New Children’s Environmental Health Center at Harvard School of Public Health Will Address Exposures of Tar Creek Residents
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes
of Health, have announced funding for a new Center for Children's
Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at the Harvard
School of Public Health that will address the health effects of
heavy metal exposure on children living in the Tar Creek Superfund
Site in Oklahoma.
Tar Creek is a residential area in Northeastern Oklahoma that is
heavily contaminated with metals from mining waste. The principal
pollutants are lead, cadmium, zinc, iron and manganese.
"This new center, along with the other six that we will fund
this year, will perform and apply research that can help us understand
the links between the environment and the health of our children,"
said EPA Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney. "Ultimately
the research conducted at these centers will take children's health
protection to a new level, one that allows us to better target our
health and prevention efforts in order to do the most to improve
the lives of America's children."
The new center will receive $7.8 million, or about $1.5 million
per year for the next five years. EPA and NIEHS jointly funded eight
children's environmental health research centers in 1998 and another
four in 2001. This new center will build on the legacy established
by these earlier research centers.
"We are proud to partner with the Environmental Protection
Agency to support this new initiative," said NIEHS Director
Kenneth Olden. "We must understand the developmental consequences
of these potentially toxic exposures in order to protect these children
from harm and enable them to reach their full potential."
The overall goal of the project is to develop an integrated approach
to the study of the mixture of toxic metals at the Tar Creek site
and their potential effects on the neurological, behavioral and
mental development of the children living in the area. This will
include epidemiologic studies involving biological monitoring of
heavy metals among pregnant women and their children, and periodic
evaluations of the children as they grow up using standardized cognitive
The study will also include field research to identify environmental,
nutritional, behavioral, and other lifestyle risk factors for elevated
metals exposure, and two laboratory-based animal studies of the
metal mixtures found at Tar Creek that will address the biology
of metals absorption from the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts
as well as the effects of these mixtures on neurobehavioral development.