EDGE Center researchers awarded NIH grant to study environmental influences on child health and development

EDGE Center researchers Catherine Karr and Sheela Sathyanarayana are co-PIs for a $4.7 million award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award to the University of Washington School of Public Health (SPH) is part of a seven-year initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) that will investigate how the environment influences neurodevelopment and asthma risk in children.

Dr. Catherine Karr
The NIH ECHO program encompasses $157 million in funding for FY2016-17 for a multitude of projects that will investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors from conception through early childhood influences the health of children and adolescents. The studies will target four key pediatric outcomes with a high public health impact: airway health, obesity, neuro-development and birth outcomes.

According to NIH Director Francis S. Collins, “These projects will expand the toolbox available to researchers to improve our ability to characterize environmental exposures, understand how environmental exposures affect in utero development and function, and bolster the infrastructure for exposure research.”

 “Our UW-based PATHWAYS study is a microcosm of the national ECHO program, which capitalizes on collaboration among top scientists and existing research populations,” said Dr. Karr, professor of pediatrics and environmental and occupational health at the UW who will co-lead the investigative team with Sathyanarayana and co-PIs Kaja LeWinn and Nicole Bush from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Francis Tylavsky from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis (UTHSC). 

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana
The UW grant money will allow the SPH’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences to oversee a combined study of more than 3,000 ethnically diverse pregnant mothers and their newborns. The cohorts are in communities across the United States, including Seattle, Yakima, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis and Rochester. After this two-year study, grant recipients will have the opportunity to recompete for five more years of funding.

“We’ve assembled three successful cohorts of mothers and babies that have been collecting data since the pregnancy period,” Karr said. “Our study contributes specialty expertise characterizing air pollution and phthalate exposures as well as social factors such as stress, and examines their influence on child asthma, allergies and neurodevelopment.”

Karr and Sathyanarayana and their partners from UCSF and UTHSC will use maternal blood collected during pregnancy and placental tissues collected at birth, as well as air pollution modeling and surveys, to understand the impact of chemical and non-chemical stressors on the developing fetus. Other collaborating institutions include Meharry Medical College, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University.

“The large and diverse study population and multidisciplinary expertise of UW PATHWAYS investigators enable us to better understand real-world, mixed-exposures scenarios,” said Karr. “We will examine how these may perturb important biological processes during pregnancy that may result in respiratory and neurodevelopmental problems in childhood."

NIH Director Collins believes “Every baby should have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thrive throughout childhood. ECHO will help us better understand the factors that contribute to optimal health in children.”

Here's the award announcement from the University of Washington School of Public Health.

-- Marilyn Hair

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The PATHWAYS study is supported by the NIH under award number 1UG3OD023271-01.

10th Anniversary Duwamish River Festival

The UW EDGE Center and Superfund Research Program were among the sponsors of the 10thAnniversary Duwamish River Festival at Duwamish River Park on August 20, 2016. Outreach staff from both groups hosted an exhibit table.

Environmental Health wheel
EDGE Center Outreach Manager Marilyn Hair’s display was about ultraviolet (UV) light, sunburn, and skin cancer. Visitors spun the Environmental Health wheel to land on a question about UV, sunscreen, SPF, Vitamin D, cancer, or cloudy day. Participants received a prize of sunscreen or a UV-bead bracelet. Most people knew how to protect their skin but many don’t use enough sunscreen or apply it every two hours as recommended. Check out our factsheet about Protecting Your Skin from UV Exposure.

Superfund Research Project display
The Superfund Research Program Community Engagement Core’s display demonstrated river water turbidity and sedimentation rate variations that occur in the Lower Duwamish Waterway site. Program manager Katie Frevert asked children to invert test tubes filled with water samples and imagine the different environments experienced by fish. The samples ranged from cloudy, sediment-filled water to quick-clearing water from a rocky substrate. Participants then used an aquarium net to capture Swedish-fish gummy candies.  A plankton net and dose-response lab glassware caught additional inquiring eyes. 

The 10th festival included 44 tables hosted by a variety of government, non-profit, community, and commercial organizations. Festival-goers were entertained by 11 groups of performers, including the Duwamish Tribe, Ballet Folklorica Angeles de Mexico, Kapulli Tlaloktecuhtli Aztec Dancers, the Somali Youth Perforance Group, and a Zumba demonstration. 700 people attended the festival on a hot, sunny day, 97 ° to be exact, a perfect day to talk about sunscreen. We were grateful to be under a tent. 

-- Marilyn Hair & Katie Frevert  
Kalpulli Tlaloktecuhtli Aztec Dancers