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Four Children's Centers Profiled in Environmental Health Perspectives: Children's Centers Study Kids and Chemicals

October 2005

    spraying pesticides on trees
    Many studies in recent years have documented that whether they're used to spray in the kitchen or spray in the field, pesticides have a way of getting into almost all human environments. Pesticide exposure isn't a great idea for adults, but it poses a particular concern in regards to children. These smallest humans, who spend a lot of time close to the floor and with their hands in their mouths, can encounter much higher doses relative to their body weights. And because they are still growing and developing, children are often more vulnerable to adverse effects of these and other environmental exposures. Likewise, the developing fetus may be especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure in utero.

    In 1998, the NIEHS joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create eight centers across the country where scientists study environmental influences on children's health. Today there are 11 centers. Several of these centers, including those at Columbia University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, have focused their efforts on pesticide exposures--how they occur, and the effects they cause in utero and during early childhood. These centers have also studied exposures to other environmental toxicants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and environmental tobacco smoke.

    These studies are showing that children in certain communities have elevated exposures to toxicants early in their development and that some of these exposures can lead to slightly stunted fetal growth, shorter gestation, and suboptimal neurodevelopment, as well as to predisposition to diseases such as asthma. Additional studies are showing that the potential for damage from these chemical exposures may be affected by genetic susceptibility of both the child and the mother. Thus, interactions between genes, the environment, and the timing of exposure can all contribute to a later susceptibility to develop diseases and disorders.

    From Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 113, Number 10, October 2005, pp. A664-A668

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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