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University of California, Berkeley

Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH)

University of California, Berkeley
Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D. 

Project Description:

The Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) focuses on learning about and preventing environmental exposures to children of low-income families. Many of these families consist of farm workers and immigrants from Mexico.


Much of the research efforts are based in the Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural region southeast of San Francisco. More than 500,000 pounds of organophosphate pesticides are used each year on agricultural fields in this region. People working in and living near the fields are exposed to pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals, with negative health consequences. Children exposed in the womb and in the first years of life are of particular concern.

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Project 1: CHAMACOS cohort project 

Project leader: Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D.


This community-based project studies farm worker children. The study is designed to determine associations between environmental exposures and changes in brain and nervous system development and the timing of puberty. The researchers are studying pesticides as well as polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame-retardant chemicals, which are at high levels in these children because of strict flammability standards in California. The researchers communicate their findings to communities participating in the study as well as to farm workers, growers, and the public.

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Project 2: Exposure project 

Project leader: Asa Bradman, Ph.D.


In this project, researchers examine the association between the use of common fungicides that contain manganese and the levels of manganese in teeth. They are validating new methods to measure the amount of manganese in children’s baby teeth and are comparing these measurements to biological markers of manganese exposure. They also plan to measure manganese in house dust to determine if dust is a pathway for manganese exposure in people.

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Project 3: Epigenetics project 

Project leader: Nina T. Holland, Ph.D.


This project is testing the hypothesis that epigenetic changes in children differ by age and gender and are associated with prenatal and early life exposures to environmental chemicals including manganese, PBDE flame-retardants, and pesticides. Epigenetic changes affect how genes are expressed without changing the genetic code. This project is also looking to discover whether epigenetic changes are associated with the onset of puberty and hormonal changes.

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