Using environmental epidemiology methods and with the help of my many collaborators, I study how exposures to environmental pollutants during pregnancy and infancy may cause poor birth outcomes (such as preterm birth) or neurodevelopmental disorders (like autism). I especially focus on airborne pollutants, including pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that arise in large part from road traffic, air toxics (also called hazardous air pollutants), which include hundreds of airborne metals and volatile organic compounds, and tobacco smoke.
Methodologic Innovation Areas
- Susceptible periods (critical windows)
- Exposure measurement and exposure measurement correction
- Environmental mixtures
- Neurodevelopmental disorder overlap/phenotypic variability
- Large datasets/existing data
PANDa (Pollution and Neurodevelopment in Danmark)
PANDa is supported by an R01 from NIEHS (R01ES026993). In collaboration with Diana Schendel at Aarhus University (Denmark) and Chris Ladd-Acosta at Johns Hopkins University, we will perform a whole-population case-control study of tobacco, criteria air pollutants, autism and ADHD and their overlap, in the context of genetic liability. Our innovations include studying the neurodevelopmental impacts of air pollution and tobacco in the context of over 1 million genetic markers, allowing us to better estimate effects among those susceptible and suggesting relevant biologic pathways. In addition, we will go beyond treating a developmental disorder as a discrete entity, examining joint diagnoses of autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability, to yield cross-disorder insights.
MATBO (Midwest Air Toxics and Birth Outcomes)
The MATBO Study is piloting the exploration of exposures to > 100 air toxics in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with preterm birth. With partners in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest, we are gearing up to make major scientific contributions to the role of these air toxics in contributing to preterm birth and other poor birth outcomes.
Other Active Research Areas
- Lead exposure in Milwaukee
- Second-hand tobacco smoke
- Methodological considerations of autism surveillance