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U.S. Launches biggest child-health study

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WASHINGTON, Sep 29, 2005 (UPI via COMTEX) -- National Institutes of Health officials announced the largest-ever study of environmental health effects in children Thursday.

The scheduled 25-year study is slated to look at the effects of diet, pollution and maternal toxic exposures, as well as other factors on children's health in more than 100,000 children nationwide. Researchers billed it as the most important study of environment and health ever conducted.

The effort could start yielding useful data as early as 2010, "depending on funding," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, adding that researchers currently only have available $12 million of the expected $2.7 billion required to complete the effort.

The study will not begin enrolling pregnant woman and child subjects until some time in 2007. Officials named five of a planned 40 study centers, in California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.

When enrollment begins, the study is estimated to cost around $100 million per year, Alexander said. Those centers will look at the health effects of food, water, air, school environments and access to medical care.

Protocols will focus on the causes of obesity, which now affects at least 15 percent of the childhood population, as well as exposure to toxic chemicals in consumer products and industrial waste.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta released in July found falling levels of lead and mercury exposure in thousands of U.S. adults. Still, those chemical are known to cause neurological and cognitive deficits in exposed children, and researchers at the time said they needed more research to determine the health effects of exposures to those chemicals and dozens of others.

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona called the study "one of the greatest prevention efforts the world has ever seen."

The American Chemical Council, a trade group for chemical manufacturers, said in a statement it supports "a long-term, comprehensive" study of children's health.

Dr. Dixie Snyder, the CDC's chief science officer, predicted the study would have a direct impact on health policy and medical practice.

"This study is not just an exercise in trying to satisfy our scientific curiosity. We are going to use the results to improve the health of our population," Snyder said.

Todd Zwillich covers healthcare policy matters for UPI. E-mail:


Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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