University of California at Berkeley

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The goal of this Center is to establish a forum for the multi-disciplinary approach to understand and reduce the environmental health risks of children. This Center is a joint partnership between the University, the local and State health departments, community clinics, and our community organization, South County Outreach Effort (SCORE). We have brought together a diverse team of specialists representing many disciplines to address the special environmental issues of children.

For this proposal, we have focused on the environmental risks of a largely understudied population of latino farmworkers in Salinas Valley in Monterey County, California. California, with the largest agricultural output of the 50 states, uses 25% of the national total (over 210 million pounds) of pesticides annually, with over 725,000 pounds of organophosphate (OP) pesticides used in the Salinas Valley alone. Furthermore, approximately I million California residents are farmworkers, with Monterey County leading the numbers.

Recently, several studies have demonstrated pesticide contamination in children's homes from agricultural areas. It is estimated that 20-60% of children aged l to 5 years may be exposed to unsafe levels of OP pesticides. Nevertheless, to date, few studies have assessed the extent of children's pesticide exposure, and no studies have examined whether there are adverse health effects of low-level chronic exposure. Farmworker children are exposed by the usual pathways i.e., by ingestion of contaminated foods and from home pest control, as well as through pesticide drift from nearby fields and from the take-home exposures of their parents. Studying this high risk population, we can ascertain whether chronic, low-level exposures may be potentially hazardous.

We will interview and bank biologic and environmental samples from a cohort of 550 pregnant women and their children, who will be followed for 3 years. Our specific aims are: 1) to estimate levels of in utero and postnatal exposures of the child by measuring biologic and ambient samples; 2) to determine whether exposure to pesticides is associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment and growth, and increased respiratory disease including asthma; and 3) to initiate and evaluate the impact of a 'Healthy Homes' intervention on the reduction of pesticide exposure to children. Our ultimate goal is to translate research findings into a reduction of pesticide exposure to children, and to reduce the incidence of environmentally related childhood disease.

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