UR Environmental Health Sciences Center receives federal boost



Paige Lawrence of the University of Rochester and her team at the Center for Environmental Health Sciences will be able to continue their work examining the impact of exposure to environmental agents on human health. The center recently received a renewed federal grant of $ 7.7 million over five years.

The money from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences marks five decades of support for the UR center, which has attracted more than $ 100 million in extramural funding since its inception in 1975, according to officials. It is headed by Lawrence, Professor of Wright Family Research and Chairman of the Department of Environmental Medicine.

Paige Lawrence, Director, EHSC
(Photo: UR)

The mission of the EHSC: to improve public health “by discovering the ways in which environmental exposures, alone or in combination, contribute to health risks throughout life, and translating the findings into strategies to mitigate them. risks and improve human health ”.

With a focus on laboratory work that studies how environmental chemicals contribute to disease and impact on population health, the center aims to provide researchers with access to resources and facilities. It also supports programs that train the next generation of environmental health researchers. The centre’s community engagement core works with community organizations, local governments, and healthcare professionals to address environmental health issues through education and awareness.

Perhaps the most visible influence of EHSC’s work in the recent past is the formation of the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning in Rochester. About two decades ago, studies showed that children in the city of Rochester had blood lead levels 10 times higher than the national rate. Researchers at the center helped identify sources of lead dust in homes and creative ways to reduce it. A municipal law on lead, now adopted by other municipalities nationwide, has helped to reduce the number of children with high levels of lead by 90%.

High levels of lead can damage the brain, leading to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and other health deficits throughout a child’s life. The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning remains an education and advocacy agency that empowers communities and residents to prevent lead poisoning.

The centre’s influence has also been felt globally. The Seychelles Child Development Study, for example, involves the Seychelles Ministries of Health and Education, the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and the UR. The project, which began in the mid-1980s, is investigating factors that may suggest links between mercury exposure and child development, including disabilities like autism.

The popularity of vaping has led researchers to study the chemicals found in flavored tobacco products and their impact on the body. The findings have helped inform policy and are being used in efforts to ban the sale of flavored vaping products, UR said.

Yet too few people understand the role of environmental health specialists. A report from Pew Research in 2019 found that while those polled had a positive opinion of these researchers, only 12% said they knew a lot about this line of work. Sixty-three percent said they knew a little about it.

As the world tries to figure out pollutants and harsh chemicals, Rochester might have an advantage. It has one of the 26 NIEHS-designated major centers of excellence for environmental health research in the United States.

Smriti Jacob is editor-in-chief of Rochester Beacon.



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