WASHINGTON–As part of the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $7 million to fund cumulative human health risk assessment research. Scientists around the country will study a combination of harmful factors affecting human health, including research on poor and underserved communities with extensive pollution-based problems. This ground-breaking research will focus on environments where people are exposed to multiple stressors such as chemicals, anxiety, and poor nutrition. When these stressors are combined, they can lead to a much higher risk of health issues.
“EPA made a public commitment in 2010 to take action to address contributors to disproportionate environmental health impacts,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This research could pave the way for more interdisciplinary work that is responsive to community concerns and environmental justice.”
EPA studies are generally confined to single chemical effects. These studies are useful and important but can be difficult to apply to the combinations of chemicals people are exposed to outside the lab. These types of studies rarely address social and societal factors that can play a major role. The STAR grants will research both societal and environmental factors including:
· Combined effects of metals and stress on central nervous system function
· Disparities in air pollutant risks
· Effects of stress and traffic pollutants on childhood asthma
· Cumulative risk assessments in urban populations and low-income communities near a Superfund site
· Strategies for assessing cumulative effects of chemical and nonchemical stressors
EPA’s STAR grant program supports human health, ecology, economics and engineering sciences through grants, centers, and fellowships. The program manages research grants that stimulate cutting-edge research on life stage susceptibility, and investigate exposure assessment methods and environmental health disparities. To date, research results from the STAR program have translated into developing local and state policy, and have been used as guidance for clinicians, community advocates, and parents in creating safer, healthier environments.