Environmental Health in Early Childhood: Support Research & Innovation

This blog is the fifth in our five-part series on philanthropic strategies for preventing and reducing childhood exposure to harmful chemicals. To learn more, see our corresponding funder brief, Ensure a Healthy Start.

Early childhood is a time of rapid neurological and physical development. Exposure to harmful chemicals can hinder development and prevent children from having a safe and healthy start. Unfortunately, there is little research currently available on 1) the link between chemical exposures and adverse health outcomes and 2) ways to mitigate such consequences. Of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., only 200 have had any testing on their toxicity.[1] Today’s blog explores two ways that funders can help fill this gap in research and innovation:

  1. Support research on the relationship between prenatal chemical exposure and adverse health outcomes
  1. Promote increased and improved chemical testing
  • Toxicology in the 21st Century is a collaborative effort of the NIH, the EPA, the NIEHS/National Toxicology Project, and the FDA. Current projects include:
    • Developing robotic large-scale chemical testing methods to identify threats quickly and cost-effectively
    • Alternative testing models to explore how chemicals might differentially affect a wide range of individuals based on genetic differences
  • The Environmental Defense Fund provides additional resources on chemical testing and risk evaluation.

Investing in research and innovation to prevent future harm from chemical exposure is just one of the many ways that funders can provide children with a healthier start. In this blog series, we have highlighted other strategies and resources that funders can leverage as well. Whether donors support reductions of known harmful chemicals in the built, consumer, and natural environments; advocate for improved policy and practices; or invest in research and innovation to prevent future harm, the ultimate impact is the same – healthier kids who are better able to achieve their full potential and a stronger society.

To learn more, check out our funder brief, Ensure a Healthy Start: Prevent and Reduce Childhood Exposure to Harmful Chemicals.


[1] Denison, R. A. (2009). Ten Essential Elements in TSCA Reform. Washington, DC. Retrieved from https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/9279_Denison_10_Elements_TSCA_Reform_0.pdf