The Biomarker-based Epidemiology Group is focused on health effects of early exposure to background levels of environmental contaminants. The term "background level" means exposure that occurs in the general population, usually at low levels, with no unusual or occupational exposure. To detect effects of low-level exposure, if any, the group looks at exposure that occurs prior to birth, when susceptibility may be greatest. Future research plans, however, will extend the scope to include childhood exposures. To date, the specific outcomes addressed in this research have ranged from reproductive and pediatric to adult outcomes. Matthew P. Longnecker, M.D., Sc.D., is the head of the Biomarker-based Epidemiology Group.
When Dr. Longnecker began work in the field, he studied persistent organic pollutants exclusively. Persistent organic pollutants are major public health concerns because they are omnipresent in the ecosystem and may cause adverse health effects at background levels of exposure via diet. Examples are DDE, the major metabolite of the insecticide DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin, also known as tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. Epidemiologic research on potentially adverse health effects of the insecticide DDT continues to impact public health policy, and Longnecker has recently done studies that address the topic.
Perfluorinated alkyl substances, another type of persistent organic pollutant, have recently been recognized as a potential threat to the health of the general population. Longnecker has completed and has ongoing a series of studies on these substances in relation to reproductive and pediatric outcomes. In addition, he has begun studying the effects of early, low-level exposure to nonpersistent pollutants such as bisphenol A and organophosphate pesticides.
Dr. Longnecker received a B.S. from Antioch College, an M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School and a Sc.D. from Harvard School of Public Health. He is board-certified in internal medicine. He was an assistant professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles before coming to NIEHS in 1995. Longnecker is a senior investigator in the U.S. Public Health Service at NIEHS. He also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.