HHS: HHS Awards Phase 1 Winners of Competition to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals for Black Women

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Executive Summary:

  • HHS awards 15 winners for Phase 1 of the EDC Innovator Award Competition
  • Aimed at reducing endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure risk for women, particularly Black women
  • EDCs linked to developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems
  • Competition aims to address gaps in knowledge and innovative solutions
  • Three-phase competition: identifying programs, demonstrating effectiveness, and replicating or expanding programs
  • Winners include initiatives focusing on education, awareness, and innovative tools to reduce EDC exposure risk in women of color

Unedited Press Release Text:

The competition was developed to identify gaps in knowledge and innovative solutions to improving women’s health by reducing EDC exposure risk.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office on Women’s Health (OWH), is awarding the 15 winners for Phase 1 of the HHS Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) Innovator Award Competition. This competition was developed to identify gaps in knowledge and innovative solutions to improving women’s health by reducing EDC exposure risk.  

“For far too long, Black women have been overexposed to harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals in personal care products. We created this competition to help find innovative solutions to meet this challenge, and I want to congratulate all the winners for their incredible ideas,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We will continue to prioritize the health of Black women by addressing the exposure risks caused by this environmental justice issue.”

Many chemicals, both natural and human-made, may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system. Called endocrine disruptors, these chemicals are linked to developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems. Endocrine disruptors are found in the environment, food, and everyday consumer products. Some of the major known EDCs, such as bisphenols and phthalates, are in plastics. Others, including those found in cosmetics and pesticides, can pollute community water supplies.  

“We remain committed to addressing the health disparities among women impacted by EDCs. Not only are there higher exposure levels among communities of color, but also fewer available resources and protective factors such as green spaces and healthy food options,” said Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Rachel Levine, M.D. “The HHS Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Innovator Award Competition is one part of our multi-pronged approach to promoting innovative and community-led solutions that promote health equity and environmental justice for all.” 

The competition identifies and awards programs that demonstrate effectiveness, sustainability, and the ability to replicate or expand interventions that address gaps in knowledge and provide solutions to reduce EDC exposure risk for Black women. 

The competition is divided into three phases. During Phase 1, HHS identified programs with innovative approaches to reduce the associated exposure risks of EDCs. Phase 2 focuses on demonstrating effectiveness of the program by increasing knowledge and reducing the risk of EDC exposure. Lastly, Phase 3 applicants will demonstrate that programs have been successfully replicated or expanded. 

The 15 winners of Phase 1 of the HHS Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) Innovator Award Competition are listed below: 

1)    Black Women for Wellness – Los Angeles, CA 
Program/Focus: Curls and Conversation 
Black Women for Wellness educates Black women through their Curls and Conversation workshops and by providing educational materials for women to better protect themselves from EDCs in personal care products. This program creates a space for Black women and girls to discuss their hair stories, to provide healthy hair information to the Black Community, and to counter societally imposed burdens with a focus on the burden of EDC exposure. 

2)    Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health – New York, NY 
Program/Focus: Advancing racial health equity for women and femme-identifying young adults through a clean beauty intervention 
This program will study EDC exposures in personal care products experienced by young Black women and femme-identifying individuals. This program plans to focus on increasing awareness about the disproportionate EDC exposures experienced by women of color and investigate the change in urinary levels of phthalates, plasticizers, and environmental phenols after using clean products. 

3)    Empowerment Resource Center (ERC) – Atlanta, GA 
Program/Focus: ERC Comprehensive Intervention Clinic 
The Empowerment Resource Center services approximately 5,500 clients each year (60.1% African American) in various programs including clinical services, behavioral health services, health literacy programs, and capacity building programs. The ERC plans to design and develop a website dedicated to informing and educating Black women on the risk of EDC exposure and their link to cancers and reproductive health issues. 

4)    Girl Plus Environment – Atlanta, GA 
Program/Focus: The Black H(air) Initiative 
This program plans to educate Black hairdressers about the harms of EDCs in hair products and the disproportionate impact they have on Black women. This program plans to utilize a digital media campaign, pop-up shops, and a training toolkit to empower Black women hairdressers to protect themselves and their clients.   

