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