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"The Modifiable Causes for Autism and Opportunities for Prevention"

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Professor of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, UC Davis
Jan 14, 2016 from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-800)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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The Modifiable Causes for Autism and
Opportunities for Prevention

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair for Research,
Department of Public Health Sciences,
University of California, Davis

Although the vast majority of research dollars on the causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have gone towards understanding the genetics, in the last decade, numerous environmental and maternal factors have emerged as potential contributors to increases in risk. Here at UC Davis, a broad Program on Environmental Epidemiology of Autism and Neurodevelopment at the MIND Institute has examined an array of exposures that range from ambient air pollution from traffic and other sources, pesticides applied in agriculture, parental workplace chemicals, along with maternal preconception and prenatal nutrition, metabolic conditions, fever or infection, and medications. Critical windows for vulnerability as well as gene-byenvironment interactions appear to play key roles. Opportunities for interventions such as policy changes, clinical guidelines, and education about behavioral choices will be discussed, as will Project TENDR, an effort co-launched by UCD and the Learning Disabilities Association to develop science-based recommendations with the aim of reducing neruodevelopmental toxins in the environment of pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and children.

Dr. Hertz-Picciotto, Professor at the University of California Davis MIND Institute and Director of the NIHfunded UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center, is an environmental epidemiologist with over 300 scientific publications addressing environmental exposures, including metals, pesticides, air contaminants and endocrine disrupting compounds; their interactions with nutrition, genes or social factors; and their effects on pregnancy, the newborn, and child development. She designed and directs CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risk from Genes and Environment), the first large, comprehensive population-based study of environmental factors in autism, and MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies – Learning Early Signs)  to search for early markers that will predict autism, starting in pregnancy. Hertz-Picciotto has also led several cohort studies of toxic chemicals and both pregnancy outcomes and early child development in Mexico, Chile, and eastern Europe. She has served on scientific advisory panels for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the NIH National Toxicology Program, and the California Governor’s Proposition 65 committee. She was elected President of two major professional epidemiology societies, and chaired four National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine Panels on: Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans, and breast Cancer and the Environment. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has taught epidemiologic methods on four continents and mentored over 75 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. In 2011, she received the Goldsmith Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. Recently she co-founded (with the Learning Disabilities Association) Project TENDR (Targeting Environment and Neuro-Developmental Risks), a collaborative effort of scientists, clinicians, policy-makers and advocates that aims to decrease the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders by reducing neurotoxicant exposures that contribute to them.


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