Chemical Exposures and Children’s Mental Health

March 28, 2024 @ 12:00pm (AKDT)

While the adverse effects 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 related to mood, anxiety, and behavior.

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


On Thursday, March 28 at 12:00 PM (AKST), CHE-Alaska will host Ashley James and Vi Pangunnaaq Waghiyi to discuss environmental chemical exposures and their impact on children’s mental health.

Ashley James, a Physical Scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will present her recently published literature review on environmental chemical exposures and mental health outcomes in children. ACAT Environmental Health & Justice Director Vi Waghiyi will discuss how mental health disparities in Alaska Native youth demonstrate this as an issue of environmental injustice.


CHE-Alaska is part of CHE’s broader network, which is an international partnership of almost 5,000 individuals and organizations in 87 countries and all 50 US states that are committed to addressing environmental impacts on human health across the lifespan.

We encourage you to become a CHE partner so you can receive their monthly email newsletters, announcements about upcoming webinars, and other updates on a range of environmental health topics. Visit to learn more.

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.


Vi Pangunnaaq 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.

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