5)    Hackensack University Medical Center – Edison, NJ 
Program/Focus: New Jersey Healthy Salon Workers Training (NJHSWT) to Reduce EDC Exposure Risk among Black Women 
This program plans to create a cosmetology training program to educate and protect the health and safety of salon professionals and their clients. This training program plans to inform learners on the racial/ethnic disparities related to salon products, practices that lead to disproportionate EDC exposure among Black and African American women, and how learners can educate their future colleagues and clients. 

6)    HairDays – New York, NY 
Program/Focus: HairDays Hair Artificial Intelligence Intervention Platform 
This program plans to implement a hair intelligence platform that will provide product ingredient transparency, offer data-driven hair care recommendations, and present culturally conscious insights to promote safer practices. 

7)    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Cambridge, MA 
Program/Focus: Digital storytelling to reduce the personal care product associated EDCs exposure and hormonally mediated disease risks for Black or African American Women 
This program plans to use digital storytelling as an educational intervention to improve health literacy and create behavioral change. This program plans to educate on personal care product-based exposures and disparities in exposure among populations focusing on Black and African American women. 

8)    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Cambridge, MA 
Program/Focus: Doulas as Environmental Health Educators: A Health Intervention to Reduce Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Exposure in Pregnancy and Associated Environmental Health Disparities 
This program plans to implement an educational intervention that is doula-based and pregnant patient focused to address exposure to EDCs during the pregnancy and postpartum periods. This program plans to increase the environmental health literacy of doulas so they can counsel pregnant people on reducing exposure to EDCs and improve pregnancy outcomes.   

9)    Makery Thirteen – Atlanta, GA 
Program/Focus: Strengthening Black women’s ability to identify and replace personal care products manufactured with EDCs 
This program plans to focus on raising awareness of EDCs to enable Black women to identify and replace personal care products manufactured with EDCs. This program plans to develop and pilot a culturally sensitive web-based educational program focused on the prevalence and risk of EDCs in personal care products targeted at Black and African American women. 

10)    National Institute for African American Health – Richmond Heights, OH 
Program/Focus: EDC Awareness Campaign 
This program plans to launch an awareness campaign to educate medical providers and targeted populations regarding the disproportional exposure of African American women to EDCs. This program plans to use social media and educational videos to increase consumer awareness, drive manufacturers to exclude EDCs from their products, and offer evidence-based approaches to minimize EDC exposure. 

11)    New Jersey Black Women Physicians Association – Neptune, NJ 
Program/Focus: I See You Well, Sis 
This initiative plans to build partnerships with personal care service providers including hair stylist, beauty influencers, aestheticians, beauty schools, dermatologist, and African American women focused organizations. This web-based program plans to focus on raising awareness and health education to reduce knowledge gaps and provide population-served resources and solutions to minimize EDC exposure among African American women. 

12)    SafetyNEST – El Cerrito, CA 
Program/Focus: An Educational Online Platform for Preventing EDC Exposures in the Home among Black Women 
This is a digital platform designed for diverse audiences that builds environmental health literacy and encourages participants to take action to protect their health in the home. This project aims to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases linked to toxic chemical exposures among Black or African American pregnant women. 

13)    Silent Spring institute and Resilient Sisterhood Project – Newton, MA 
Program/Focus: Product Options in Women-Engaged Research (POWER) Project 
This program was designed to empower Black communities to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals from consumer product use. This program disseminates content on chemicals of health concern in consumer products to increase awareness and support behavioral change. This program has shared information on EDC exposures with thousands of mostly Black women and had their content viewed by more than 100,000 accounts, liked by nearly 10,000 accounts, and shared more than 1,700 times. 

14)    The Chrysalis Initiative – Philadelphia, PA 
Program/Focus: Equity interventions for Black and African American women with breast cancer 
This program has established equity interventions for Black women with breast cancer, based on education and awareness. The program’s coaching/navigation and cancer equity assessment operations are able to enhance EDC outreach to directly impact the behaviors of women of color in the interest of maintaining breast health and responding to breast cancer diagnosis.  

15)    Emily Hilz – Austin, TX 
Program/Focus: Increasing Black  women’s awareness of endocrine disrupting chemicals in personal care products: there’s an app for that 
This program plans to create a mobile phone application to increase awareness and reduce exposure to EDCs in personal care products. This program plans to empower women as consumers to reduce exposure risk by linking EDCs in their personal care products with their suspected adverse health outcomes. 


SOURCE: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/02/hhs-awards-phase-1-winners-competition-reduce-risk-exposure-endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-black-women.html

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