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EPA Funding Assists Creation of Children’s Environmental Health Center

Release Date: 07/07/04
Contact Information: Contact: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office (617-918-1008) Christina Roache, Harvard School of Public Health (617-432-6052)

For Immediate Release: July 7, 2004; Release # 04-07-08

BOSTON - A new research initiative, with EPA funding, will help investigate children’s environmental health issues, including potential effects of metal mixtures on children. The newly-funded Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research, located at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) at Harvard University, will receive the largest environmental research grant ever awarded by EPA in New England.

The Children’s Center will receive $7.8 million, or about $1.5 million a year, for the next five years. EPA, along with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), is funding the research center as part of a longer-term effort to promote and develop targeted scientific research on key issues pertaining to health effects for children resulting from exposure to environmental contaminants.

“This new center will perform and apply research that can help us understand the links between environmental concerns and the health of our children,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office in Boston, in announcing the grant today. “Targeted research will assist us to take children’s health protection to a new level of scientific understanding. Ultimately, the research conducted at this and other centers will allow us to better focus our resources and efforts to most effectively improve the health of America’s children.”

The Children’s Center will focus its initial research on how heavy metals exposure at the Tar Creek Superfund site in Oklahoma may affect the health of children living there. Unlike many studies that investigate the health effects of a single chemical, the new center will study how exposure to mixtures of chemicals affect health.

“Our aim is to understand how mixtures of metals interact and ultimately affect the health of children,” said Howard Hu, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at HSPH and principal investigator at the center. “The implications of the research conducted at the Tar Creek Superfund site will have import for environmental health nationally and internationally.”

By partnering with NIEHS on the research grants, EPA is seeking to capitalize on broad-based institutional expertise. NIEHS is part of the federal National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, and together with EPA, the two agencies funded eight children’s environmental health research centers in 1998 and another four in 2001. This new center will build on the legacy established by these earlier centers.

“We are proud to partner with the EPA to support this new initiative,” said NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden. “We must understand the developmental consequences of potentially toxic exposures in order to protect children from harm and enable them to reach their full potential.”

The Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at the Harvard School of Public Health will focus on addressing whether a mixture of toxic metals is having an adverse effect on childhood development in a real world setting. The investigators will evaluate the factors that can modify the amount of toxins that enter the body or how they may cause harm in pregnant women and young children. The researchers will also randomly enroll some people in an intervention study to determine whether changes in nutrition or behavior have an effect on toxic metal intake.

EPA relies on quality science as the basis for sound policy and decision-making. EPA’s laboratories, research centers and grantees are building the scientific foundation needed to support the Agency’s mission to safeguard human health and the environment.

For more information about EPA’s efforts to protect children, visit