October is Children’s Health Month, and it is a good time to reflect on the achievements of a network of research centers funded jointly by NIEHS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NIEHS-EPA Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention (Children’s Centers) strive to reduce the burden placed on children by diseases linked to environmental exposures. They also work to educate communities and to support public health.
EPA released a new report Oct. 26 on the impact of the centers. “Children’s Centers research has identified the critical role environmental toxicants play in the development of asthma, obesity, ADHD, cancer, autism, and other childhood illnesses that may set the trajectory of health throughout adult life,” the report noted.
“NIEHS/EPA Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers Impact Report — Protecting Children's Health Where They Live, Learn, and Play” provides a comprehensive overview of the research programs each center conducts and their scientific advances, including an extensive reference resource. The document includes a great deal of data, such as the infographics included with this story.
Additional information on centers and children’s environmental health is available online.
- EPA Children’s Centers website.
- NIEHS Children’s Centers website.
- NIEHS fact sheet, Children’s Health — Why the Environment Matters.
- NIEHS environmental health topic on children’s health.
Hallmarks of Children's Centers achievements
The impact report finds that as a group, the centers have pushed the boundaries of clinical, field, and laboratory-based research. The centers pursue novel and interdisciplinary approaches in studies designed to reduce the burden of disease in children.
A section titled Hallmark Features highlights aspects that strengthen the work of the Children’s Centers and lead to advancements in the field. For example, a number of studies, some beginning at preconception, collect biological and environmental samples. These archives will provide a valuable resource for future studies, especially on the prenatal and childhood determinants of adult disease.
The Environmental Exposures section presents research findings on the following chemicals and pollutants that children are commonly exposed to, whether through air, water, or food.
- Air pollution.
- Consumer products containing bisphenol A, polybrominated flame retardants, and phthalates.
- Secondhand tobacco smoke.
The Health Outcomes section presents scientific findings on diseases and other conditions that sometimes affect children.
- Birth outcomes.
- Immune function.
- Autism spectrum disorder.
- Reproductive development.
The way forward
The report finds that future efforts to protect children’s health will require collaboration with communities, health professionals, and local, state, and federal governments.
“The strong relationships that the centers have established will benefit researchers and members of the community in the future,” the report states, emphasizing the importance of collaboration.