ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: USC, UCLA Receive Federal Grants To Study Threats To Children
The University of Southern California, University of California-Los Angeles and seven other research centers will receive "federal grants to study environmental health threats facing children," according to an announcement Vice President Al Gore plans to make today. The "Centers of Excellence in Children's Environmental Health Research" grants will investigate the causes of asthma and the effects of pesticide exposure in children. The USC and UCLA medical schools will receive about $1 million annually over the next five years to "study secondhand smoke, air pollution and indoor allergens that range from dust mites to cockroaches," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Our children are our most precious resource, and we must do all we can to provide them with a safe, healthy environment. These new research centers will ensure that our efforts to prevent asthma and protect children against pesticides and other environmental hazards are guided by the best possible science," Gore said in a statement.
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"Children are a susceptible group and there are gaps in our scientific information," said Dr. Henry Gong Jr., the USC professor who will oversee the project. The Times reports Clinton administration officials have found that asthma rates for children under five increased 160% from 1980 to 1994, "making asthma the No. 1 cause nationally for childhood hospitalization." The Times reports that "[c]hildren react to many environmental threats more acutely than adults" because their immune "systems are more vulnerable, they are more likely to play close to the ground and, proportionate to their size, they consumer more air, water and food than adults."
The medical centers will work with community groups, according to the Times. UCLA "researchers will team up with Mothers of East Los Angeles, Concerned Citizens for South Central Los Angeles, Communities for a Better Environment and the Los Angeles chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation," working primarily to reduce the number of cockroaches in children's homes. UC Berkeley School of Public Health, another recipient of the grant, "will evaluate the impact of pesticide exposure on children's growth and development," the Times reports. Berkeley researchers will work with the town of Salinas, La Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas and La Natividad Medical Center focusing on agricultural threats to children. The grants were made possible by a $10.6 million joint allocation through the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and Human Services (Lacey, 8/10).