Advancing science and policy to reduce health risks where people live, work and play


Emily S Barrett Ph.D.

Associate Professor Rutgers University- School of Public HealthEOHSI – Exposure Science and Epidemiology
Work EOHSI 326 170 Frelinghuysem Road Piscataway NJ 08854 Work Phone: 848-445-0197
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Biographical Info

Dr. Barrett is an Associate Professor in the Rutgers University School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology. She received an A.B. in Biology and English from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California-Los Angeles. Before coming to Rutgers, she was on the faculty at the University of Rochester, where she remains an Adjunct Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Sciences.

Research Areas

Dr. Barrett studies the early origins of health and disease, or how exposures early in life shape our subsequent health and developmental trajectories.  Because gestation is a particularly sensitive period when body systems are first forming, insults or exposures during this period may have profound downstream effects. Much of Dr. Barrett’s research focuses on prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors, agents which interfere with the normal activity of hormones in the body. Phthalates are a class of endocrine disrupting chemicals that are found widely in food and consumer products. Nearly 100% of Americans have measurable levels of phthalate metabolites in their bodies, yet our current understanding of how these chemicals affect our bodies is limited. In The Infant Development and the Environment Study (TIDES), Dr. Barrett and colleagues are studying how prenatal exposure to these chemicals impacts reproductive and neuro-development, and whether the effects may differ in boys and girls.

Other exposures, such as psychosocial stress, disrupt early development as well. Numerous studies have examined how stress during pregnancy may alter cortisol activity and “program” neurodevelopmental, metabolic, and immune outcomes. Much less is known about the extent to which prenatal stress (and related constructs, like anxiety) may also act through other pathways and mechanisms to affect the fetus. For example, evidence from animal models and humans suggests that prenatal stress may alter in utero androgen activity, thereby affecting sex-dependent development in the offspring. Dr. Barrett and collaborators are exploring this hypothesis in the Understanding Prenatal Signals and Infant Development (UPSIDE) Study, with an eye towards better understanding the early origins of sex differences. Concurrent work in this cohort will examine how maternal inflammation during pregnancy contributes to infant and child development. One of the major themes of this research is understanding the role of the placenta in communicating messages about stressors from mother to fetus (and vice versa).

In addition to her work on prenatal exposures, Dr. Barrett is also interested in factors that impact fertility in adulthood, particularly in women. She is involved in projects focused on how psychosocial stress and environmental chemical exposures affect reproductive hormone concentrations and pregnancy outcomes. Additional ongoing work examines possible biomarkers of the prenatal hormonal milieu that can be assessed postnatally, and their relationship to measures of adult reproductive health.

Dr. Barrett’s work is funded by the National Institutes of Health (R01HD083369; R01ES016863; UG3OD023349; UG3OD023271; P30ES001247) and the Mae Stone Goode Foundation.

Research Highlights

  • Assessment of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals during pregnancy in relation to reproductive and neurodevelopment in childhood
  • Examination of maternal stress in relation to sex differences in the offspring
  • Investigation of novel biomarkers of the prenatal hormonal milieu in humans
  • Exploration of placental morphology and function in relation to prenatal exposures and postnatal outcomes
  • Identification of factors contributing to reproductive health and ovarian function in fertile and infertile women

Scholarly Activities

  • Editorial Board: Hormones and Behavior, Fertility and Sterility (Top 3 reviewer, 2015-2016)
  • Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar (NIH K12; 2011-2014)
  • Environmental Health News Science Communications Fellow (2009-2010)
  • Community Advisory Board, URMC Environmental Health Sciences Center (2009-2016)
  • Board of Directors, Healthy Baby Network (2015-2016)

