Study examines environmental health impacts on Salinas Valley women and children



The CHAMACOS project is working with Salinas Valley migrant workers to educate them of the dangers of pesticide exposure.

27 September 2001 | One of the heaviest pesticide users in the nation, California uses about 200 million pounds of the chemicals annually, or about 25 percent of the national total.

Now, Berkeley researchers, in collaboration with health officials from the Salinas Valley, are looking at the environmental health impacts to women and children as they are related to pesticide exposure.

The CHAMACOS project, which stands for the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, is part of a novel, five-year collaborative study under way at Berkeley’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research.

“This is the first long-term research study to investigate the potential adverse health effects of children’s daily exposure to pesticides and allergens such as pollens, molds and dusts,” said Dr. Brenda Eskenazi, an epidemiologist in the School of Public Health, who is the principal investigator.

The $8.4-million study, funded jointly by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a first-of-its-kind study to investigate the potential impact of these low-dose environmental contaminants on the health and development of infants who come into contact with the chemicals.

Berkeley public health researchers are working with the Salinas-based South County Outreach Group, Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, Natividad Medical Center, and the Monterey County Health Department on the project.

Many of the 550 women and children participating in the study are from farm worker families. The study’s primary focus is on pesticide and allergen exposure and possible risk factors for delayed development and respiratory symptoms in children.

“The focus on the Salinas Valley grew out of strong relationships established between researchers in the School of Public Health and our community partners in Salinas,” said Dr. Asa Bradman, Berkeley CHAMACOS associate director. “General concerns about agricultural work and its impact on children’s health led us to initially focus on pesticides and allergens. Because of the region’s year-round agricultural production the population in the area is more stable providing the researchers an opportunity to work with a low income, underserved population and follow the mothers and their children over several years.”


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