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Your Environment. Your Health.

Children's Diseases

Program Leads

Kimberly Ann Gray
Kimberly Gray, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Division Extramural Research and Training, Population Health Branch
530 Davis Dr
Durham, NC 27713
Tel (919) 541-0293
Annette G. Kirshner
Annette Kirshner, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
530 Davis Dr
Durham, NC 27713
Tel (919) 541-0488
Fax (919) 541-5064
Cindy Lawler
Cindy Lawler, Ph.D.
Branch Chief
530 Davis Dr
Durham, NC 27713
Tel (919) 316-4671
Fax (919) 541-5064
collage of children at different ages

Program Description

Protecting children's health is a vital public health goal. Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants. The same amount of a contaminant, such as lead or air pollution, has a greater effect on a child than it does on an adult because children's bodies are smaller. In addition, children go through critical periods during development when they are especially susceptible to the effects of contaminants. Children's bodies also do not yet have fully functioning systems to handle contaminants or rid the body of toxicants.

What NIEHS is doing

NIEHS is committed to fostering a healthy environment for all children by advancing our understanding of how exposure to environmental toxicants affects people’s health in childhood and throughout life. NIEHS supports a broad range of research focusing on contaminants children may encounter, such as pesticides, arsenic, tobacco smoke, mercury, bisphenol A (BPA), and many others. Researchers supported by NIEHS investigate how being exposed to such contaminants in the womb or during childhood might contribute to developmental problems, childhood diseases, or the development of disease even years later. These researchers examine how environmental exposures may contribute to such health outcomes as asthma, autism, childhood leukemia, obesity, and diabetes.

Children’s health research efforts span many NIEHS program areas. Through its Centers for Children's Environmental Health & Disease Prevention Research, for example, NIEHS supports medium and long-term research projects to identify the health effects of environmental contaminants on children. Scientists at these centers work with community partners and health care providers to reduce children’s exposure to toxicants. Children in the global community are an important focus of the children’s environmental health research program. Household air pollution, pesticides, arsenic, and metals pose significant threats to children’s health around the world, and the NIEHS grantees are working to better understand these hazardous exposures and to develop interventions that can lessen or eliminate them.

In addition, NIEHS supports a variety of research projects through the National Toxicology Program, the Superfund Research Program, and other programs that apply the latest scientific innovations and approaches to protect children from harmful environmental contaminants. The NIEHS is also a partner in the National Children's Study, which is led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study is following children from across the United States from before birth until age 21 years to study the effects of the environment on the growth, development, and health of children.  

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