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Biomarker-based Epidemiology Group

Exposure to Environmental Contaminants

Matthew P. Longnecker, M.D., Sc.D.
Matthew P. Longnecker, M.D., Sc.D.
Principal Investigator

Tel (919) 541-5118
Fax (919) 541-2511

Curriculum Vitae (  Download Adobe Reader
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop A3-05
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
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Research Summary

The Biomarker-based Epidemiology Group is focused on health effects of early exposure to background levels of environmental contaminants. The term "background level" means exposure that occurs in the general population, usually at low levels, with no unusual or occupational exposure. To detect effects of low-level exposure, if any, the group looks at the effects that occur prior to birth, when susceptibility may be greatest. Future research plans, however, will extend the scope to include childhood exposures. To date, the specific outcomes addressed in this research have ranged from reproductive outcomes to children’s performance on neurobehavioral tests. Matthew P. Longnecker, M.D., Sc.D., is the head of the Biomarker-based Epidemiology Group.

When Longnecker began work in the field, he studied persistent organic pollutants exclusively. Persistent organic pollutants are major public health concerns because they are omnipresent in the ecosystem and may cause adverse health effects at background levels of exposure via diet. Examples are DDE, the major metabolite of the insecticide DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin, also known as tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. Epidemiologic research on potentially adverse health effects of the insecticide DDT continues to impact public health policy, and Longnecker has ongoing studies that address the topic.

Longnecker is phasing out his PCB and dioxin research and plans to work with perfluoronated compounds, a class of persistent organic pollutants that are created by the degradation or metabolism of widely used compounds. Because perfluoronated compounds occur ubiquitously in the environment, their appearance in the serum of the general population is greater than for any previously-studied persistent organic pollutant, thus warranting further investigation. Recently, Longnecker has also begun studying the effects of early, low-level exposure to nonpersistent pollutants, in particular, bisphenol A, phthalates and nonpersistent pesticides.

Longnecker received a B.S. from Antioch College, an M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School and a Sc.D. from Harvard School of Public Health. He is board certified in internal medicine. He was an assistant professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles before coming to NIEHS in 1995.  Longnecker is a senior investigator in the U.S. Public Health Service at NIEHS.  He also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


DDE and PCBs in the Collaborative Perinatal Project

This study explores the health effects of in utero exposure to organochlorines such as DDE and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) using biologic specimens from the Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP).

Generation R

Generation R is a prospective study of 8,000 children—born in 2002-2006 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands—who are being be followed from early fetal life to young adulthood.  The study is spearheaded by scientists at the Erasmus Medical Center.  NIEHS supported collection of urine specimens taken at three times during pregnancy from approximately 2,000 subjects in 2004-2006.  These will be used to examine exposure to selected environmental contaminants and offspring health.

Norwegian Mother & Child Cohort Study (MoBa) (

The Norwegian Mother & Child study (MoBa) is an ongoing long–term prospective cohort study of 100,000 pregnant women and their babies. In collaboration with the Norwegian National Public Health Institute, NIEHS is supporting the collection of additional biologic specimens from the pregnant women.

Tapachula Study (TAP)

The goal of the Tapachula Study is to study the effects of DDT and its metabolite, the antiandrogen DDE, on a variety of anthropometric measures at birth and duration of lactation.

Selected Publications

  1. Longnecker MP, Klebanoff MA, Zhou H, Brock JW. Association between maternal serum concentration of the DDT metabolite DDE and preterm and small-for-gestational-age babies at birth. Lancet 358:110-114, 2001. [Abstract] Exit NIEHS ( [Full Text] ( Exit NIEHS
  2. Longnecker MP, Klebanoff MA, Brock JW, Zhou H, Gray KA, Needham LL, Wilcox AJ. Maternal serum level of 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene and risk of cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and polythelia among male offspring. Am J Epidemiol 155:313-322, 2002. [Abstract] Exit NIEHS ( [Full Text] Exit NIEHS ( PDF Acrobat Reader Exit NIEHS
  3. Daniels JL, Longnecker MP, Klebanoff MA, Gray KA, Brock JW, Zhou H, Chen Z, Needham LL. Prenatal exposure to low level polychlorinated biphenyls in relation to mental and motor development at 8 months. Am J Epidemiol 157:485-492, 2003. [Abstract] Exit NIEHS ( [Full Text] Exit NIEHS ( get Acrobat Reader Exit NIEHS
  4. Longnecker MP, Hoffman HJ, Klebanoff MA, Brock JW, Zhou H, Needham L, Adera T, Guo X, Gray KA. In utero exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and sensorineural hearing loss in 8-year old children. Neurotoxicol Teratol 26:629-637, 2004. [Abstract] Exit NIEHS ( [Full Text] Exit NIEHS ( PDF (  Download Adobe Reader Exit NIEHS
  5. Longnecker MP, Klebanoff MA, Dunson DB, Guo X, Chen Z, Zhou H, Brock JW. Maternal serum level of the DDT metabolite DDE in relation to fetal loss in previous pregnancies. Environ Res 97:194-109, 2005. [Abstract] Exit NIEHS ( [Full Text] Exit NIEHS ( PDF (  Download Adobe Reader Exit NIEHS
  6. Pierik FH, Klebanoff MA, Brock JW, Longnecker MP. Maternal pregnancy serum level of heptachlor epoxide, hexachlorobenzene, and ²-hexachlorocyclohexane and risk of cryptorchidism in offspring. Environmental Research 3:364-369, 2007. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  7. Fraser A, Longnecker MP, Lawlor DA. Prevalence of elevated alanine-aminotransferase amoang US adolescents and associated factors: NHANES 1999-2004. Gastroenterology 133(6):1814-1820, 2007. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  8. Cupul-Uicab LA, Gladen BC, Hernández-Ávila M, Weber J-P, Longnecker MP. DDE, a degradation product of DDT, and duration of lactation in a highly exposed area of Mexico. Environmental health perspectives 116(2):179-183, 2008. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  9. Ye XB, Fitzgerald EF, Gomez MI, Lambert GH, Longnecker MP. The ratio of specific polychlorinated biphenyls as a surrogate biomarker of CYP1A2 activity a pharmaco-metabonomic study in humans. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 17(4):1013-1015, 2008. [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  10. Arbuckle TE, Hauser R, Swan SH, Mao CS, Longnecker MP, Main KM, Whyatt RM, Mendola P, Legrand M, Rovet J, Till C, Wade M, Jarrell J, Matthews S, Van Vliet G, Bornehag C-G, Mieusset R. Meeting report: measuring endocrine-sensitive endpoints within the first years of life. Environmental health perspectives 116(7):948-951, (2008). [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS
  11. Longnecker MP, Smith CS, Kissling GE, Hoppin JA, Butenhoff JL, Decker E, Ehresman DJ, Ellefson ME, Flaherty J, Gardner MS, Langlois E, LeBlanc A, Lindstrom AB, Reagen WK, Strynar MJ, Studabaker WB. An interlaboratory study of perfluorinated alkyl compound levels in human plasma. Environmental Science and Technology 107(2):152-159, (2008). [Abstract] ( Exit NIEHS

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Last Reviewed: December 19, 2008