Pesticides and Industrial Contaminants

Increasing evidence highlights the significant contribution exposure to environmental chemicals, including pesticides and various industrial contaminants, has on human health.

Through ingestion of contaminated food and water, inhalation of pollutants in the air or dust, or dermal absorption of chemicals found in personal care products, these exposures have become part of our daily lives. This realization has motivated a paradigm shift in both the medical and research community to reevaluate our current understanding of the interaction between chemical toxicants and biological processes and how this will influence the health and disease risk for generations.

The ability to critically evaluate chemical contributions to health and disease from a multidisciplinary perspective is imperative for the successful integration of environmental health data and outcomes. With this in mind, classroom and research training in the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health draws upon faculty expertise in epidemiology, exposure science, and biological mechanisms of disease and unifies these approaches in a cooperative effort to provide a holistic understanding of the influence of chemical toxicants on human health. Resources and opportunities in the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health and extending across the university place faculty and students at the forefront of this initiative, making them uniquely positioned to advance the field.

Examples of departmental research on pesticides and industrial contaminants:

  • Evaluating neurological deficits resulting from prenatal exposure to pesticides in Thailand
  • Assessing the health effects of perfluorooctanoic acid in workers and community members who were highly exposed as a result of releases from a chemical plant

  • Assessing the levels of pesticide residues in baby food, breast milk and formula
  • Examining the role of exposure to the flame retardants polybrominated diphenyl ethers on the thyroid function of young children

Pesticides & Industrial Contaminants Faculty and Research Interests

Dana Boyd Barr, PhD, Research Professor
Exposure assessment, biomarkers, endocrine disruptors, environmental analytical chemistry

Mike Caudle, PhD, Assistant Professor
Cellular and animal models of neurotoxicity, cellular targets and mechanisms of neurotoxicity, pesticides, industrial toxicants

Carmen Marsit, PhD, Professor
Epigenetics, genomics, exposome, children’s e nvironmental health, metals, biomarkers, system biology, cancer

Barry Ryan, PhD, Professor
Human exposure to environmental contaminants, pesticide exposure in children, environmental analytical chemistry, community air pollution

Kyle Steenland, PhD, Professor and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar
Environmental and occupational epidemiology

Qiang Zhang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor
Computational sciences, endocrinology, neurosciences, systems biology, quantitative risk assessment, computational toxicology

Michele Marcus, PhD (Epidemiology)

Linda McCauley, PhD (School of Nursing)

Paula Burgess, MD

Bruce Fowler, PhD

Richard Hertzberg, PhD

Barry Johnson, PhD

Morris Maslia, MSCE

M. Moiz Mumtaz, PhD

H. Edward Murray, PhD

Anne Riederer, ScD

EH 520

Human Toxicology


EH 524

Risk Assessment I


EH 537

Biomarkers and Environmental Public Health


EH 540

Environmental Hazards I


EH 590R

Genome, Exposome, and Health


EH 590R

Foundations of Molecular Toxicology


EH 590R

Foundations of Neurotoxicology


EHS 710

Advanced Laboratory and Field Methods in Exposure Science


EHS 740

Molecular Toxicology


EHS 760

Advanced Risk Assessment


CEE 4320*

Hazardous Substances Engineering

CEE 6313*

Fate of Contaminants

CEE 6761*

Contaminated Sedimentary Geochemistry

*Courses available at Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Civil Engineering

Adefris, Zelalem - “Evaluation of prenatal pyrethroid insecticide exposure, fetal growth, and neurodevelopmental outcomes in a Thai agricultural birth pilot cohort.” Advisor: Dana Barr

Aronoff, Jennifer - “Occupational noise exposure, risk factors, and hearing loss among a population of factory workers in the United States.” Advisor: Barry Ryan

Genskow, Kelly - “Selective damage to dopamine transporters following exposure to the brominated flame retardant, HBCDD.” Advisor: Mike Caudle

Kodsup, Pornpimol - "Factors Contributing to Children’s Lead, Cadmium, and Arsenic Exposures using Human Biomonitoring and Environmental Data in Southern Thailand." Advisor: Dana Barr

Laughlin, Scott - "Semi-Volatile Organic Compound (SVOC) Detection in Residential Furniture: A Comparison of Dermal, Oral, and Inhalation Exposure Routes in Children." Advisor: Barry Ryan

Electronic Theses and Dissertations 

Buser, Melanie - “Implementing systematic review into ATSDR’s Toxicological Profiles and Addenda.”

Fountain, Tracey - “Program development, implementation and quality control for use of alkaline hydrolysis tissue digestion for pathological waste.”

Kieger, Claire - "An Assessment of Inadvertent Heavy Metal Exposure through Hand Hygiene Practices in Industrial Workers."

Morris, Renee - "Using an Industrial Hygiene Assessment and Job-Exposure Matrix to Mitigate Hexavalent Chromium Exposure in Airline Composite Shop.

Onyenwe, Wellington - “Environmental injustice: Socio-demographic and health disparity implications of toxics release inventory locations in metropolitan Atlanta communities.”

Zatirka, Theresa - “Identifying knowledge gaps and development of educational intervention materials for female agricultural workers exposed to pesticides in Thailand.”

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Environmental Health Intern (Atlanta, GA): Complete a literature review for a study of arsenic and micronutrients. Write a literature-based report for the EPA about health effects associated oil refinery exposures.

Cardno ChemRisk, Associate Health Scientist (Orange County, CA): Conduct human health, environmental, and ecological risk assessments, conduct exposure activity surveys, and create health-based clean-up criteria development.

Environment and Population Research Centre, Intern (Dhaka, Bangladesh): Conduct survey-based research to determine whether improved knowledge of pesticide use is associated with safe practices among farmers in rural Bangladesh, where agriculture is a primary sector of the economy.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Industrial Hygiene Intern (Savannah, GA): Perform air quality monitoring in order to decrease exposure to hexavalent chromium and other potentially harmful fumes. Conduct noise monitoring for the hearing conservation program to ensure internal and OSHA compliance, and assist corporate industrial hygienists in their tasks, including respirator fit testing and handling health and safety complaints.

Associacion Beneficia PRISMA, Summer Researcher (Piura, Peru): Conducting household visits and surveys with 100 households chosen from a pre-established cohort of Peruvian infants according to location (rural vs. urban; connected to municipal water system vs. not connected). Collect household drinking water samples as well as infant stool samples; which will be tested for the presence of enteropathogens, chemicals (pesticides, heavy metals and antibiotics), and the microbial community composition (via DNA extraction and analysis of 16S region of DNA).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Student Intern (Atlanta, GA): Learn the basic structure of a regulatory agency and the importance of acts such as FIFRA, and the role this legislation plays in regulating endocrine disruptors. Conduct a literature search to identify new and different modes of action for endocrine disruptors and write a review article on a specific mode of action.

CDC, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow: Conduct laboratory analysis of human urine and blood serum to look for metabolites of organophosphate nerve agents. Develop and improve methods to detect agent and level of exposure to increase effectiveness of physician treatments.

Michelin North America, Environmental Coordinator: Develop and implement facility strategies and systems relating to operation and maintenance of environmental control programs, procedures, and training to ensure compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental regulations and laws.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Health Scientist: Provide environmental health expertise in the areas of human health risk assessment, toxicology, statistics and other technical areas to EPA project managers, States, the regulated community, and Federal agencies in the Superfund Program, which addresses the enforcement and cleanup of hazardous waste sites.