By Jim Johnson
One of the greatest threats to children today comes from the environment. Exposure to pesticides, pollution, and heavy metals while in the womb or during early periods of development can cause serious and lifelong health concerns. To protect children from environmental threats and help them live healthier lives, EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) created the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers (Children’s Centers). Teams of multidisciplinary experts at Children’s Centers across the country are looking at how children’s health is impacted by environmental and chemical exposures, epigenetics, non-chemical stressors and other factors with a focus on translating this research into practical information for public use.
This year, EPA and NIEHS are awarding five new Children’s Center grants. Research supported under these awards includes the interplay of air pollution, particulate matter and obesity on asthma among inner city children; prenatal and early childhood pollutant exposure and adverse birth outcomes; air pollution, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and adolescent cognitive, emotional, behavioral health outcomes; cumulative environmental exposures and increased risk for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia; and the effects of environmental contaminants on the microbiome and neurodevelopment. Each of the newly funded Children’s Centers is receiving between 1.25-1.5 million dollars per year for up to four years.
There are many obstacles to protecting children’s environmental health. Understanding the complexity of these challenges is just one way that EPA and its partners are reducing harmful environmental exposure and making the world a safer place for children and our communities.
About the Author: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr. is the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research.