Children's Environmental Health Research Center at Illinois

Researching the impact of bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates,
and other endocrine disruptors on child development

About The Center


The goal of this research center is to study the effects of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and other chemicals found in plastics and personal care products on neurological and reproductive development and function. Center research is also addressing whether obesity or a diet high in saturated fats interacts with exposures to these chemicals to increase risk, and whether oxidative stress and/or inflammation play a role in mediating the effects of these chemicals.  Exposures during two critical developmental windows – the prenatal period and the adolescent/pubertal period – are being studied in human populations and in parallel animal models. An important goal of the center is to communicate research findings to parents, childcare providers, healthcare providers and policy makers through the Community Outreach and Translation Core.

Project 1 assesses the impact of prenatal or adolescent exposure to these chemicals in two human cohorts—a prospective birth cohort that is currently being recruited in Urbana-Champaign, IL and an adolescent cohort in New Bedford, MA that has been studied prospectively since birth. Projects 2 and 3 are animal studies that will help with interpreting results from the human studies and also provide insight into the underlying mechanisms that may mediate effects in human infants and adolescents. Project 2 utilizes mouse models to study the mechanisms through which BPA and phthalate exposures affect male and female reproductive development and function. Project 3 assesses the impact of BPA and phthalate exposures in the prenatal or adolescent periods on cognitive and social behaviors, and on neuron numbers in cortical brain areas of male and female rats.

Goals of the Center

Project 1: Examine the association between prenatal or adolescent exposure to phthalates, BPA and other endocrine disruptors and physical, behavioral and cognitive development.

Project 2: Use a mouse model to determine if prenatal or adolescent exposure to phthalates or BPA interacts with a high fat diet to increase inflammation and oxidative stress in the gonads leading to infertility, early reproductive senescence or transgenerational effects on fertility.

Project 3: Use a rat model to determine if perinatal or adolescent exposure to phthalates or BPA interacts with a high fat diet to alter cognitive behavior and/or neuron and glia numbers in cortical brain regions, and determine if changes in neuron/glia numbers are companied by increased inflammation and oxidative stress.

COTC: Actively communicate with stakeholders who are concerned about children’s health issues including parents, childcare providers and healthcare providers.