Press Release: The Preschool Experiences and Development Study (PEDS)

November 2, 2022


RTI International and North Carolina Central University Enrolling Child Care Centers and Families for Children’s Health Study

Child care centers and families with 2- to 3-year-old children who enroll receive environmental sampling results, participation incentives, and support children’s environmental health research


  • The Preschool Experiences and Development Study (PEDS) team is enrolling child care centers and families to participate in a grant-funded study.
  • The study is focused on common chemicals found in toddler caregiving environments and neurodevelopmental functioning in early childhood.
  • You can start enrollment online and learn more at

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Do you have a child enrolled in a child care center, or are you a child care teacher or director within Durham, Orange, Wake, Granville, Halifax, Vance or Warren counties?

The Preschool Experiences and Development Study (PEDS) team is enrolling child care centers and families to participate in a grant-funded study on common chemicals found in caregiving environments and neurodevelopmental functioning in early childhood.

The study is a collaboration between RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and the North Carolina Central University (NCCU) Health Equity, Environment and Population (HOPE) program.

“It is increasingly important that we work with communities on participatory research that is equitable and impactful,” said Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, the RTI environmental health and water quality program director and Contact Principal Investigator. “We plan to translate broader research findings into actionable insights on how to better protect children’s health from chemical exposures in our typical environment.”

The NCCU HOPE program’s partnership will be instrumental in supporting families and centers in underserved communities and addressing racial health disparities that exist across North Carolina.

“NCCU appreciates this opportunity to partner with RTI as we work together to better protect the health of our children by reducing their exposures to environmental contaminants.” said Dr. Deepak Kumar, the PEDS Translation Core Co-Director and Director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute at NCCU.

The Community Advisory Board for the study includes Dr. Linda Chappel, Senior Vice President of Triangle Area Child Care Resource and Referral Services with the Child Care Services Association, Ashley Graham with the Choose Safe Places program at the NC Division of Public Health, and Jenna Nelson, Executive Director of the NC Early Education Coalition.

“Research tells us that our youngest children often spend over 36 hours a week in care environments, experiencing rich activities and inputs that impact their developing brains and learning and influencing their long-term success, “ said Dr. Chappel. “We recognize that children’s health is the foundation of all growth and development, making it important that parents and educators in early care settings partner with the PEDS research study.  This study will deeply examine the potential for environmental harm on children’s neurodevelopment from common chemicals.”

Ms. Nelson from the NC Early Education Coalition emphasized that North Carolina’s young children need healthy environments in order to learn, grow, and succeed.

“We are excited to be part of this collaborative effort to learn more about the impact of chemical exposures and how to protect children in child care settings,” said Ms. Nelson.

Child care centers and families with children that enroll receive their environmental sampling results, along with participation incentives.  Interested child care centers and families can learn more at and start enrolling online at Child care centers can also schedule a brief enrollment call at a time that is convenient.

The study is funded by a $1.9M grant award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create an EPA STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Center for Early Lifestage Vulnerabilities to Environmental Stressors.

About RTI International

RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world.

More Information About the Study

To participate in this voluntary study, families and their child care centers may enroll. If you enroll your child care center, please share voluntary study information with the families of children between 27-33 months years old. Centers will complete a brief virtual survey about their facility’s environmental health practices and our trained staff will collect water and dust samples from participating centers. Our trained staff will also visit centers to complete game-like activities with participating children, and teachers will complete a brief survey about classroom behaviors.

The caregiver of participating children will complete a phone interview and virtual surveys, and receive a mail-out sample kit with instructions on how to collect and ship samples of water, dust, hair, and saliva. The study team will comply with all COVID-19 and child care licensing requirements.

View EPA’s press release or RTI's press release on the study. The study team includes Co-PI Michael Willoughby, Co-I Keith Levine,  Administrative Core Director AJ Kondash, Study Coordinator Sarah Colley, QA Officers Kesha Hudson and Andrea McWilliams, and Riley Mulhern of RTI, along with Translation Core Co-Director Deepak Kumar and William Pilkington of NCCU. In addition to the Community Advisory Board, the Scientific Advisory Board includes Dr. Jamie DeWitt, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Eastern Carolina University, Dr. Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Head of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department at NC State University, and Ed Norman, Program Manager of the NC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

About North Carolina Central University (NCCU)

NCCU is an accredited historically Black college or university (HBCU) chartered in Durham, NC, in 1909 as the nation’s first publicly funded liberal arts institution for African Americans. The Health Equity, Environment and Population Health (HOPE) program’s mission is to address racial health disparities that exist throughout North Carolina, which are indicative of larger trends in the United States. HOPE Program staff work in underserved communities with significant minority populations that suffer from health disparities. We have developed effective partnerships in the Center study area between academics and community stakeholders (such as schools, community-based organizations, healthcare providers, public health departments, elected officials, clergy, social service agencies, and law enforcement). Our program engages entire communities with cultural sensitivity, attention to and respect for each individual’s contributions, and mutual trust.

About EPA’s STAR Program

EPA’s STAR program stimulates and supports scientific and engineering research that advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. It is a competitive, peer reviewed, extramural research program that provides access to the nation’s best scientists and engineers in academic and other nonprofit research institutions. The STAR program funds research on the environmental and public health effects of air quality, environmental changes, water quality and quantity, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and pesticides. For more information about these grants, click here.

About the North Carolina Early Education Coalition

The North Carolina Early Education Coalition (Coalition) works to ensure that all children have access to high-quality early care and learning experiences. The Coalition is the only statewide advocacy coalition dedicated to promoting high quality, accessible and affordable child care in North Carolina. Their membership includes statewide organizations, regional and local child care agencies, child care providers and individuals committed to improving the quality of child care and early childhood education in North Carolina. Learn more at

About the Child Care Services Association

The Child Care Services Association (CCSA) leads efforts to strengthen accessible and affordable quality early care and education by providing supports for families, communities and the workforce. CCSA is committed to supporting the rights of young children and their families to have the best possible life through research, services and advocacy. Learn more at