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The Illinois Children’s Environmental Health Research Center (In Progress)


Community Outreach and Translation Core

Obesity, infertility, diabetes, cancer, autism spectrum.  Efforts to understand disorders that seem to be on the rise are finding that normal, everyday exposures to compounds now common in the indoor and outdoor environment make up one piece of the puzzle of causation.  Evidence emerging over the past two decades links disorders of the brain, the reproductive system, and the endocrine - or hormone - system to steady chemical exposures whose effects may not be acute, but appear to be permanent.

In 2013, the EPA and NIH jointly designated the University of Illinois as one of fourteen Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers at universities around the country (PI Schantz, Beckman Institute).  Earning this status for UIUC is its research into the neurodevelopmental and reproductive effects of “endocrine disrupting” compounds.  Endocrine disruptors are prevalent in everyday sources:

  • food and beverages packaged in plastics, tin cans and aluminum cans
  • cleaning chemicals
  • manufactured fragrances and scents; and
  • “personal care products,” like shaving cream and lotion

These direct, consumer sources add to other, ambient exposures to “endocrine disruptors” in agricultural chemicals and indoor air, from building materials and furnishings.  While these other environmental sources are not the direct focus of the UIUC research center, their properties lead to the same cascade of adverse health effects in the body.

This research is directly applicable to the sustainability of campus operations.  It has implications for:

  • The packaging and other materials used by dining and food services
  • The cleaning chemicals used by building services, providing a persuasive rationale for a transition to an effective “green cleaning” regimen
  • Building materials used in construction
  • The long-term health of students, staff, faculty, and their children.  The university is home to a concentration of women and men of childbearing age, expecting parents, parents of young children, parents of adolescents, and adolescents themselves during summer camps.  Pregnancy, infancy and adolescence are the times of greatest susceptibility to the effects of chemicals, because brain and reproductive system development are particularly rapid in utero, during infancy and early childhood, and during puberty and adolescence.

Project Team

  • Project Leader:

    Julia Valliant

    Team Members:

    • Sue Schantz
    • Jodi Flaws
    • Janice Juraska
    • Barbara Fiese


Project Location(s)

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