Department of Public Health Sciences

Irva Hertz-Picciotto

  Interim Epidemiology Division Chief, Professor, PhD
  Division of Epidemiology
  Division of Environmental and Occupational Health
Dr. Hertz-Picciotto is an environmental epidemiologist with over 200 scientific publications addressing effects of environmental exposures on pregnancy and child development. She directs the CHARGE Study, the first large, comprehensive population-based investigation of environmental factors in autism, and MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies - Learning Early Signs), to search for early biologic markers that will predict autism. She is Director of the Northern California Center for the National Children's Study. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has served as Advisor to numerous federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Toxicology Program, and the California Air Resources Board. She chaired several National Academy of Sciences expert panels, most recently the Institute of Medicine Committee on Breast Cancer and the Environment, and honored with the Goldsmith Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology.

Research Projects
Autism Risk, Prenatal Environmental Exposures, and Pathophysiologic Markers (NIH/NIEHS)
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are of considerable public health importance, with current estimates suggesting that close to 1% of children will develop the condition. Not only is little known about their causes, but also the mechanisms are poorly understood. This study, known as MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies – Learning Early Signs), addresses both gaps and may illuminate potential ways to prevent this disorder from occurring. We propose to determine the role for two classes of common household chemical exposures, namely pyrethroid pesticides and brominated flame retardants, using an innovative design that maximizes the efficiency of the study. Additionally, MARBLES will explore the role of maternal immune dysregulation and of mitochondrial dysfunction in the newborn as markers of potential mechanisms leading to aberrant neurodevelopment. By addressing both the need to understand risk factors for ASDs beginning during gestation and the need to elucidate underlying mechanisms, MARBLES has the ability to move the field of autism forward to towards a more multifactorial and mechanistically driven research agenda. From this study, interventions at the individual behavioral or societal level may be suggested.

PhD, Epidemiology , University of California, Berkeley, 1989