Commissioner: Frederica Perera, DrPH

“Toxic exposures disproportionately affect the young. The developing brain and other organs are particularly sensitive to toxic exposures during the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s early years; and effects can be compounded by stress due to poverty.”

Dr. Frederica Perera, DrPH, PhD, is a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.(Bio below)

Why did you decide to join the Global Commission on Pollution + Health?  

As a scientist, for more than 20 years my colleagues and I have been researching the effects of toxic exposures on brain development, cognitive function and behavior, respiratory health and physical growth of children.  Our studies following pregnant women and their children in the U.S., Poland and China have demonstrated the striking susceptibility of the developing fetus and child to harm from fossil-fuel related air pollutants, pesticides, and common chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A, and flame retardants. Moreover, the young are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change from burning of fossil fuel. Pollution and climate change affect children everywhere, but especially those living in poverty. Taken as a whole, the science compels us as a society to act forcefully to prevent toxic exposures that are occurring worldwide and harming our children now.

What impact will the work of the Commission have? 

The widespread dissemination of up-to-date information by such a trusted source as the Global Commission on Pollution and Health will be instrumental in prompting the necessary preventive policies to protect the health of children and especially the most vulnerable.

How can we overcome obstacles to progress in the fight against pollution?  What changes do you hope to see in your lifetime?

Our most powerful weapon in the fight against pollution is the effective communication of knowledge about the health impacts and the benefits of action. This means translating the science to empower communities in their fight for a safe environment for their children and communicating the science to policymakers to drive needed pollution and chemical reform. In my lifetime I hope to see a broad public awareness of the holistic health and economic benefits of preventing pollution and that this awareness will drive meaningful action.

Dr. Frederica Perera, DrPH, PhD, is a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and since 1998 has served as Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Dr. Perera is internationally recognized for her work on children’s health and for pioneering the field of molecular epidemiology, utilizing biomarkers to understand links between environmental exposures and disease. Currently, in international studies she and her colleagues are applying advanced molecular and imaging techniques within longitudinal cohort studies of pregnant women and their children, with the goal of identifying preventable environmental risk factors for developmental disorders, asthma, obesity and cancer in childhood. These include toxic chemicals, pesticides, and air pollution, with particular focus on adverse effects of prenatal and early childhood exposures. Her recent research is also addressing the multiple impacts on children’s health and development of fossil fuel combustion—both from the toxic pollutants emitted and climate change related to CO2 emissions. She is the author of over 300 peer reviewed scientific publications. She has received numerous honors including, most recently, the Heinz Award for her lifetime achievement in research for the protection of children’s health.

The Commission on Pollution and Health is an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Commissioners include many of the world’s leading researchers and practitioners in the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development.  

Partnering to Solve Pollution Problems