Birnbaum, center, Harriet Penayah ACAT board member, right, and Pamela Miller, director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, which conducts NIEHS-funded community participatory research in Savoonga. (Photo courtesy of Samarys Seguinot-Medina, of ACAT)
CHE-Alaska was joined by Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program (NTP) for an update on NIEHS priorities, challenges, and current initiatives and to hear her reflections on her recent visit to Alaska communities. Dr. Birnbaum traveled to St. Lawrence Island and other Alaska communities in July 2014 to meet with leaders, elders, and women to listen to their environmental health concerns. NIEHS has supported Alaska Community Action on Toxics’ community-based research on St. Lawrence Island since 2000 and is currently supporting the “Protecting the Health of Future Generations: Assessing and Preventing Exposures to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals on St. Lawrence Island” study which is investigating endocrine-disrupting chemicals in household dust, traditional foods, surface water, and in people.
Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., is director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). As NIEHS and NTP director, Birnbaum oversees a budget of $730 million that funds biomedical research to discover how the environment influences human health and disease. NIEHS currently funds more than 1,000 research grants. A board certified toxicologist, Birnbaum has served as a federal scientist for nearly 34 years. Prior to her appointment as NIEHS and NTP director in 2009, she spent 19 years at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research. Among her many awards and recognitions, Birnbaum was elected in October 2010 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. She is the author of more than 600 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and reports. Birnbaum’s own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of action of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking of real-world exposures to health effects.