The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) proposes an innovative program which builds directly on the investigators' prior research findings in their well characterized cohort of inner city children enrolled prenataly and now being followed into adolescence. Repeated waves of assessment prior to age 11 have shown that high prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) is associated with recurrent neurodevelopmental abnormalities, higher rates of obesity, and a failure to increasingly improve the capacity to regulate thought, emotion, and behavior over the course of development. Moreover, the investigators have preliminary evidence from a brain imaging study in our cohort children that early PAH exposure adversely affects the structure of neural systems known to support self-regulatory capacities. Thus the overarching hypothesis of the proposed program of research, around which three research projects are organized, is that prenatal and early childhood exposures to PAH disrupt development of the neural systems that support capacities for self- regulation, and that these PAH-related brain disturbances lead to the emergence or persistence of serious cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and adiposity (hereafter, CEBA) problems during adolescence. The investigators preliminary findings suggest that these PAH-related CEBA problems in adolescence will include increased rates of depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, physical aggression, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors. The proposed program will: 1) provide essential evidence of PAH impacts on these significant public health problems; 2) shed light on how PAH affects the development of neural systems in the brain; 3) inform environmental and public health policy; and 4) suggest new avenues for prevention and early intervention. The investigators anticipate that, by providing needed scientific data on a highly prevalent environmental exposure, this research program will have wide-reaching implications for public health and, particularly, for the protection of childrens health. They leverage their strong existing partnership with community groups, especially West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), through their Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC), to inform the community, policy-makers, and the wider public about scientific findings data on PAH and air and children's health. The investigators' ultimate goal is the prevention of serious adverse PAH-related effects on children's health and development by providing communities, policy-makers, and clinicians with scientific data that will motivate community engagement, strengthen environmental and health policy both locally and nation- wide, and ultimately lead to effective interventions in children affected by air pollution.

Public Health Relevance

Adolescent cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and adiposity (CEBA) problems are highly prevalent and costly, and they represent a major public health problem. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are ubiquitous in the urban environment, generated by combustion of fossil fuel and other organic material; they are not only carcinogenic, but also neurotoxic and obesogenic. Given the ubiquity and known toxicity of PAH, understanding the contribution of PAH to CEBA outcomes from birth through adolescence is necessary to ensure that environmental policies and other interventions adequately protect children during these vulnerable life stages.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Specialized Center (P50)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1-LKB-D (CC))
Program Officer
Gray, Kimberly A
Project Start
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
New York
United States
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