Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health Receives $10.4 Million Grant from National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to Study Childhood Asthma
The Mailman School's Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) has received a $10.4 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to study environmental contributors to childhood asthma. The grant was awarded via a new NIEHS initiative called Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically-Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research, or DISCOVER, that is designed to integrate environmental health research with patient and population-based studies.
CCCEH's DISCOVER grant was awarded because of groundbreaking research on the effects of early life exposure to common air pollutants the Center has performed since 1998. The new grant will advance the field of asthma research by deepening scientists' understanding of how prenatal and early postnatal exposure to widespread contaminants in the air alters lung development and the immune system to produce asthma. In four related studies, CCCEH scientists will combine molecular, epidemiologic, experimental and clinical approaches to better prevent childhood asthma and improve clinical treatment of the disease.
CCCEH is one of the first research centers in the nation to receive a DISCOVER grant. Launched by NIEHS in 2006, the DISCOVER program has awarded grants to only three institutions nationwide: CCCEH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of Washington, Seattle.
"The DISCOVER centers will help to define the role of environmental agents in the initiation and progression of human disease and develop new ways to both prevent and treat disease," said Dennis Lang, PhD, interim director, NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training, as he announced the new awards. "The potential impact of the research that these three centers will be conducting is enormous."
Since 1998, CCCEH has conducted significant research linking early exposure to ambient air pollution from sources such as diesel and gasoline powered vehicles and power plants to children's risk for asthma and asthma exacerbation. CCCEH's research in New York City and internationally in Poland and China finds that in utero and postnatal exposure to particulates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from diesel exhaust and other urban combustion sources adversely affects children's neurocognitive development and increases potential cancer risk. The Center has also identified in utero exposure to residential pesticides as harmful to neurocognitive development.
CCCEH's scientific research is raising public awareness, improving children's environmental health, and influencing public policies. The Center's award-winning Healthy Home Healthy Child campaign, developed in collaboration with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, educates inner-city families about practical ways to reduce children's exposure to pollutants. The Center and WE ACT's joint translation of scientific research findings to improve environmental policies helped to pass legislation that lowered New York City's diesel exhaust emissions and neurotoxic pesticide exposure throughout public housing.
The four studies CCCEH will conduct with its DISCOVER funds are as follows:
"The CCCEH's primary goal has always been to improve the health and development of children through investigative research," said Dr. Perera, a pioneer in the field of molecular epidemiology. "This grant not only allows us to deepen our scientific understanding of the role of common urban air pollutants in childhood asthma, it also will help us give parents, physicians and communities the tools they need to make informed decisions to improve the health of their children."
An estimated 23.2 million Americans suffer from asthma, almost 9 million of whom are under the age of 18. As many as 25 percent of children in certain inner city communities have asthma. Asthma is the leading chronic illness affecting children in the United States and the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. Health care costs associated with asthma are estimated at $14.5 billion a year. The number of deaths due to asthma, the number of Americans diagnosed with asthma, and the health care costs of asthma continue to increase each year.
Copyright 2008 Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health