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The FRIENDS Children's Environmental Health Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was established in 2001 to investigate the interactive effects of PCBs and methyl mercury (MeHg) on neurodevelopment.

Current research includes longitudinal assessment of a birth cohort exposed to these chemicals through maternal consumption of contaminated fish, and complementary laboratory-based projects including animal and in vitro models to determine the mechanisms through which these contaminants induce neurological deficits in children. The population being studied consists of Hmong and Laotian refugees who settled in northeastern Wisconsin after the Vietnam War and who regularly consume fish from the Fox River, which is often contaminated with PCBs and MeHg. A priority of the Center is to develop effective educational strategies to reduce exposure of this population to these fish-borne contaminants.

The Center is the collaborative effort of investigators in epidemiology, toxicology, biostatistics, and developmental psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Texas A & M University, the University of Oklahoma, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the New York State Department of Health, and Michigan State University, and includes an administrative core, a community-based project, two biomedical research projects and an analytical toxicology core.

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