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The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science 

Risk, Exposure, and Health Scientists

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John D. Spengler
John Spengler is the Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. His research activities are directed at the assessment of population exposures to environmental contaminants that occur in homes, offices, schools, and during transit as well as in the outdoor environment. Although he is investigating the effects of pollutants of outdoor origin (ozone, acidic particles, PCBs), he is particularly interested in pollutants of indoor origin (fungi, dust mites, nitrogen dioxide, tobacco smoke, radon, and others). He is also investigating ways to promote improved air quality through sustainable development strategies. Dr. Spengler’s objective is to construct the framework for linking zoning, purchases and practices, construction and appliance specifications, and pricing and tax strategies to energy and pollution consequences. He believes that the concepts of pollution prevention, environmental cost accounting, risk-reducing based decision making and life-cycle analysis have to mature from academic concerns to functional activities within the public and private sectors of a market-driven economy.


Featured Scientists

Howard Hu
Howard Hu is adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and professor of environmental health, epidemiology, and medicine at the University of Michigan Schools of Public Health and Medicine. Dr. Hu was the founding medical editor of Environmental Health Perspectives. He founded the Metals Epidemiology Research Group (MERG) which has been conducting multi-disciplinary human population studies around the world on the health effects of general environmental and occupational exposures to lead, manganese, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals. An early MERG advance was the development and application of a special instrument, called K-X-ray fluorescence (KXRF), for the safe and accurate measurement of skeletal lead levels in human subjects. Dr. Hu directs the Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research at Harvard School of Public Health. // Read interview transcript


Robin M. Whyatt
Robin Whyatt is associate professor of clinical environmental health sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and is deputy director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Her research focus is on the effects of environmental exposures on women and children, including the developing fetus. This has included epidemiologic research on prenatal exposures to ambient air pollution and cigarette smoking and research on effects of environmental exposures among African American and Dominican mothers and newborns from New York City. Dr. Whyatt’s particular focus is on the extent of exposure to non-persistent pesticides (organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids) and phthalates during pregnancy among this minority cohort. She is also collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control on the validation of biomarkers of prenatal exposures to contemporary-use pesticides. Dr. Whyatt is principal investigator on a number of federal research grants and has published widely on use of biologic markers in studies of perinatal exposures. She as served on a number of federal committees including the National Academy of Science Committee on Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Toxicants, for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on children’s environmental health issues including considerations of developmental changes in behavior and anatomy when assessing exposures to children; on selecting the appropriate age groups for assessing childhood exposures to environmental contaminants; and on a framework for assessing health risks of environmental exposures to children. She also served as co-chair of the chemical exposures workgroup for the National Children’s Longitudinal Cohort Study.  // Read interview transcript



Series Directory

The Habitable Planet: A Systems Approach to Environmental Science 


Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in association with the Harvard University Center for the Environment. 2007.
  • ISBN: 1-57680-883-1