Four academic institutions across the United States will be awarded grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for researching the impact of chemicals on various biological processes and the potential adverse effect they may have on brain development.

A total of over $3 million will be given to North Carolina State University, the University of Georgia, University of California and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, the agency announced. According to Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development, extensive study into the impact of chemical exposure on various stages of development of the brain could be extremely useful to help scientists understand the process and take effective measures to prevent damage.

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For decades, authorities have been trying to find out more about the mechanism in which chemicals affect people and animals. The EPA's funding will be provided for projects that focus on developing more effective models for predicting whether exposure could lead to unwanted health effects, known as adverse outcome pathways (AOPs). Creating a working AOP requires a large amount of data that could be gathered and analyzed and the grants will help research teams to do this, the EPA explained. Once these models are created, they could be used to predict how different chemicals behave when they come into contact with biological systems, thus potentially helping regulators to assess chemicals and their neurotoxicity.