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Monday, August 10, 1998, 12:00 p.m. EDT
HHS, EPA Launch Children's Environmental Health Research Centers
The Clinton Administration today announced the establishment of eight Children's Environmental Health Research Centers, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. The centers will emphasize research on children's asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as ways to reduce farm children's exposure to pesticides.
The annual cost of about $10 million, about $1.25 million to each center annually, will be funded equally by EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health within HHS. HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will assist in the coordination of the centers' health outreach programs.
The centers result from concerns about children's particular sensitivity to chemicals and allergens. A federal Executive Order signed by President Clinton April 21, 1997, "Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks," charges agencies to consider special environmental risks to children.
The Executive Order created a new task force, chaired by HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala and EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, to address environmental health risks. HHS and EPA invited scientists from across the country to apply for grants to establish Centers of Excellence in Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research, to conduct basic and applied research in combination with community-based prevention efforts. Their aim will be to better understand the causes of environmentally induced disease among children and to eventually decrease their prevalence.
The centers will reach this goal by providing an atmosphere for scientists to interact in establishing outstanding, state-of-the-art research programs addressing environmental contributions to children's health and disease. The centers will facilitate the transition of basic knowledge from the laboratory into strategies that reduce the incidence of environmentally related childhood disease, and establish a national network that fosters communication, innovation and research.
Centers will be established at the following eight institutions:
- The University of Southern California in Los Angeles intends to develop a better understanding of how host susceptibility and environmental exposures contribute to children's respiratory disease. This research will provide health and environmental officials with a variety of useful intervention tools. Principal investigator is Henry Gong, Jr., M.D., professor, Department of Preventative Medicine, (213) 342-2396.
- The University of California at Berkeley will quantify the exposure of children in agricultural areas of California to pesticides and will determine the impacts of these exposures on their growth and development. They will work with the farmworker community to investigate approaches for reducing these exposures. Principal investigator is Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D., professor, Departments of Epidemiology and Child Health, (510) 642-9544.
- The University of Washington, Seattle, will investigate the mechanisms that define children's susceptibility to pesticides. This center will implement research and intervention projects among the children of farmworkers in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. Principal investigator is Elaine M. Faustman, Ph.D., professor, Department of Environmental Health, (206) 685-2269.
- The University of Iowa, in Iowa City, will study the causes of airway disease in children from rural communities, to gain better understanding of the disease in children in rural communities and to develop a multicomponent intervention approach for reducing the disease. Principal investigator is David A. Schwartz, M.D., M.P.H., professor, Department of Internal Medicine, (319) 356-8264.
- The University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, will investigate childhood asthma and conduct assessments which will lead to neighborhood and household interventions to reduce risks. The research will fill critical gaps in our knowledge of the environmental factors contributing to pediatric asthma. Principal investigator is Barbara Israel, Ph.D., professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, (734) 647-3184.
- The Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, will examine how exposures to environmental pollutants and allergens may relate to asthma (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/index.cfm) and other lung diseases in children living in the inner city of Baltimore and will search for new ways to reduce asthma (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/index.cfm) in children exposed to environmental pollutants. Principal investigator is Peyton Eggleston, M.D., professor, Department of Pediatrics, (410) 955-5883.
- Columbia University, in New York City, will undertake a comprehensive community-based assessment of environmental risks to African-American and Latino infants and children. Researchers in the Center will study the health consequences of residential sources of pollution and the ability of inadequate nutritional status to exacerbate the impacts of environmental toxicants. Principal investigator is Frederica Perera, Ph.D., professor, Columbia University School of Public Health, (212) 304-7275.
- The Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City, will examine risks in inner-city children to multiple known and potential neurodevelopmental toxicants. These exposures include pesticides and lead in their homes and dietary sources of polychlorinated biphenyls. The Center will partner with community groups in East Harlem to study the effects of integrated pesticide management and dietary modification on the health of the children. Principal investigator is Mary Wolff, Ph.D., professor, Department of Community Medicine, (212) 241-6173.
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