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Extramural Research

Cincinnati Children's Environmental Health Center (2001-2008)

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Cincinnati Children's Environmental Health Center

Center Director: Bruce Lanphear

Project 1: Neurobehavioral Effects of Prevalent Toxicants in Children

Project 2: Validation of Meconium Markers of Fetal Neurotoxicant Exposures

Project 3: Community-Based Participatory Research Project: Identifying Residential Hazards Using Home Test Kits

Project 4: Early Exposure to Lead and Adult Antisocial Outcome

Project 5: Magnetic Resonance Assessment of Brain Function Altered by Lead Exposure


Overview

The Cincinnati Children's Environmental Health was founded in 2001 to understand and develop ways to counter the effects of environmental toxins on young children. The research has focused on toxicants ranging from lead, mercury and other metals, to tobacco, pesticides and other complex chemical pollutants. Projects have focused on research relating to neurological and behavioral effects on children of these toxicants, including antisocial behavior and learning disabilities, as well as developing techniques to test and remove environmental contaminants from the home. The Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) Study, following about 400 children, from before birth to five years of age studies the effect of low-level exposures to common neurotoxins.

Environmental Exposures and Health Outcomes

Primary Environmental Exposures: Prevalent toxicants, including lead, methyl mercury, PCBs, pesticides, ETS (as measured by cotinine level)
Primary Health Outcomes: Adverse neurobehavioral effects, growth delay, hearing loss, developmental disorders, asthma, behavior problems (including conduct disorder and ADHD), impaired intellectual abilities, dental caries and injuries

Research Projects

University of Cincinnati study area - Cincinnati, Ohio
The majority of participants in the HOME Study at the Cincinnati Children's Environmental Health Center in Ohio reside in urban (61.6%) and suburban areas (35.1%) with a small percentage in rural areas (3.3%). This map shows urban areas in orange, suburban areas in light blue and rural areas in light green, and shows country and census tract boundaries for the region.

Project 1: Neurobehavioral Effects of Prevalent Toxicants in Children
The HOME study includes measuring behavioral issues like ADHD, conduct disorder, and troubles functioning normally. Factors including lead, alcohol, mercury, PCBs, and tobacco smoke are possibly the cause on or more of the concerns with a child's brain function. In utero exposure to these toxicants has been linked with cognitive deficits and behavioral problems. There is emerging evidence that adverse effect of exposure to lead, mercury, PCBs, and tobacco smoke occur at levels previously thought to be low. There is also data linking exposures to pesticides with adverse neurobehavioral effects, but the data are too sparse to draw any conclusions. Children without even low exposure to the toxins are theorized to have much higher IQ scores and far fewer behavioral problems. So far the research has produced many interesting results promoting the idea that even small amounts of toxin exposure can have serious adverse effects on children.

Project 2: Validation of Meconium Markers of Fetal Neurotoxicant Exposures
Sometimes the effects of toxins in the body go unnoticed until a long time after the actual exposure, especially in the case of fetuses, where tissue sampling borders on the nearly impossible. Meconium, the first stool passed by a newborn, has been used to establish exposure to alcohol or drugs and can be used to test for environmental toxins as well. This study plans to expand the research on testing for toxins and then measuring the effects on brain development in those infants found to have a variety of combinations of toxins in their body at birth.

Project 3: Community-Based Participatory Research Project: Identifying Residential Hazards Using Home Test Kits
Figuring out what in a home is toxic or safe for children can be both expensive and difficult to do. This is a major concern of agencies such as the Better Housing League, whose mission is to make safe housing available to low-income families. The purpose of this project was to help families and communities identify and reduce health risks from lead, pesticides, and other environmental hazards. Researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Center partnered with the Better Housing League in Cincinnati and nationally with the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning and the National Center for Healthy Housing. The aim of this project was to test tools for families to assess levels of contaminants in their homes. The project so far has shown that with just a little bit of instruction, families can quickly put together a sampling of what may be toxic in their homes and deal with it accordingly.

Project 4: Early Exposure to Lead and Adult Antisocial Outcome
Lead exposure is a major public health concern not only for its debilitating effects on health but the behavioral changes it can create. Recent research indicates that early exposure to environmental lead is associated with increased risk for delinquency. However, there is, as yet, no scientific evidence to indicate whether or not this increased risk extends into adulthood. Cincinnati Children's Center researchers are assessing the adult outcome of 280 participants in the Cincinnati Lead Study; a birth cohort whose development and exposure history have been exquisitely tracked for over 20 years.

Project 5: Magnetic Resonance Assessment of Brain Function Altered by Lead Exposure
Magnetic Resonance (MR) assessment of brain function altered by lead exposure seeks to relate environmental lead exposure with alterations in brain structure, neurochemistry and function assessed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS). The population selected for study is the Cincinnati Lead Study (CLS); a unique cohort of about 240 subjects with detailed histories of exposure and behavioral outcomes in lead exposed children monitored for approximately 20 years. The researchers expect that those exposed to lead will have a lower level of neuron functioning and related developmental problems in their case histories.

Community Partners:

Publications

Publications: (2001-2008)

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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