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Environ Res. 2015 Jul;140:345-53. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2015.04.006. Epub 2015 Apr 24.

Feasibility and informative value of environmental sample collection in the National Children's Vanguard Study.

Author information

Westat, 1600 Research Blvd, Rockville, MD, United States. Electronic address:
Yale University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, New Haven, CT, United States.
South Dakota State University, Ethel Austin Martin Program in Human Nutrition, Brookings, SD, United States.
University of Utah, Department of Pediatrics, Salt Lake City, United States.
Rutgers University, Environmental & Occupational Health Science Institute (EOHSI), Piscataway, NJ, United States.
Westat, 1600 Research Blvd, Rockville, MD, United States.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD, United States.

Erratum in

  • Environ Res. 2015 Oct;142:762.



Birth cohort studies provide the opportunity to advance understanding of the impact of environmental factors on childhood health and development through prospective collection of environmental samples.


We evaluated the feasibility and informative value of the environmental sample collection methodology in the initial pilot phase of the National Children's Study, a planned U.S. environmental birth cohort study. Environmental samples were collected from January 2009-September 2010 at up to three home visits: pre-pregnancy (n=306), pregnancy (n=807), and 6-months postnatal (n=117). Collections included air for particulate matter ≤2.5 µm (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbonyls; vacuum dust for allergens/endotoxin; water for VOCs, trihalomethanes (THMs), and haloacetic acids (HAAs); and wipe samples for pesticides, semi-volatile organics, and metals. We characterized feasibility using sample collection rates and times and informative value using analyte detection frequencies (DF).


Among the 1230 home visits, environmental sample collection rates were high across all sample types (mean=89%); all samples except the air PM2.5 samples had collection times <30 min. Informative value was low for water VOCs (median DF=0%) and pesticide floor wipes (median DF=5%). Informative value was moderate for air samples (median DF=35%) and high for water THMs and HAAs (median DF=91% and 75%, respectively).


Though collection of environmental samples was feasible, some samples (e.g., wipe pesticides and water VOCs) yielded limited information. These results can be used in conjunction with other study design considerations, such as target population size and hypotheses of interest, to inform the method selection of future environmental health birth cohort studies.


Air samples; Birth cohort study; National Children's Study; Water samples; Wipe samples

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