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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of California, Berkeley

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

Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D.

Child Health Specialist: Robert Lustig, M.D.
Obesity, neuroendocrinology


Environmental Exposures

Pesticides including DDT and DDE, manganese, and brominated flame retardants

Primary Health Outcomes

Children’s neurodevelopment, growth, and timing of puberty

The Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) focuses on learning about and preventing environmental exposures to low-income children. Many of their families consist of farm workers and immigrants from Mexico. In the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) study, researchers are following the children of 601 pregnant women who lived in the agricultural Salinas Valley of California during 1999-2000. These children, along with 300 children added in 2010-2011, will be followed through age 12 to measure their exposures to pesticides and other chemicals and to determine if the exposures affect growth, health, and development.

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

Project leader: Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D.

This community-based project studies farm worker children and 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: Exposures

Project leader: Asa Bradman, Ph.D.

The association between the use of common fungicides that contain manganese and the levels of manganese in teeth is the focus of this project. Researchers 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 leader: Nina T. Holland, Ph.D.

Researchers are 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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Community Outreach and Translation Core

Core Leader: Meredith Minkler, Dr.P.H.

The Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) promotes awareness of children's environmental health and disseminates center research findings to a broad range of constituencies at the local, state, and national levels, including CHAMACOS study participants. COTC activities are strongly rooted in principles of community-based participatory research and are conducted in the Salinas Valley, across California, and nationally.

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