The United States has begun recruiting volunteers for the largest ever study of environmental and biological factors that contribute to disorders in adults by looking at exposures in their childhood. The children's health study will follow human development from newborns through 21 years of age.
The National Children's Health Study will eventually include and track the health of 100,000 newborns from across the United States.
Researchers plan to take samples of the air, water and dust from the homes of women in their first few months of pregnancy as well as blood, urine and hair specimens of expectant mothers.
Investigators are looking for clues for the cause of diseases such as asthma, leukemia and brain cancer.
Duane Alexander is Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. He says he expects the study will provide important information within a few years. "Initially, it will provide major insights into disorders of birth and infancy such as pre-term birth and its health consequences. Ultimately, it will lead to a greater understanding of adult disorders, many of which are thought to be influenced by early experience[s] and life events," he said.
Participants will be enrolled at 40 rural and urban study centers around the country. One of the first recruitment centers is at the University of North Carolina, which will study newborns in rural settings. Another center is in the densely populated New York borough of Queens.
Principal investigator Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine says Queens participants will provide a unique perspective on American health. "More than 50 percent of the women who will join the National Children's Study from Queens were born outside of the United States. So undertaking the study in Queens will give us an extraordinary opportunity to look at the impact of population diversity upon patterns of health in American children," he said.
The study is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.