Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 11/11/2022

Center for Early Lifestage Vulnerabilities to Environmental Stressors - Cumulative Health Impacts for Children in Underserved Rural Agricultural Communities in the United States

Protecting children’s health is one of the most important responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "It is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's policy to protect children from environmental exposures by consistently and explicitly considering early life exposures and lifelong health in all human health decisions. Children's environmental health refers to the effect of environmental exposure during early life: from conception, infancy, early childhood and through adolescence until 21 years of age. The EPA' s policy is informed by the scientific understanding that children may be at greater risk to environmental contaminants than adults due to differences in behavior and biology and that the effects of early life exposures may also arise in adulthood or in later generations (1).” The EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP) plays an essential role in carrying out the agency’s mission to protect children where they live, learn, and play and works closely with EPA’s program and regional offices to ensure that EPA actions and programs address the unique vulnerabilities of children.

Exposures to mixtures of chemicals, along with non-chemical environmental stressors1 such as poverty, limited access to services, and changing conditions found in our everyday environment, may pose developmental and life-long health risks to children. Pollutant exposure during pregnancy and early childhood may be a crucial determinant of their lifetime health and has been associated with adverse neurodevelopment, childhood cancers, and other adverse health outcomes (2-25). Children in underserved, rural agricultural communities may be exposed to agricultural chemicals through ambient air, water, and soil, in addition to exposure to these chemicals via take-home and occupational routes (for adolescents). Moreover, adverse health outcomes in these children resulting from exposure to chemicals may be exacerbated by nonchemical stressors. There is an urgent research need to investigate adverse cumulative health impacts from exposures to chemical and non-chemical stressors for children in these communities in order to effectively reduce early childhood and lifetime health disparities. 

Understanding the relationships between chemical exposures at early lifestages and health outcomes during development and later lifestages remains an important gap in children’s health research. Quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing risk which integrate data and information from multiple disciplines, such as epidemiology, toxicology, exposure science, risk assessment, public health, social science, and environmental science, are urgently needed.   

To prioritize and implement efficient and effective prevention and intervention measures, research is needed to advance methods and approaches for measuring exposures and characterizing health risks from cumulative exposures to chemicals and nonchemical stressors including social determinants of health. Quantitative and qualitative methods, inclusive of relevant chemical and non-chemical environmental stressors, are required to characterize pollutant exposure and outcome relationships, and modifying factors. It is also important to leverage current knowledge and data (including epidemiological and toxicological information) and develop innovative analyses for cumulative risk evaluation. 

The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program’s goal is to stimulate and support scientific and engineering research that advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. It is a competitive, peer-reviewed, extramural research program that provides access to the nation’s best scientists and engineers in academic and other nonprofit research institutions. STAR funds research on the environmental and public health effects of air quality, environmental changes, water quality and quantity, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and pesticides. 

Deadline: Jan. 11, 2023

Areas of Interest

 The Center application should include two individual research projects involving multidisciplinary teams with appropriate expertise to address the two research subtopics identified below. The Center should address the two subtopics identified below through its two research projects. It is strongly recommended that the first project address the first subtopic and the second project address the second subtopic. Applications that do not address the two subtopics may not be rated as highly as those that do.

1. Characterize cumulative health impacts of early lifestage (prenatal and childhood including adolescence) exposure to pollutants in underserved, rural agricultural communities. The research should address specific lifestage, exposure pathways (routes), relevant non-chemical stressors, and consequential health outcomes. In addition, the research should identify and explain the known and suspected relationships between chemical exposures and other factors (social, cultural, and environmental) that would significantly influence cumulative health impacts.  

2. Propose a cumulative impact assessment approach or method that will lead to potentially effective interventions or decisions to reduce exposures and mitigate the adverse health outcomes from the chemical and non-chemical stressors being investigated for early lifestages (prenatal and childhood up to adolescence) in underserved, rural agricultural communities in the United States. 

Eligibility Requirements

Public and private nonprofit institutions/organizations, public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs), and hospitals located in the U.S. and its territories or possessions; state and local governments; Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments; and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms and individuals are not eligible to apply. 

If an applicant submits more than one application under this announcement, each application must be submitted separately, and the scope of work proposed in each application must be significantly different from the other application(s) in order for them to all be deemed eligible. If applications are submitted with scopes of work that do not significantly differ, then EPA will only accept the most recently submitted application and all other applications will be deemed ineligible. 

Applications which do not include a center description, the required two individual research project plan descriptions, an Administrative Core, and a Translation Core will be deemed ineligible. Applications with less than two or more than two individual research project plan descriptions will also be deemed ineligible. 

Amount Description

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $1,900,000 will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds, quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations. The EPA anticipates funding one award under this RFA. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $1,900,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed 4 years.