By Sara Reardon
The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health has tracked the lives of hundreds of children in New York City since 1998. Scientists have collected samples of blood, urine and even the air in children’s homes, starting when their subjects were in the womb, to tease out the health effects of chemicals and pollutants. The centre’s findings influenced New York City’s decision in 2018 to phase out diesel buses, and its staff members teach schools and community groups about the harmful chemicals and pollution that kids encounter each day.
Now, the future of the Columbia facility and a dozen like it is in doubt. Their last grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has provided half of the centres’ funding for two decades, will expire in July — and the agency has decided that it will not renew its support for the facilities.
The programme’s other government sponsor, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) says that it cannot replace the funding that the EPA has historically provided. Scientists at the children’s centres are increasingly worried that the EPA’s withdrawal will force them to shut down decades-long research projects.
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