Dr. Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health K01 grant to study whether exposure to antimicrobial agents and suspected endocrine disrupting compounds in personal care products, such as shampoo and lotions, increases the risk of asthma morbidity and other health outcomes among African American children.
[Photo: Dr. Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá]
Dr. Quirós-Alcalá is an environmental health scientist, and this five-year career development award, totaling over $600,000, will provide her with an opportunity to acquire new skills and training in pediatric respiratory disease, qualitative research methods, advanced statistical methods, and intervention design and implementation.
Asthma is the leading chronic pediatric disease in the United States, affecting 6.3 million children, and disproportionately impacting African American children, according to the study narrative. “Studies on the effects of environmental exposures on asthma and other health outcomes among African American populations are scarce and national data indicate that this population experiences elevated exposures to chemicals in personal care products,” Dr. Quirós-Alcalá said. This work aims to identify the major sources of exposure to these chemicals in this population and to determine whether these exposures are associated with adverse health outcomes, including worse respiratory symptoms among children with asthma.
In her research, Dr. Quirós-Alcalá will be using data from an ongoing longitudinal cohort study at the Johns Hopkins University BREATHE Center that looks at the role of obesity and air pollution on asthma in low-income children living in Baltimore, and a longitudinal study that explored the role of mouse allergen on asthma morbidity. By using data collected over multiple time points, they will be able to better characterize exposures and determine how these affect respiratory symptoms and other outcomes over time. The project will also include a pilot intervention study, in which select personal care products will be replaced with others that do not contain the chemicals of interest.
“We want to see to what extent we can reduce the levels of these chemicals by taking simple steps,” Dr. Quirós-Alcalá said. “Identifying consumer behaviors and exposure sources that impact children’s exposures to these agents will inform future risk assessments, epidemiologic studies, and public health interventions aimed at reducing exposures to these agents and their potential health effects.”
Three mentors from the University of Maryland will guide Dr. Quirós-Alcalá’s work: Dr. Stephen Thomas from the Maryland Center for Health Equity, Dr. Gregory Hancock, the director and founder of the Center for Integrated Latent Variable Research in the College of Education, and Dr. Donald Milton, who like Quirós-Alcalá is also in the school’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. Three members of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty will also be part of her mentoring team, including Drs. Nadia Hansel, Elizabeth Matsui and Meredith McCormack.