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Research Grants

NIEHS/EPA Children’s Environmental Health Centers Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study – San Joaquin Valley (CHAPS-SJV)

Institution: University of California, Berkeley (Hammond)
Center Director: S. Katherine Hammond, Ph.D.
Project Period: July 2013 – June 2018

Research Questions

Project 1: Does exposure to air pollution increase the risk of birth defects or premature birth?
Project 2: How does air pollution cause allergic diseases?
Project 3: How does air pollution impact metabolism, diabetes and obesity?
Project 4: Do neighborhood characteristics affect transit patterns of pregnant women? How do the transit patterns of pregnant women impact the health of their developing fetuses?

Keywords: Air Pollution, Asthma, Diabetes, Epigenetics, Health Disparities, Immune System, Obesity, Prenatal Exposure, Preterm Birth


The San Joaquin Valley in California is characterized by substantial poverty, high health risks and a rapidly growing Hispanic population. Fresno, in particular, is ranked as one of the four dirtiest cities in the U.S. with respect to air pollution. Living in this area carries substantial health risk. Rates of asthma, preterm birth and low birth weight in Fresno children are among the highest in California. This center is investigating how air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley contributes to birth defects, preterm birth, allergies, obesity, diabetes and other childhood illnesses. The center is also evaluating the role of social and economic factors on the health effects associated with air pollution. Findings from the center will improve the understanding of how the environment contributes to childhood illness in a region with high levels of air pollution and health disparities.

Project Abstract and Annual Reports: UC Berkeley/Stanford Children's Environmental Health Center

Research Projects

Project 1: Exposures to Air Pollutants, Modifying Genes and Risk of Birth Defects and Preterm Birth
Birth defects and preterm birth are serious health problems in the U.S. and around the world. This project is studying the impact of air pollution and genetics on birth defects and preterm birth. The results could have important implications for prevention of these common, costly and often deadly outcomes of pregnancy.

Project Leaders: Gary M. Shaw, Dr.P.H., Stanford University

Project 2: Mechanisms of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon-linked Immunopathogenesis in Atopy
There are many environmental factors that contribute to disease in children. One of the most serious health outcomes in children is a dysregulated immune system, or an immune system that is not working properly. This project is studying the effects of air pollution on the immune system. Researchers are also examining how immune dysregulation leads to food allergy and other allergic disorders in children.

Project Leaders: Kari C. Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University

Project 3: Exposure to Air Pollutants and Obesity/Glucose Dysregulation (early metabolic syndrome)
Obesity and diabetes are becoming more common in children and increase the possibility of developing heart disease later in life. Both obesity and type 2 diabetes begin to develop in early childhood and are likely influenced by environmental factors. This project is studying how air pollution increases the risk of obesity and diabetes in children.

Project Leader: John Balmes, M.D., University of California, Berkeley

Project 4: Transit Exposures in utero
The time spent travelling in cars and in other forms of transportation affects how much air pollution a person is exposed to daily. Factors such as income and occupation, as well as physical and geographical neighborhood characteristics, influence time spent in transit. Little is known about the transit patterns of pregnant women, especially in urban areas. Even less is known about the features of neighborhoods that most influence these patterns. A pregnant woman’s exposure to air pollution can have a lifelong impact on the health of her child. The goal of this project is to understand the relationship between maternal air pollution exposures during pregnancy, birth defects and preterm birth.

Project Leader: S. Katherine Hammond, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley