Faculty Profile

Frederica P. Perera

Frederica P. Perera, DrPH, PhD, professor, Mailman School of Public Health and director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, has been widely recognized and lauded for her accomplishments in the field of children’s environmental health. With her expertise focused on molecular epidemiology, environment-susceptibility interactions in cancer, developmental damage, asthma, and risk assessment, Dr. Perera’s work has had far-reaching impact in broadening understanding of the impact of the environment on health.

One of Dr. Perera’s long-term studies, in conjunction with the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, examined the health effects of exposure of pregnant women and babies to indoor and outdoor air pollutants, pesticides, and allergens. This multi-year research project begun in 1998, "The Mothers and Children Study in New York City," has found in utero exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as a result of mothers breathing polluted air during pregnancy was associated with lower birth weight, reduced birth head circumference, preterm birth, small size for gestational age, and developmental delay in childhood, as well as a contributor to respiratory problems.

In a commentary that ran in Environmental Health Perspectives, Dr. Perera highlighted these findings and also warned of the vulnerability of children to the predicted effects of climate disruption such as heat waves, flooding, infectious disease, malnutrition, and trauma. Another editorial in Newsday by Dr. Perera urged Congress to enact stronger energy and climate control regulation to better protect children’s health.

Amongst the many groups to honor Dr. Perera’s work is the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN). In 2008 it selected Dr. Perera as Children’s Environmental Health Leader citing her pioneering work in advancing the protection of children from environmental hazards and developing Molecular Epidemiology as a tool to evaluate the health effects of environmental exposures. That same year, the Healthy Schools Network also bestowed on Dr. Perera the Measure of Children Award.

“Dr. Perera has shown that incorporation of biologic markers, including markers of genetic damage and susceptibility, into epidemiologic studies can be a powerful tool in documenting the effects of environmental pollutants on the health and development of children. This powerful linkage is leading to important advancements in our understanding of children's health as it relates to the environment,” said CEHN founding Board Chair Routt Reigart. “Equally impressive is Dr. Perera's commitment to translating her scientific work to policy, to provide a basis for strengthening the protections of children from environmental hazards."

Mailman School Main Feature Graphic

Frederica P. Perera, MPH ’76, DrPH ‘82, PhD '12
Director, Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health
and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences