From the Sacramento Bee:

One of the largest and most comprehensive studies on how the environment is affecting U.S. children’s health is about to be launched – and researchers want Sacramento kids to play a key role in it.

Today, researchers and public health officials are holding a launch celebration at the Sacramento Zoo in Land Park where they will recruit potential participants – looking for women who are considering pregnancy or are pregnant.

Sacramento was selected in 2007 as a site for the study, which Congress authorized in 2000 with the Children’s Health Act. It is one of 37 centers nationwide responsible for conducting the research.

The observational study will follow 100,000 children from before they are born until age 21.

It will examine a vast range of environmental impacts on children’s development, such as the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in breast milk or how neighborhoods and families influence children’s risk for diabetes, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, principal investigator for the National Children’s Study in Sacramento.

“There’s been a rapid increase in a number of conditions in childhood that we didn’t used to have – obesity, diabetes, autism, asthma,” said Hertz-Picciotto, chief of the UC Davis School of Medicine’s Division of Environmental and Occupational Health. “We are interested in the factors that could be in food, in the water, in our household products, in our neighborhoods that are affecting children.”

And those clues may in turn lead researchers to interventions, medical approaches and cures.

“Because we’ll be combining data from all over the country, we hope to find some answers to causes and contributing factors and ways to reduce those conditions or make them less severe,” she said.