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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 11/16/01
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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$5 Million Grant Establishes Children's Environmental Health Center

Cincinnati--The UC Department of Environmental Health, in conjunction with Children's Hospital, has received a five-year, $5 million federal grant to establish a federally designated environmental health center. The new environmental health center will be the only one in the nation based at a children's hospital.

With the grant, the Department of Environmental Health is establishing the Children's Environmental Health Center at Children's Hospital. The center is dedicated to research and education, leading to safe housing and secure environments for children.

"Our goal is to promote health and prevent disease by conducting research on environmental antecedents of disease that originate in childhood, especially hazards found in the home," said Bruce Lanphear, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center. "Children's health is inextricably linked with housing. Unfortunately, despite growing evidence that residential exposures have dramatic impact on children's health, housing is largely ignored as a public health problem. Our research is aimed at making housing and the environment safe for children."

The research at the center will focus on the neurobehavioral effects of common environmental toxicants such as lead exposure, environmental tobacco smoke and indoor allergens that pose risk factors for asthma. Children are particularly vulnerable to many environmental health hazards because their organs, including the brain, are still developing and not as able to protect against harmful toxicants.

The establishment of the center "complements our existing programs, which provide unique training opportunities for researchers and physicians interested in environmental pediatrics," said Kim Dietrich, PhD, research professor of environmental health and associate director for the center. "The award adds substantially to our international reputation as a major resource in the area of children's environmental health."

With the grant, the center is conducting five research projects:

  • Lanphear will lead a project aimed at testing the safety and effectiveness of interventions to reduce environmental lead exposure in early childhood.
  • Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, will lead a project whose major goal is to determine whether samples of meconium, the first bowel movement of the newborn, can be used to determine exposure to neurotoxicants during pregnancy.
  • Sandra Roda, senior research associate of environmental health, is principal investigator of a residential screening project, aimed at helping families and communities identify and reduce health risks from lead, pesticides and ultimately, other environmental hazards.
  • Douglas Ris, PhD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics, will lead a study to determine the relationship between early prenatal and postnatal exposure to lead and antisocial behavior in adulthood.
  • Kim Cecil, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric radiology, will lead a research project that will employ magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine whether environmental lead exposure alters brain neurochemistry, structure and function.

The Children's Environmental Health Center will collaborate with several community organizations to enhance the safety of housing for children. These organizations include The Better Housing League of Greater Cincinnati, National Center for Healthy Homes and the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

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