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Exposure to pollutants can lead to asthma, cancer, developmental delays and impaired fetal growth. Low birth weight is the second leading predictor of infant mortality in the United States, and incidence of low birth weight is higher in Central Harlem, the South Bronx and Washington Heights compared to all of New York City. Other facts include:
New York City has some of the country’s highest asthma-related hospitalization and mortality rates among children and young adults, with African American and Latino patients accounting for more than 80 percent of the cases.
Children with high prenatal exposure to air pollution from fuel burning are being born with a type of genetic damage known to increase cancer risk.
Children exposed to pollutants can have developmental delays that impact their quality of life for years to come, including lower performance on cognitive development tests at early ages, and symptoms of Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other developmental disorders.
In addition, the health issues studied at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health do not occur in isolation, nor are they unique to our cohort. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, approximately 16% of boys and 8% of girls aged 5 to 17 years had ever had diagnoses of ADHD or learning disability; 9.4% of children have asthma; and approximately 17% of children and adolescents are obese.
Due to the ubiquitous nature of chemicals in our environment, these health issues affect all children, making our findings crucial in informing the larger public.
Financial support for the Center will sustain the Center’s cohort studies the United States, Europe and Asia. In New York City, an excellent retention rate has enabled researchers to follow the families since 1998. The oldest children in the study are now in their early twenties and becoming involved in the Center's Youth Council or enrolling as young adults to support research.
The literature shows that the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders increases through adolescence for both boys and girls, and that persistence into the adolescent years strongly predicts disorders in adulthood. Asthma during young adulthood, even in the absence of smoking, has been associated with chronic obstructive lung disease in adults. We have long known that cancer can result from the accumulation of damaged DNA.
The Center goes beyond its commitment to extensive clinical research to inform families of preventive measures they can implement in their daily lives. Close partnerships with community organizations ensure the Center is in touch with local concerns and can effectively distribute important educational materials for those families.
The Center’s Community Advisory and Stakeholders Board (CASB) consist of representatives from established environmental and housing advocacy and health service organizations in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx and in the surrounding region. The CASB plays an active role in providing us essential feedback in developing outreach and translational materials, educating local communities by distributing Healthy Home Healthy Child campaign materials, and delivering workshops.