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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on August 6, 2021, that it will provide $9,272,545 in funding to seven institutions for research to estimate better children’s chemical exposures from soil and dust ingestion. According to EPA, the research will focus on improving estimates of children’s ingestion rates of chemicals such as lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and asbestos. EPA states that “[a]ccurate, comprehensive measurements of soil and dust ingestion rates are critical for effective risk assessment, reduction, mitigation, and prevention measures.” The following researchers are receiving funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program to help improve children’s health:

  • Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, will conduct a community-based research study to understand and mitigate chemical contaminant exposure among children in neighborhoods with high lead and heavy metal contamination in soils around West Atlanta;
  • Florida International University, Miami, Florida, will estimate soil and dust ingestion rates in children by identifying specific tracers of dust and soil exposure combined with relevant environmental information;
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, will create an integrated and innovative portfolio of tools and approaches to assess dust and soil exposures for children ages six months to six years via activity pattern and tracer studies;
  • New York University, New York, New York, will evaluate specific home environment factors and practices that lead to elevated levels of individual toxic substances ingestible by infants. According to EPA, the researchers hope to evaluate mitigation strategies to reduce infants’ exposure to harmful chemicals in household dust;
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, will obtain data on dust loading on various objects and surfaces in children’s homes, foods, and children’s hands. The researchers will also conduct computer-aided investigations about children’s hand contacts and mouthing patterns;
  • University of California Davis, Davis, California, will develop an innovative method for determining children’s dust ingestion rates using unique tracer compounds identified in household dusts; and
  • University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, Nevada, will develop a behavior-driven dust and soil ingestion model to predict the dust and soil ingestion rate from children’s microenvironmental features and behavioral factors.


By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 27, 2021, that it will provide $3.8 million in funding to create two EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Centers for Early Lifestage Vulnerabilities to Environmental Stressors. The centers will focus on early lifestage exposures to chemicals and non-chemical environmental stressors and how these exposures may impact early childhood developmental health. EPA states that scientific research suggests that exposures to pollutants and non-chemical stressors during early lifestages may be crucial determinants of lifetime health. Exposures to cumulative mixtures of chemicals, along with other stressors, such as poverty, limited access to services, and changing environmental conditions, may pose developmental and lifelong health risks. According to EPA, accurate and comprehensive assessments of cumulative impacts are needed to make sound decisions regarding risk reduction, mitigation, and prevention measures. Each center will focus on two individual research projects:

  • Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina:
    • Evaluating the Causal Impacts of Early Life Chemical Exposures on Neurodevelopmental Functioning in Early Childhood -- Researchers will identify the occurrences and types of chemicals found in toddlers’ caregiving environments and evaluate how these cumulative chemical exposures are associated with neurodevelopmental functioning in early childhood; and
    • Investigating Whether the Caregiving Environment Moderates the Impact of Early Life Chemical Exposures on Neurodevelopmental Functioning in Early Childhood -- Researchers will investigate whether home caregiving environments alter the impacts of early life chemical exposures on neurodevelopmental outcomes in early childhood.
  • University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina:
    • Early Life Exposure and Neurobehavioral Development -- Researchers will leverage an ongoing, longitudinal study of normative brain development, the UNC Baby Connectome Study, to examine the role that early life exposure to phthalates and other chemicals plays in early childhood behavior, memory, language and motor development, and social cognition; and
    • Neural Substrates of Prenatal and Early Life Neurotoxicity Using Non-Invasive Imaging Methods -- Researchers will work to improve the understanding of the relationships between prenatal and early life exposures and structural and functional brain development, particularly in the third trimester of pregnancy, an important time for brain development.