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Wednesday, July 7, 2004, 12:00 p.m. EDT
New Children's Environmental Health Center at Harvard School Of Public Health Will Address Exposures of Tar Creek Residents
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (http://www.niehs.nih.gov), one of the National Institutes of Health , have announced funding for a new Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at the Harvard School of Public Health that will address the health effects of heavy metal exposure on children living in the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma
Tar Creek is a residential area in Northeastern Oklahoma that is heavily contaminated with metals from mining waste. The principal pollutants are lead, cadmium, zinc, iron and manganese.
"This new center, along with the other six that we will fund this year, will perform and apply research that can help us understand the links between the environment and the health of our children," said EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney. "Ultimately the research conducted at these centers will take children's health protection to a new level, one that allows us to better target our health and prevention efforts in order to do the most to improve the lives of America's children."
The new center will receive $7.8 million, or about $1.5 million per year for the next five years. EPA and NIEHS jointly funded eight children's environmental health research centers in 1998 and another four in 2001. This new center will build on the legacy established by these earlier research centers.
"We are proud to partner with the Environmental Protection Agency to support this new initiative," said NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden. "We must understand the developmental consequences of these potentially toxic exposures in order to protect these children from harm and enable them to reach their full potential."
The overall goal of the project is to develop an integrated approach to the study of the mixture of toxic metals at the Tar Creek site and their potential effects on the neurological, behavioral and mental development of the children living in the area. This will include epidemiologic studies involving biological monitoring of heavy metals among pregnant women and their children, and periodic evaluations of the children as they grow up using standardized cognitive tests.
The study will also include field research to identify environmental, nutritional, behavioral, and other lifestyle risk factors for elevated metals exposure, and two laboratory-based animal studies of the metal mixtures found at Tar Creek that will address the biology of metals absorption from the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts as well as the effects of these mixtures on neurobehavioral development.