Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH)
CERCH is a world leader in researching and highighting key aspects of environmental health risks, especially as they impact pregnant women and their children. To accomplish this mission, we investigate exposures to future parents and children and evaluate long term effects on child health, behavior, and development. We work to help key stakeholders translate our research findings into sustainable strategies to reduce environment-related childhood disease, directly involving local communities in the process.
In recent years, CERCH has become increasingly well known for its CHAMACOS Study, the longest running longitudinal birth cohort study of pesticides and other environmental exposures among children in a farm worker community. Starting in 1999, we enrolled 600 pregnant women living in California's Salinas Valley, a top producing agricultural region which also struggles with dramatic socio-economic adversity. We have been following these families for 19 years, measuring how exposures to pesticides and numerous other chemicals such as those found in furniture, plastics, and cosmetics, may effect multiple aspects of health, including fertility, birth outcomes, timing of puberty, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and epigenetic changes. To date, the CHAMACOS Study has resulted in over 150 peer reviewed scientific publications, shedding light on environmental chemical exposures and health, and helping to guide health related policies.
Why study children?
Children are more vulnerable to hazards in the environment than adults.
- Children have a greater degree of exposure to environmental factors than adults because they breathe more air, eat more food, and drink more water per unit of body weight.
- Because children exhibit exploratory behaviors that place them in direct contact with contaminated surfaces, they are more likely to be exposed to any contaminants present (putting items and hands in mouths, crawling, etc.).
- They are also less immunologically, physiologically, and neurologically developed and therefore may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of chemicals and toxins.
Why study pregnant women?
- There is emerging evidence that some of the health challenges mothers face are can be passed on to their offspring.
- Developing fetuses may also be more susceptible than fully developed humans, meaning that the exposures a mother faces may impact her child even more.
- Since fetuses are still developing, what might otherwise be harmless exposures might be multiplied in their effects.