The centerpiece of the studies is a project that looks at exposure to BPA and phthalates in relation to the physical and mental development of infants. Carle Physicians Group in Champaign-Urbana will collaborate on this project, called Illinois Kids (I-Kids). The researchers will follow pregnant women and their babies, measuring BPA and phthalate levels in the urine every month and collecting data on possible sources of exposure. The babies will also undergo physical, behavioral and cognitive tests.
"We're going to see the babies within the first 24 hours of birth and collect a lot of data about their growth and development but also about their cognitive function," said Susan Schantz, a professor of comparative biosciences at Illinois, an environmental toxicologist and the director of the new center.
"These chemicals are endocrine disrupters," she said. "BPA is estrogenic and phthalates are anti-androgenic, so both are expected to disrupt sex hormones in the body."
Testosterone and estrogen are important for the sex differences that develop in the fetal and neonatal brain. Male and female babies normally differ in their physical attributes and also in their cognitive abilities and behavior, Schantz said. "We want to see if those sex differences are changed by the exposure to these chemicals," she said.
Two developmental psychologists at Illinois, comparative biosciences professor Andrea Aguiar and psychology professor Renee Baillargeon, will conduct the cognitive and behavioral tests. The researchers hope to follow the infants for many years.
In a separate project, a collaborator at Harvard Medical School, Susan Korrick, M.D., will assess the BPA and phthalate exposures of a group of adolescents she has be
|Contact: Diana Yates|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign