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 Children's Environmental Health & Disease Prevention Research Centers, 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. In 2015, the National Institutes of Health launched a $144 million effort to better understand how the environment influences child health and development. As part of that effort, NIEHS created the Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource, or CHEAR. In 2016, eligible researchers can apply to have biological samples analyzed through CHEAR — at no cost — for chemicals and biomarkers of exposures, which may provide important clues about how the environment affects children’s health.
Kimberly Gray, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
530 Davis Dr
Durham, NC 27713
Cindy Lawler, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 12233Mail Drop K3-15Durham, N.C. 27709