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February 14, 2005 - Largest, Longest Children's Study in History

February 14, 2005 - Largest, Longest Children's Study in History

Nothing quite like the National Children's Study has ever been tried before. The federal government is launching the unprecedented project in 96 counties around the country. Researchers will closely track 100,000 kids, from before birth to their 21st birthdays.

Scientists will take samples around each child's home of the air, water, dirt and dust. They will periodically survey families in person and by mail, phone and the Internet. And they will take samples of blood, hair, umbilical cord blood and even baby teeth. More than 2,400 scientists have helped design the $2.7 billion project, the largest and most expensive long-term children's study in history.

Researchers will begin recruiting at the end of next year in eight pilot counties, and 12 to 18 months later in the remaining counties. Families will be signed up before women become pregnant or in early pregnancy. It will take a big commitment. While children are growing up, there will be 15 half-day meetings with researchers. Children will receive physical exams and developmental assessments, and parents will be asked detailed questions about family structure, parenting practices, diet, etc.

Families will receive $100 to $200 plus travel expenses for each half day. But for many families, the major incentive will be the opportunity to learn more about their children's health. For example, researchers could alert families to early signs of ADHD, asthma and diabetes, said study director Dr. Peter Scheidt.

The study is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, see on the Web.

These are among the questions the National Children's Study is designed to answer:

Can a mother's bad teeth and gum disease cause premature birth?

Does air pollution inside and outside the home cause asthma?

Does breast-feeding reduce the risk of childhood obesity?

Can exposure to pesticides contribute to hyperactivity, impulsivity, etc.?

Does chronic exposure to urban violence make asthma worse?

Do prenatal infection and inflammation increase the risk of cerebral palsy and autism?

Does prenatal exposure to herpes increase the risk of schizophrenia?

Are poor diet and lack of exercise the only reasons kids are getting fatter?

Can very early exposure to some allergens actually help children remain asthma-free?

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