Center for Precision Environmental Health

Program in Population and Environmental Health Disparities Projects


Maternal and Infant Environmental Health Riskscape (MIEHR) Research Center (P50MD015496; PI: E. Symanski)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Health Human Development (NICHD) funded the Maternal and Infant Environmental Health Riskscape (MIEHR) Research Center in summer 2020. The center, a joint initiative of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Southern University (TSU) and The University of Texas Health Science at Houston (UTHealth) McGovern Medical School, is a Center of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research. The MIEHR Center is led by director Elaine Symanski at Baylor and co-director Robert Bullard at TSU. 

The MIEHR Center is focused on identifying key drivers of racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes, such a preterm birth and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.  Through its two research studies, the MIEHR Center studies how chemical and non-chemical exposures at the individual and neighborhood level from the biological, physical, and social environments – collectively referred to as the riskscape – affect maternal and infant health. The Investigator Development Core (IDC) oversees a Pilot Project Program for post-doctoral fellows, clinical fellows and assistant professors at Baylor and TSU.  A Community Engagement and Dissemination Core (CEDC) engages with partners to seek their feedback on MIEHR activities and environmental issues of concern in their communities.

Source-specific multi-pollutant exposures and the neighborhood context in disparities in stillbirth (R01ES031990; PI: E. Symanski)

In a NIEHS-funded study, Dr. Symanski is working with multi-PI Dr. Eun Sug Park from Texas A&M Transportation Institute and colleagues to evaluate the impact of source-specific exposures to multiple air pollutants, which will be assessed using innovative Bayesian spatial multivariate receptor models, on risks of stillbirth and to evaluate disparities in effects due to neighborhood-level factors and race/ethnicity.   

Study of Cleaners in San Antonio: Immunologic and Inflammatory Responses to Total Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Exposure or ELSA for its Spanish Translation (R01ES031063; multiple PI: K. Whitworth)

The ELSA study is funded by the NIEHS and led by Dr. Whitworth and multi-PIs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) (D. Gimeno) and Temple University School of Public Health (I. Han).  Through an academic-community partnership with local community group, Domesticas Unidas, the ELSA study aims to quantify the burden of exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a type of air pollution, experienced by women working as domestic housecleaners in San Antonio, TX.  Most of these women are Hispanic or Latina women subject to numerous environmental and occupational hazards, including VOC exposure from potentially toxic chemicals in cleaning supplies as well as in their residential environment.  In addition, the ELSA study will explore associations between total personal exposure to VOCs and biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in this population.

Fine Particulate Matter, Fetal Growth & Neurodevelopment: Examining Critical Windows of Susceptibility (R01ES028842; PI: K. Whitworth)

In 2019, Dr. Whitworth received R01 funding through the NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) program to conduct a study title "Fine Particulate Matter, Fetal Growth & Neurodevelopment: Examining Critical Windows of Susceptibility".  This project represents the culmination of an international collaboration with investigators in Spain at ISGlobal, Gipuzkoa, and the University of Valencia using data from the INMA (INfancia y Medio Ambiente) project, a large population-based pregnancy cohort study in Spain.  The goals of this study are to utilize exposure estimates of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from sophisticated satellite-based exposure model to inform potentially susceptible windows of exposure to PM2.5 on ultrasound measured fetal growth and cognitive and behavioral outcomes in early childhood.

Metal Air Pollution Partnership Solutions (MAPPS) (R01ES023563; PI: E. Symanski)

The MAPPS study was a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project with a primary goal of addressing resident concerns about metal aerosol emissions from metal recycling facilities in four low-income communities in Houston (i.e., the neighborhoods of Magnolia Park (two locations), South Park, and Fifth Ward/Northside) that are predominantly Hispanic and African American.  Key elements of the MAPPS project included: (1) promoting community engagement in research activities through a Community Advisory Board (CAB) comprised of neighborhood residents and metal recycling representatives, along with the research team (academics, Houston Health Department officials, and members of an environmental justice advocacy group); (2) sampling for metals in outdoor air at multiple locations in four neighborhoods; (3) conducting health risk assessments based on the air monitoring results; (4) assessing environmental health perceptions and needs through key informant interviews, focus groups and door-to-door community surveys; (5) translating and disseminating study findings; and (6) developing and implementing a public health action plan based on the results.

Children's Health and Research on Metals (CHARM) (R01ES023563S1; PI: E. Symanski)

The CHaRM Study, funded by a NIEHS supplement to the MAPPS study, was conducted in 2019 with the following goals: (1) Collect soil samples for analysis and comparison of metal concentrations between neighborhoods; (2) Recruit parents and children who live in MAPPS neighborhoods for a biomonitoring study of metal exposures among children; and (3) Assess questionnaire data to identify potential sources of exposure of children's urinary metal concentrations.