WASHINGTON — The largest study of children's health ever undertaken in the U.S. kicked off on Tuesday.
In an effort to learn more about the effects of pollution on American children, the National Children's Study will track up to 100,000 children's exposure to environmental factors from their first trimester before birth until they're at least 21.
Researchers will look for preventable factors in children's environments, said Dr. Philip Landrigan, the study's principal investigator at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
The study, which took several years to plan and fund, is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Information leading to advances in diagnosis and treatment for conditions such as autism, asthma, cerebral palsy, and attention deficit disorder could be available in three to five years, said Dr. Peter Scheidt, the study's director.
Pregnant women who are invited to take part in the study will be asked to commit themselves and their children to 38 hours of examinations in the first two years. After that, only the children will be examined every three years.
Exams will consist of the confidential collection of blood, urine, hair, and other physiological samples as well as environmental samples of the dust, water and air in the children's home environment, Scheidt said.
Participation in the study is limited to pregnant women living in specific areas selected by a mathematical model. Women can't volunteer, but they'll be contacted by representatives of the study and given the option to participate. Those who participate will be given compensation.
For the next 18 months, study representatives will contact selected pregnant women in Queens, N.Y., and Duplin County, N.C. Afterward, the trial study will expand nationwide to include up to 100,000 children from 105 diverse locations in an effort to represent environmental and demographic differences.
The first two locations chosen for the study are "worlds apart," said Dr. Barbara Entwisle, the principal investigator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Queens is densely populated, while Duplin County, in eastern North Carolina, is "rural and proudly southern," she said.
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