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ASPPH Fellow Spotlight: ASPPH/EPA Fellow Contributes to Children’s Environmental Health Initiatives

Mr. Edward Lo, MPH (University of Michigan School of Public Health) will soon complete his ASPPH Fellowship at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hosted by the Office of Children’s Health Protection (OCHP) in Washington, DC. Looking back at his fellowship experience, he has several notable highlights of his contributions toward protecting children’s environmental health at the EPA.

OCHP’s goal is to ensure that all EPA actions and programs address the unique vulnerabilities of children. As a fellow, Mr. Lo has worked on various activities assisting OCHP including the review of draft risk evaluation documents under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act amended TSCA in 2016 and includes some additional protections for children and pregnant women. Specifically, the Lautenberg Act requires EPA to consider “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations” including infants, children, and pregnant women. Through reviewing TSCA risk evaluations, Mr. Lo has learned about children’s health issues within exposure assessment, hazard assessment, and risk characterization.

He also supported EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC) TSCA workgroup which was formed to respond to charge questions seeking advice on chemical prioritization. CHPAC is a federal advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) consisting of children’s health experts that advise the EPA in addressing environmental issues that affect children. With them, he compiled children’s exposure and health effects information for TSCA Workplan chemicals to assist the workgroup during their discussions and letter development.

Mr. Lo’s independent fellowship project explores the children’s maximum age definitions from a variety of children’s health authoritative documents in light of brain neuroimaging and behavioral studies suggest that the brain may continue to develop until the mid-20s. In this project, he identified maximum age definitions for children (i.e., the last day that one is considered a child) for 21 documents from authoritative US and international children’s health organization. Mr. Lo found that the maximum children’s age definitions, range from 16 years to <22 years. Some of the documents acknowledged the studies suggesting that brain development continues into the mid-20s but their maximum ages defined did not reflect these study conclusions; i.e., no document had a maximum age range older than <22 years old. While some of the maximum age definitions differed among documents, in some cases from documents produced by the same organization, there was a relationship between the document purpose (e.g., worker protection, chemical safety, pediatric clinical studies), the rationale (e.g., biological, legal, etc.) for the selection of the childhood maximum age, and the maximum age. To further evaluate the findings in light of children’s maximum age definitions, Mr. Lo is conducting a systematic literature search to identify and critically review the available brain structural and behavioral development studies pertaining to the maximum age that the brain is developing. He is now preparing a manuscript on this project for submission to a peer- reviewed journal.

ASPPH is currently accepting applications to the ASPPH/EPA Environmental Health Fellowship Program. To learn more, please visit the ASPPH website or view the Program Announcement.

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