Identifying Environmental Exposures and Putting Them Into Perspective

Modern life is filled with health risks, some rare and unusual and some as commonplace as fast food wrappers. The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health reveals threats, and solutions, through groundbreaking research. Collaborative research paired with engaging instruction allows our students to recognize, understand, and make plans to mitigate all manner of environmental exposures. Policymakers and the news media also appreciate an ability to make complex topics easy to understand; they regularly call upon EOH faculty for briefings and comments.

Everyone knows that eating fast food isn’t the healthiest possible choice, but research by Assistant Professor Ami Zota inspired an international dialog by linking fast food consumption to elevated levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates.  In addition to serving as a coauthor, EOH alumna Cassie Phillips earned accolades for her work with Dr. Zota on the project.  

Acting EOH Department Chair George Gray is an expert on putting environmental health risks into perspective.  As a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official who previously served as the executive director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and a member of numerous advisory boards, Dr. Gray often helps organizations and government agencies consider the health risks of various hazards, from foodborne diseases to industrial chemicals.  He is also the author of Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You.  Students give his teaching skills high marks and say that what they learn in his classroom about environmental health and toxicology sticks with them. 

Research by EOH Professor Melissa Perry recently uncovered a link between teenage exposure to organochlorine pesticides and abnormal sperm later in life.  Work that Perry, who is the school’s acting associate dean of research, has conducted with students has led to school-wide honors.  Her teaching also inspires members of the university community to consider how food choices impact the health of people and the planet

Professor Lance Price and his team at GW’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center are well-known for their efforts to unearth out-of-the box solutions to antibiotic resistance, one of the greatest public health threats of our time.  Their achievements also include successfully unmasking previously unknown ramifications of antibiotic use, such as the link between antibiotic resistant bacteria in chicken, pork and turkey meat and urinary tract and blood infections

Other exploratory work by EOH professors includes an investigation of links between auto workers’ exposure to metalworking fluids and kidney ailments by Assistant Professor Kate Applebaum that recently turned up a link to a kidney cancer.  Some of the research conducted by Associate Professor Matias Attene-Ramos involves testing environmental samples, such as drinking or surface water, to discover endpoints that allow toxicity to be predicted.  Associate Professor Peter LaPuma’s research includes efforts to identify and design greener processes to avoid pollution

Research by Associate Professor Sabrina McCormick has brought to light the death toll associated with heat waves linked to climate change.  In addition to tracking down sources of health concerns suspected to be caused by industrial emissions in Brazil, Assistant Professor Amanda Northcross has been helping students in her Exposure Assessment class develop their investigative skills with new portable air sensors recently purchased for the school.   Professor David Michaels, who recently returned to the department after serving as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, is an expert on how science is used and misused in government decision-making and legal proceedings

Regardless of whether they are developing a research project, a policy solution, or a deeper understanding of a topic, EOH students and faculty work together to make our world a healthier place.