Project 2: Exposure to Air Pollutants and Risk of Birth Defects
Most women in industrialized countries are exposed to harmful chemicals in the air during pregnancy whether it is vehicle exhaust or industrial pollutants released into the air they breathe. These pollutants are known to cause many kinds of birth defects both developmental and structural. This project is conducting a rigorous population-based study that targets 30 different birth defects.  The project uses date from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the largest case-control study conducted on birth defects in the U.S.  This research aims to determine whether exposures to specific air pollutants and mixtures of air pollutants, especially during critical periods of pregnancy, are associated with structural birth defects in newborns.

Project Leader:  Gary M. Shaw, Dr.P.H., Stanford University

Project 3: Ambient Pollutant/Bioaerosol Effects on Treg Funcfion
Treg, or regulatory T cells, help regulate and stabilize the immune system in protecting the body from foreign substances.  The lack of normal Treg cells in the lung is associated with asthma in childhood.  While exposure to air pollutants contributes to the development of asthma and other respiratory health problems, there is limited information on how air pollutants affect the developing immune system and Treg function.  This study will generate a unique body of detailed exposure and individual follow-up data linked to immune system changes. This data will address the possible association between the increase in asthma and air pollution exposure.

Project Leader:  Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University

Community Partners

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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