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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of California, San Francisco

The UCSF Pregnancy Exposures to Environmental Chemicals (PEEC) Children’s Center

Center Overview

Center Location: San Francisco, California

Public Health Impacts: The Pregnancy Exposures to Environmental Chemicals (PEEC) Children’s Center is dedicated to improving children’s health by identifying and preventing harmful exposures to environmental chemicals during pregnancy. The center is conducting research to learn how prenatal exposures can impact healthy human development, and whether exposure to chronic stress may magnify the impact. By working with multiple stakeholders, research findings inform prevention-oriented action in clinical and policy arenas.

Primary Environmental Exposures: Bisphenol A (BPA), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

Primary Health Outcomes: Human placental and fetal development and growth

Center Details

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Center Investigators

Principal InvestigatorTracey Woodruff, Ph.D. 
Pediatric Health Specialist: Naomi Stotland, M.D. 
Specialties in: Obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences

Project 1 Leaders: Susan Fisher, Ph.D., Michael McMaster, Ph.D. , and Joseph F. Costello, Ph.D. 

Project 2 Leader: Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D.

Project 3 Leader: Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D. 

Community Outreach & Translation Core Leader: Annemarie Charlesworth 

Center Description & Activities

The PEEC Children's Center is increasing our understanding of how environmental chemicals and chronic stress affect human development in the womb. The research focuses on PBDEs, which are used as flame retardants, and PFCs, a group of compounds used to make products resistant to stains, grease, and water. PBDEs and PFCs are found in virtually all pregnant U.S. women and are implicated in endocrine disruption, placental problems, and adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature birth.

Center members will leverage UCSF's unique clinical population, a large group of ethnically and economically diverse pregnant women, which includes Asians and Latinas, who are some of the fastest growing demographic populations in the country. Researchers will also use their established cell and animal models for directly measuring fetal exposures to chemicals during mid-gestation.

Information gained from center research could be used in clinical settings or at the regulatory level for decision making about environmental chemical exposures of pregnant women and their developing offspring. The center will disseminate results to key clinical, policy, and public audiences.

Project 1: Modeling the Effects of EDCs on the Early Stages of Human Placental Development

Project leaders: Susan Fisher, Ph.D., Michael McMaster, Ph.D., and Joseph F. Costello, Ph.D. 

This project uses basic science approaches and a novel model of the human placenta to study the effects of PBDEs and PFCs on the cells that make up this organ. The placenta governs the environment in the womb, birth weight, and, consequently, childhood health. This work could lead to the identification of new biological indicators, or biomarkers, for assessing the consequences of these exposures in terms of pregnancy outcomes and childhood health in larger population-based studies.

Project 2: Mid-gestational Exposure to EDCs the Effects on Placental Development

Project leader: Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D. 

The investigators are joining exposure science with placental biology by using biomonitoring to generate new data on mother and fetal exposures to PBDEs, PFCs, and other chemicals that are being measured for the first time during the second trimester. The researchers will also look for possible associations between these exposures and placental development.

Project 3: Effects of Edcs and Chronic Psychosocial Stress on Fetal Growth

Project leader: Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D. 

Researchers are evaluating the cumulative effects of prenatal PBDE and PFC exposures and chronic psychosocial stress on fetal growth in a diverse group of 450 pregnant women. Several methods are used to measure psychosocial stress, including, geocoded neighborhood measurement of social environment, interviews that assess perceived stress and social standing, and laboratory tests that analyze maternal and fetal stress responses.

Community Outreach & Translation Core (Charlesworth)

Core leader: Annemarie Charlesworth 

The Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) translates and disseminates the personal, population, and policy implications of preconception and fetal exposure to chemicals to turn research into timely and prevention-oriented action that improves children’s health. The COTC communicates the center's research to study participants and sustains and expands a collaborative network of partners. It also reaches the broader community by creating and disseminating a science-based foundation for clinical care and policy change that is endorsed by key leaders.

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