Frederica P. Perera is professor of Environmental Health Sciences and serves as director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health and of the Disease Investigation Through Specialized Clinically-Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research (DISCOVER) Center. Dr. Perera pioneered the field of molecular epidemiology, beginning with studies of cancer and is now applying molecular techniques within studies of pregnant women and their children. Her areas of specialization include prevention of environmental risks to children, molecular epidemiology, cancer prevention, environment-susceptibility interactions in cancer, developmental damage, asthma, and risk assessment. She is the author of over 200 publications and has received numerous honors, including the first Irving J. Selikoff Cancer Research Award, The Ramazzini Institute (1995); Doctoris Honoris Causa, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland (2004); Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2005); and CEHN (Children's Environmental Health Network) Award (2008).
The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) conducts community-based research in the United States and overseas to study the health effects of prenatal and early postnatal exposures to common urban pollutants. The overall aim of the research is to prevent environmentally related disease in children - specifically asthma, cancer, and neurocognitive impairment. The Center's major studies involve mothers and children in New York City, including Northern Manhattan and the WTC area, Krakow, Poland, and Chongqing, China. Together, these studies provide a unique opportunity to assess the effects of environmental toxicants on children's health and development across a wide range of exposure levels, ethnicities and socioeconomic strata.
Mother's and Children Study in Northern Manhattan
The research study, which began in 1998, examines the health effects of exposure in pregnant women and babies to air pollutants such as vehicle exhausts, commercial fuel burning, tobacco smoke, residential pesticides, and cockroach and mouse allergens. The study focuses on a sample of 700 low-income mothers of color and their children living in the New York City neighborhoods of Washington Heights, Harlem, and the South Bronx, where rates of asthma are the highest in the nation, and rates of low birth weight are higher than in the rest of New York City. African Americans and Latinos in these communities also represent high-risk groups for adverse birth outcomes, impaired development, and some types of cancer. Through this research, CCCEH investigators aim to learn how exposure to common environmental pollutants affects children's risk of asthma, developmental delay, and cancer.
Healthy Home Healthy Child Community Education Campaign
CCCEH is dedicated to raising public awareness of the health risks to children exposed to common air pollutants, and methods for minimizing risk. Investigators work closely with a Community Advisory Board of eight community-based health service and environmental advocacy organizations to deliver practical information to local community residents in an effort to increase community awareness of environmental hazards and alert families to methods they can use to protect children from toxicants in the home. This community education campaign, Healthy Home Healthy Child, is disseminated through workshops with parents living in Washington Heights, Harlem, and the South Bronx, community conferences in which CCCEH scientific investigators present research results, and low-literate print materials distributed to families via local pediatric and obstetric clinics and private practices, community-based organizations, businesses, and houses of worship. This information is also shared with the broader general public through the Center?s web site (www.ccceh.org) and popular media coverage (television, radio, and print) of newly released research findings. The Center?s lead community partner organization is West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT). CCCEH and WE ACT are currently working together to expand Healthy Home Healthy Child to educate local physicians treating pregnant women and children, and train community members to organize around initiatives to improve the environmental safety of low-income urban communities of color.
Selected Global Activities:
Mothers and Children Study in Poland
Krakow, Poland is a city with high levels of combustion-generated pollutants from coal burning, home heating, industry and traffic, as well as high rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, and cancer. CCCEH investigators are working with a research team from Jagiellonian University in Krakow to study the developmental and respiratory effects, and potential cancer risk, from these air pollutants in a group of 400 pregnant women and their children. Exposure is measured by individual monitoring of pollutants in the air that women breather during pregnancy, and the collection of biological samples to study various biomarkers.
Mothers and Children Study in China
The Tong Liang Power Plant in Chongqing, China is the major air pollution source in the area, burning more than 20,300 tons of coal per year. It will soon be shut down and the energy needs met by cleaner alternative sources. This study examines the effects of prenatal exposure to air pollutants from the plant on the health of pregnant women and their newborns living in the immediate area of the plant. Two groups of mothers and children will be enrolled, one before, and the other after the plant shuts down as a coal-burning facility. This study will determine the benefits to children of reducing prenatal exposure to such toxic air pollutants. Biological samples are collected from mothers and newborns for analysis of biomarkers. A Geographic Information System is used to compare exposure levels of energy-related pollutants and related health effects. The results of this research will help formulate government policy to reduce the health costs of air pollution, which also reducing global climate-altering emissions in China.
Perera FP, Poirier MC, Yuspa SH, Nakayama J, Jaretzki A, Curnen MM, Knowles DM, and Weinstein IB. A pilot project in molecular cancer epidemiology. Carcinogenesis 3 1405-1410 1982
Perera FP and Weinstein IB. Molecular epidemiology and carcinogen DNA adduct detection: New approaches to studies of human cancer causation. Journal of Chronic Diseases 35 581-600 1982
Perera F, Hemminki K, Grzybowska E, Motykiewicz G, Michalska J, Santella R, Young TL, Dickey C, Brandt Rauf P, DeVivo I, Blaner W, Tsai W Y, Chorazy M. Molecular and genetic damage from environmental pollution in Poland. Nature 360 256-258 1992
Crawford FG, Mayer J, Santella RM, Cooper TB, Ottman R, Tsai WY, Simon-Cereijido G, Wang M, Tang D, Perera FP. Biomarkers of environmental tobacco smoke in preschool children and their mothers.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 86 1398-1402 1994
Perera FP, Whyatt RM, Jedrychowski W, Rauh V, Manchester D, Santella RM, Ottman R. Recent developments in molecular epidemiology. American Journal of Epidemiology 147 309-314 1998
Tang D, Phillips DH, Stampfer M, Mooney LA, Hsu Y, Cho S, Ma J, Cole KJ, She MN, Perera FP. Association
between carcinogen-DNA adducts in white blood cells and subsequent risk of lung cancer in the physicians
health study. Cancer Research 61 6708-6712 2001
Perera FP, Rauh V, Tsai W-Y, Kinney P, Camann D, Barr D, Bernert T, Garfinkel R, Tu Y-H, Diaz D, Dietrich J, and Whyatt RM. Effects of transplacental exposure to environmental pollutants on birth outcomes in a multi-ethnic population. Environmental Health Perspectives 111 201-205 2003
Miller RL, Garfinkel R, Horton M, Camann D, Perera FP, Whyatt RM, Kinney PL. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, environmental tobacco smoke, and respiratory symptoms in an inner-city birth cohort. Chest 126 1071-1078 2004
Bocskay KA, Orjuela MA, Tang D, Xinhua L, Warburton DP, Perera FP. Chromosomal aberrations in cord blood are associated with prenatal exposure to carcinogenic polycyclyic aromatic hydrocarbons. Cancer Epidemiology of Biomarkers and Prevention 14 506-511 2005
Perera FP, Tang D, Whyatt R, Lederman SA, Jedrychowski W. DNA Damage from Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons measured by benzo[a]pyrene-DNA adducts in mothers and newborns from Northern Manhattan, the World Trade Center area, Poland, and China. Cancer Epidemiology of Biomarkers and Prevention 14 709-714 2005