Recent Publications

  1. Wen, X, Kozlosky, D, Zhang, R, Doherty, C, Buckley, B, Barrett, E, Aleksunes, LM. BCRP/ABCG2 Transporter Regulates Accumulation of Cadmium in Kidney Cells:Role of the Q141K Variant in Modulating Nephrotoxicity. Drug Metab Dispos. 2021; :. doi: 10.1124/dmd.121.000446. PubMed PMID:34074729
  2. Kinkade, CW, Rivera-Núñez, Z, Gorcyzca, L, Aleksunes, LM, Barrett, ES. Impact of Fusarium-Derived Mycoestrogens on Female Reproduction: A Systematic Review. Toxins (Basel). 2021;13 (6):. doi: 10.3390/toxins13060373. PubMed PMID:34073731
  3. Groth, SW, Fernandez, ID, Block, RC, Thurston, SW, Wong, E, Brunner, J, Mayo, N, Kapula, N, Yu, Y, Meng, Y et al.. Biological changes in the pregnancy-postpartum period and subsequent cardiometabolic risk-UPSIDE MOMS: A research protocol. Res Nurs Health. 2021; :. doi: 10.1002/nur.22141. PubMed PMID:33993510
  4. Lesseur, C, Pirrotte, P, Pathak, KV, Manservisi, F, Mandrioli, D, Belpoggi, F, Panzacchi, S, Li, Q, Barrett, ES, Nguyen, RHN et al.. Maternal urinary levels of glyphosate during pregnancy and anogenital distance in newborns in a US multicenter pregnancy cohort. Environ Pollut. 2021;280 :117002. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117002. PubMed PMID:33812205 PubMed Central PMC8165010
  5. O’Connor, T, Best, M, Brunner, J, Ciesla, AA, Cunning, A, Kapula, N, Kautz, A, Khoury, L, Macomber, A, Meng, Y et al.. Cohort profile: Understanding Pregnancy Signals and Infant Development (UPSIDE): a pregnancy cohort study on prenatal exposure mechanisms for child health. BMJ Open. 2021;11 (4):e044798. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044798. PubMed PMID:33795306 PubMed Central PMC8021752
  6. Hazlehurst, MF, Carroll, KN, Loftus, CT, Szpiro, AA, Moore, PE, Kaufman, JD, Kirwa, K, LeWinn, KZ, Bush, NR, Sathyanarayana, S et al.. Maternal exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy and asthma risk in early childhood: consideration of phases of fetal lung development. Environ Epidemiol. 2021;5 (2):. doi: 10.1097/ee9.0000000000000130. PubMed PMID:33709049 PubMed Central PMC7943175
  7. Adibi, JJ, Layden, AJ, Birru, RL, Miragaia, A, Xun, X, Smith, MC, Yin, Q, Millenson, ME, O’Connor, TG, Barrett, ES et al.. First trimester mechanisms of gestational sac placental and foetal teratogenicity: a framework for birth cohort studies. Hum Reprod Update. 2021; :. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmaa063. PubMed PMID:33675653
  8. Loftus, CT, Bush, NR, Day, DB, Ni, Y, Tylavsky, FA, Karr, CJ, Kannan, K, Barrett, ES, Szpiro, AA, Sathyanarayana, S et al.. Exposure to prenatal phthalate mixtures and neurodevelopment in the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early childhood (CANDLE) study. Environ Int. 2021;150 :106409. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106409. PubMed PMID:33556913 PubMed Central PMC8162924
  9. Arogbokun, O, Rosen, E, Keil, AP, Milne, GL, Barrett, E, Nguyen, R, Bush, NR, Swan, SH, Sathyanarayana, S, Ferguson, KK et al.. Maternal Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Pregnancy and Child Growth from Birth to Age 6. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021;106 (5):1427-1436. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgab018. PubMed PMID:33524128 PubMed Central PMC8171170
  10. Day, DB, Collett, BR, Barrett, ES, Bush, NR, Swan, SH, Nguyen, RHN, Szpiro, AA, Sathyanarayana, S. Phthalate mixtures in pregnancy, autistic traits, and adverse childhood behavioral outcomes. Environ Int. 2021;147 :106330. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2020.106330. PubMed PMID:33418196
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