Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Children's Environmental Health
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About Children’s Environmental Health
Children are often more heavily exposed to toxics in the environment. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food than adults. Their behavior patterns, such as playing close to the ground and hand-to-mouth activity, increase their exposure to potential toxics. In addition, they may be more vulnerable to environmental hazards because their systems are still developing, often making them less able than adults to metabolize, detoxify, and excrete toxics. Environmental risks to children include asthma-exacerbating air pollution, lead-based paint in older homes, treatment-resistant microbes in drinking water, and persistent chemicals that may cause cancer or induce reproductive or developmental changes. Learn more.
Children’s Environmental Health in the Pacific Southwest
EPA's Pacific Southwest Office undertakes several activities to address children’s environmental health issues. These include activities to reduce children’s exposure to lead, environmental asthma triggers, pesticides, mercury, and other contaminants in home, school, and childcare environments. Contact our Children’s Environmental Health Program for more information.
In addition to our regional office’s programmatic activities, EPA supports the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers.
Region 9 Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units
The Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) are a network of experts in children's environmental health located throughout North America. The PEHSU was created to ensure that health professionals and communities have access to specialized medical knowledge and resources for children faced with a health risk due to a natural or human-made environmental hazard.
The Region 9 PEHSU is split into two units – the University of California, Irvine PEHSU (UCI PEHSU) and the University of California, San Francisco PEHSU (UCSF PEHSU). Both units are available to answer questions from healthcare professionals, parents, care givers, and others about children’s symptoms that may be related to environmental exposures. Whatever your concern, please know the PEHSU shares your dedication to children’s health and well-being.
Region 9 Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers
To better understand the effects of environmental exposures on children's health, the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences established joint Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers ("Children's Centers") to explore ways to reduce children's health risks from environmental factors. There are currently five Children’s Centers in Region 9.
UC Berkeley Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia
Scientists at this center are examining how early exposure to chemicals might contribute to the occurrence of leukemia in children. Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer. Research at this center focuses on the effects of pesticides, tobacco-related contaminants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs, or brominated flame retardants) in the womb and early in life. To determine if and how, early exposure to such chemicals might cause childhood leukemia, scientists are trying to identify which chemicals are associated with a higher risk for leukemia and are looking at how these chemicals interact with genes known to be involved in leukemia development. More information is available on the UC Berkeley Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia website.
UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health
The research activities at this center are based in the Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural region where vast quantities of organophosphate (OP) pesticides are applied each year on agricultural fields. This center’s work focuses on learning about and preventing environmental exposures to the children of low-income families, many of whom are farm workers and immigrants from Mexico. The largest project of this center is the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS, which means young children in Mexican Spanish). This ongoing study examines the health effects of children’s exposure to pesticides, flame retardants, and social factors such as housing quality and neighborhood conditions. More information is available on the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health website.
UC Berkeley/Stanford Children’s Environment Health Center
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 the relationship of these early-life exposures to 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.
UC Davis Center for Children’s Environmental Health
Researchers at this center are studying how environmental exposures interact with a person’s genes and immune system to influence the risk and severity of autism. Autism is a complex developmental disability which affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Through both epidemiological and rodent models, the center’s scientists are looking into how environmental triggers affect brain development. They are also examining how biological markers, such as those related to immune system dysfunction, could help clarify why some children develop developmental disorders. Researchers are assessing whether development disorders are related to exposure to a wide range of environmental toxicants, including methylmercury and halogenated organics (e.g., PCBs and PBDEs). The aim of this center is to improve autism diagnosis and treatment, and better inform the public about managing and preventing developmental disorders. More information is available on the UC Davis Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention website.
UC San Francisco Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center
Researchers at this center are exploring how to measure intrauterine exposures to chemicals and how to study their health effects on early development. Early life exposure to chemicals can lead to adverse birth outcomes such as preterm delivery, low birth weight and greater risk for chronic illnesses later in life, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. This center focuses on early exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that may interfere with a person’s hormonal system. The research findings will also help scientists learn about the effects of other hormone-disrupting chemicals. The center aims to develop new methods for early identification of harmful environmental exposures, and identify how to prevent diseases that may be triggered through such exposures.
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