Overview

The goal of Dr. Lanphear’s research is to prevent common diseases and disabilities in children, such as asthma, injuries and ADHD. Initially, his research seeks to quantify the impact of a variety of risk factors – from exposures to heavy metals and chemicals, maternal depression, poor housing quality and poverty – to understand why some children develop learning problems, behavioural problems, injuries or asthma. To accurately quantify the contribution of risk factors, his research tests various ways to measure children’s exposures using novel biomarkers, parent report or observational surveys. His research also explores how genes impact children susceptibility or resiliency to a variety of environmental risk factors. Finally, Dr. Lanphear attempts to design studies to test the benefits of reducing children’s exposures to environmental hazards.

Research

The HOME Study
Children’s health is, to a large extent, a function of their environment. Exposures to toxins are risk factors for learning and behavioral problems in children. Lead exposure has been linked to ADHD, conduct disorder and delinquency. Exposure to tobacco has been linked with conduct disorder and ADHD. Still, most studies have only examined children with higher exposures; new research is linking low-level exposure to lead, mercury and PCB’s with adverse effects at levels previously thought to be safe. There are also data linking exposures to pesticides and other emerging chemicals with learning and behavioral problems, but the data are too sparse to draw any conclusions.

The HOME Study, a 400-person birth cohort study, was designed to examine the impact of low-level exposures to toxins on learning and behavioral problems in children, such as executive dysfunction and ADHD. We are also conducting a trial to test the benefit of lead hazard controls on children’s blood lead levels and the development of learning and behavioral problems.

We are testing the following hypotheses in the HOME Study:

1. Low-level exposures to heavy metals, pesticides, tobacco and other chemicals during fetal and early childhood are risk factors for learning and behavioural problems in children.

2. Prenatal exposure to toxins, as measured in meconium, is a stronger predictor of learning and behavioural problems than exposures measured by survey, in maternal and cord blood or serum, and urine.

3. Children who are randomly assigned to a lead hazard reduction group will have blood lead levels that are 2.7 mg/dL (30%) or lower at 24 months of age, significantly higher cognitive scores and fewer behavioural problems than children in the control group.

Honours & Awards

Dr. Lanphear has had the honor of serving on several national and international advisory committees. He served as a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Children’s Health and the Environment for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Dr. Lanphear was a Member of two National Academies of Science Committees, one on “Ethical Consideration for Research on Housing-Related Health-Hazards involving Children” and the other on “Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune”. He is a Member of the U.S. EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee - Lead Review Panel. Dr. Lanphear is an editorial board member for several scientific journals, including PLoS Medicine, Environmental Research, Public Health Reports, Breastfeeding Medicine, Environmental Health and Environmental Health Perspectives. In 2007, he was elected to the Ramazzini Collegium, an international society of scientists that examines critical issues in occupational and environmental health and is dedicated to the prevention of disease and the promotion of health.

Research Group Members

Glenys Webster