Reproductive and Developmental Health FIRG
Leader: Dr. Andrew Olshan, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
The Reproductive and Developmental Health FIRG focuses on environmental factors that influence prenatal and early childhood development. The potential adverse effects of disinfection by-products (DBPs) on female and male reproduction are of particular public health concern. One project involves studies of DBPs as potential influences on both miscarriage and male reproductive health. Dr. Amy Herring is working with Dr. Tom Luben at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a study linking DBP levels measured in the Right From The Start (RFTS) study with pregnancy outcomes from vital records in three US cities, in order to take advantage of the representative population and larger sample size.
A cooperative agreement with US EPA has continued (since October, 2001) to conduct a study to evaluate the relationship between DBP exposure and male reproductive health factors (known as the Healthy Men Study), such as sperm count, sperm abnormalities, and sperm DNA damage as measured by the sperm chromatin structure assay. CEHS researchers are also working to evaluate the relationships among smoking, alcohol, BMI and semen quality measures and to analyze data on the relationship between air pollution and semen quality from this same study.
Research in this FIRG is also focused on environmental exposures and their effects on neurodevelopment in gestation and post-partum. The CEHS has funded a pilot project by Dr. Julie Daniels, PI of a CDC-funded Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology and a CDC-funded surveillance project for autism and mental retardation, that examined the association between maternal prenatal dietary exposures and the child’s neurodevelopment. The Center is one of six that will conduct a multi-site investigation of genetic and environmental correlates of autism. Dr. Daniels is collaborating with Dr. Joe Piven in CEHS to complete an epidemiologic survey of the prevalence of the broad autism phenotype in parents of autistic individuals using an instrument, The Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire, developed by Dr. Piven.