Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor Bruce Lanphear, Simon Fraser University, Canada

bruce lanphearThe Interplay of Toxic Chemicals and Nutrients

1 February - 26 March 2023


Professor Lanphear's research is at the intersection of preventive medicine, paediatrics, public health, toxicology, and infectious disease, and is driven by a commitment to prevent disease and disability. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed studies,  about the impact of toxic chemicals on intellectual deficits, behavioural problems, and brain structure in children. He is ranked among the top 1% of most-cited scientists globally (Google Scholar: 34,283 citations; h-index 88; 5 publications with citations >1000; i10 index = 252). Professor Lanphear is the founding principal investigator for the HOME Study, a 20-year, prospective birth cohort continuously funded by NIH to examine the impact of early life exposures to a wide array of chemicals with neurobehavioral and cardiometabolic outcomes in children and adolescents. He is the co-principal investigator of the pan-Canadian MIREC neurobehavior study, a 600-person cohort examining the impact of gestational and childhood exposures to toxic chemicals on the development of learning and behavioural problems in children. Professor Lanphear was the founding director of an NIH-funded, interdisciplinary post-doctoral training program in paediatrics, psychology, and epidemiology. 

Research Summary

Professor Lanphear's proposed project, “the interplay of toxic chemicals and nutrients”, is synergistic with Dr. Caroline Taylor’s MRC Career Development Award. In a recent study, his team found that gestational exposure to phthalates – a chemical found in plastics – is a risk factor for the development of autistic behaviors in children, especially if the mother is folate-deficient. With a new NIH award, his team are examining toxic chemicals that diminish folate availability (e.g., tobacco and arsenic) or whose association with autistic behaviors is modified by folate (e.g., pesticides and phthalates). The central role of folate hints at an epigenetic mechanism. They will also explore gene-environment interactions (e.g., MTHFR) and anti-folate antibodies. In another NIH-funded study, we found that gestational fluoride exposure is associated with diminished IQ scores in boys, especially for mothers with low urinary iodine. This is consistent with the hypothesis that fluoride disrupts thyroid hormones during early brain development. These studies, which intersect with Dr. Taylor’s research agenda, offer the potential to identify risk factors, provide hints about mechanisms and prevent childhood disabilities.

Professor Lanphear will be hosted by Dr Caroline Taylor, Population Health Science.

The following lectures and seminars are planned for his visit, further details will be posted in due course: