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Environmental Assessment

The National Children's Study (NCS): the Impact of Environment on Children's Health and Development

Objective/Intended Use

The National Children's Study is a longitudinal cohort study designed to "investigate basic mechanisms of developmental disorders and environmental factors, both risk and protective, that influence health and developmental processes" (Children's Health Act, 2000). In this context, "environment" is broadly defined to include chemical, physical, and social/behavioral influences on children. The National Children's Study was initiated by the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children. The Study is an interagency effort sponsored by the Deparment of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and EPA. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is the lead agency. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NICHD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and EPA are working jointly with NICHD to plan and conduct the study.

EPA's role in this effort is to support the planning and implementation of the interagency National Children's Study effort by contributing funding and staffing of planning activities, and by conducting methods development and pilot projects to prepare for study implementation. In addition, EPA scientists are developing information on environmental factors to include in the study that are helpful, harmful, or harmless to children's health, as well as exposure-outcome links and gene-environment interactions to be studied that can be useful in improving risk assessment.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Reserach and Development
National Center for Environmental Assessment
Technical Information Staff
  • by phone at:   703-347-8561
  • by fax at:   703-347-8691
  • by email at:  nceadc.comment@epa.gov

Project Abstact

Compared to adults, children are at increased risk from environmental influences because of vulnerable developing systems and enhanced exposure to many agents. Observed effects from low level toxic agents or from other influences raise similar concerns for the many unexamined environmental exposures. New methods and technologies permit the measurement of low level and chronic exposures and the study of gene-environment interaction. Because of these facts, in 1998, the President's Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children proposed a longitudinal cohort study of the environmental effects on children's growth and development. In October, 2000, the Children's Health Act identified the National Children's Study as an important effort in furthering our understanding of environmental risks to children's health.

EPA serves a critical role in the interagency planning of this effort with its "environmental perspective." EPA representatives to the Interagency Coordinating Committee are Carole Kimmel (NCEA-W), Pauline Mendola (NHEERL), James Quackenboss (NERL), and Sherry Selevan (NCEA-W). Since 2000, ORD has been funding and conducting a number of methods development projects that will provide important information for the design and conduct of the study. These include development of new methods for exposure assessment, best technological approaches for collecting and processing data for the study, biomarkers of exposure and outcomes, validation of methods for extracting DNA and RNA and linking changes to health outcomes and exposures, critical study design components for the National Children's Study, e.g., recruitment and retention, particularly of minority, poor, and under-served populations, and community outreach and involvement in the study.

Project leadership transferred to NHEERL in FY2005

Project Status

Considerable progress has been made with initial planning of the study:

  • Consultation I - 01/2000 - to examine the feasibility of conducting a large prospective cohort study of children's health and the environment. The results were encouragement to continue and think boldly!
  • Consultation II - 12/2000 - to identify potential partnerships and to develop guidelines for key aspects of the study: Results available on the website (below).
  • Established an interactive website in 2001
    www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov
  • Established the NCS Adv. Comm.in 04/2002 under the Fed. Adv. Comm.Act.
  • Developed organizational structure that includes participation of non-fed. scientists and related scientific and special interest groups in planning the study under the NCS Adv. Comm. The organizational structure embodies principles for a consortium of Fed. organizations, multiple public-private partnerships, strong leadership and flexibility.
  • Established a Fed. Consortium in 10/2001, with liaisons with 32 Fed. Agencies, Offices and NIH Institutes. These relationships will form the basis of a planning process with multi-agency participation.
  • Established 22 Working Groups to consider multiple issues for study planning and design.
  • Hold Study Assembly meetings (meeting of all interested parties) 1-2 times per year (10/2001, 04/ & 12/2002, 12/2003). These are public meetings open to all interested parties to provide information on the status of the study, and serve as a forum for feedback and public comment.
  • Conducted several methods development projects; descriptions will be posted on the NCEA website as projects are completed.
  • Developed a set of proposed core hypotheses to help frame the study; development of the protocol is scheduled for 2004. Selection of the initial "vanguard" sites is scheduled for 2005 with participant enrollment to begin in 2006

Project Dates

Project Start Date
  10/01/1999
Project Completion Date (Actual/Projected)
  01/01/2005

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