Chemical Exposures and Children’s Mental Health

March 28, 2024
4:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

James A and OShaugnessy K. 2023. Environmental Chemical Exposures and Mental Health Outcomes in Children: A narrative review of recent literature. Front. Toxicol., 30 November 2023
Sec. Environmental Toxicology Volume 5 - 2023 | https://doi.org/10.3389/ftox.2023.1290119

James A. 2024. Op-ed: What we know about toxic chemicals and children’s mental health. Environmental Health News Jan. 16, 2024. 

While the adverse impacts of many toxic chemicals on physical health are widely recognized, their impacts on mental health are not as well understood.

A recently published literature review revealed a substantial body of evidence that links exposures to chemicals in our environment — including lead, PFAS and BPA — to children's mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. It examined prenatal and childhood chemical exposures and mental health problems.

The review acknowledges the need to view this as an environmental justice issue. Children in low-income and communities of color are disproportionately burdened with harmful chemical exposures and thus face potentially increased risk.

In this webinar, CHE-Alaska hosted Ashley James and Pangunnaaq Vi Waghiyi to discuss environmental chemical exposures and their impact on children's mental health.

Dr. James, a Physical Scientists with the US Environmental Protection Agency, presented her recently published literature review on environmental chemical exposures and mental health outcomes in children. ACAT's Environmental Health and Justice Director Vi Waghiyi discussed how mental health disparities in Alaska Native youth demonstrate this as an issue of environmental injustice.

Featured Speakers

Ashley James (she/her) holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Richmond and a Master of Public Health in Environmental Health from Emory University. She is very passionate about environmental justice and previously worked for WE ACT for Environmental Justice. She also completed a fellowship with the U.S. EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection, which is where she worked on a recently published literature review on environmental chemical exposures and mental health outcomes in children. Ashley currently works as a Physical Scientist for the U.S. EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.


Viola “Vi” Waghiyi is a Sivuqaq Yupik, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Citizen, mother, and grandmother. Since 2002, she has worked with ACAT and serves as Environmental Health and Justice Director. She was appointed by President Biden to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in April 2021. She is a nationally recognized environmental justice leader and is frequently invited to speak locally, nationally, and internationally. Vi serves as a leader of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus that advises the United Nation’s international delegates for treaties concerning persistent organic pollutants. She served as a member of the Environmental Health Sciences Council that advises the NIEHS.


This webinar was hosted by the CHE-Alaska Partnership, which is coordinated by Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). Driven by a core belief in environmental justice, ACAT empowers communities to eliminate exposure to toxics through collaborative research, shared science, education, organizing, and advocacy.