Children's Environmental Health
Children are often exposed prenatally and in early childhood to multiple chemical and social stressors in their environments that can adversely affect their cognitive abilities, academic performance and their consequent educational trajectories, adult health, wealth and social status. These cumulative exposures are likely contributing to health inequities. The scientific community must continue developing and applying affective tools to further advance transdisciplinary research on the effects of differential exposure to environmental stressors on child’s neurodevelopment and enact cross-sectoral policies for prevention, effective intervention and remediation of the consequences of environmental exposures in children.
System Dynamics and Children’s Exposures to Neurotoxicants
With support under a K01 award from NIEHS, I am applying system dynamics as a novel tool to overcome limitations of risk assessment for informing policies to address racial disparities in children’s cumulative exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. First publication provides a narrative review of the evidence for the harmful neurodevelopmental effects of air pollutants and calls or more robust policy response from federal and state regulatory agencies. The second publication outlines system dynamics as an approach to asses cumulative risks and inform policy, including a proof of concept model, the Environmental Exposures and Early Child Development (E3CD) Model.
The U.S. EPA is currently conducting separate TSCA risk evaluations for seven phthalates. Phthalates are highly abundant plastic additives used primarily to soften materials and make them flexible. Human biomonitoring shows widespread exposure to a mixture of several phthalates from diverse sources and evidence show increased risk of male reproductive tract development from exposure to mixture of phthalates in utero. For this project, my collaborators and I developed a CRA approach that EPA can easily implement for phthalates under TSCA risk evaluation. The strategy for using CRA to inform TSCA risk evaluation for existing chemicals is based upon common adverse health outcomes among the phthalate, relevant non-chemical and other chemical stressors as an organizing principle.
I am also co-chair of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks. Health Disparities Workgroup. Under my leadership, we are completing a systematic scoping review of the scientific literature regarding increased exposure and biological susceptibility to neurotoxic chemicals among pregnant women and children of color and in low-income communities to determine how these impacts have been documented.