Research Scientist with eydropper

Research at the Center

research_edThe Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center works to ensure children live the healthiest lives possible – today, tomorrow, and decades from now.

We are one of the first hospital-based programs whose specific mission is to identify, control, and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten our children's health. And our research exemplifies this mission. Our published and active studies explore everyday environmental exposures with the goal of improving public health, one child at a time. Our research is translated into real-world solutions through community outreach, website resources and blogs, and clinical education at HackensackUMC. 

Unfortunately for us all, chemicals are ubiquitous, and nearly impossible to avoid. But knowledge is power, and innovative research can help us better understand how these toxins impact our children's small, developing bodies. That’s why The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® is dedicated to studying the major environmental risks threatening our children’s well-being: the chemicals (BPA, phthalates, triclosan) found in common cleaning and personal care products; the heavy metals in the water and air that may cause developmental delays or autism; and the endocrine-disruptors hidden in the substances used to make their toys.

As part of one of the nation's premier research and teaching hospitals, The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® supports HackensackUMC’s commitment to discovering effective disease treatment and prevention strategies. Through our research projects, the DIEHC partners with departments across the hospital and other research institutions across the country to design innovative protocols in environmental health.

As we continue our mission of protecting children’s health, integrative pediatrician Dr. Rosen and I write about the changes in children's health over the last decade, and what we can do about it. We can each change one thing, and we hope this article in  EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing  will inspire you to find one positive change to make for our kids' health.
Press release--The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center® at HackensackUMC publishes landmark paper on The Growing Pediatric Health Gap: Environmental Injustice Threatens Our Future

Completed Studies

Environmental Chemicals and Estrogen Metabolites in Children: A Pilot Study


The prevalence of pediatric hormonal disorders and hormonally-sensitive cancers are rising. Chemicals including bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, parabens, 4-nonylphenol (4NP) and triclosan have been linked to disruption of endocrine pathways and altered hormonal status in both animal and human studies. Additionally, changes in estrogen metabolism have been associated with pediatric endocrine disorders and linked to estrogen-dependent cancers. The main objective of the study was to measure the presence of these environmental chemicals in prepubescent children and assess the relationship between chemical metabolites and estrogen metabolism.

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Safety and Efficacy of a 100% Dimethicone Pediculocide in School-age Children


Head lice most commonly affect children, ages 3 to 11. Concerns exist about the safety and efficacy of pesticide-based treatments. Published studies suggest dimethicone is a potentially safe and effective non-toxic treatment, but have not evaluated 100 % dimethicone in a pediatric population. The objectives were to evaluate the efficacy and safety of 100 % dimethicone for the treatment of head lice in children, monitored by school nurses. 

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Mapping Contaminants Associated with Autism: A Public Health Pilot in New Jersey 


The rise in reported prevalence rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is a national concern that continues to grow at a record pace. New Jersey has the highest prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among states surveyed, with approximately 1 in 45 children diagnosed. The pilot study focused on toxins potentially linked to autism: arsenic, lead, manganese, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. In northern NJ there were approximately 4600 Known Contaminated Sites (KCSNJ) where these toxins were detected. A total of 269,790 sample detections were identified. Our objective was to identify and map these sites, and identify methods by which more robust contaminant data could be collected and analyzed. This study resulted in eight original maps showing sample detections. These maps will aid researchers and public health advocates in future analyses exploring links between autism and these toxins. Concentrations of multiple toxins associated with ASDs were most dense near urban industrial or mixed residential/industrial areas, though no conclusions can be made regarding association or causality between the sample detections and autism. Based in part on this study, NJDEP has made and will continue to make improvements to contaminant data collection systems. 




Current Studies

Endocrine disruptors, obesity, and breast density among perimenopausal women

This collaborative pilot study between Georgetown Lombardi Cancer Center with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® and The Betty Torricelli Institute for Breast Care at HackensackUMC investigates the association of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) with breast density among women undergoing mammographic screening. Washington, DC, and New Jersey have almost identical rates of breast cancer (~130 per 100,000 women) which are higher than the average U.S. population rates (122 per 100,000). Increased knowledge on the role of estrogen (and progesterone) in breast carcinogenesis suggests that environmental exposures that mimic estrogen effects in vivo, such as, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and other xenoestrogens, may be potential risk factors for breast cancer. It is believed that exposure to EDCs during certain exposure windows, such as in-utero or in the peri-menopausal period, is more important for etiologic studies than cumulative lifetime exposures. Some preliminary data also suggests that exposure to EDCs is associated with higher mammographic breast density, an intermediate biomarker of risk for breast cancer.


Environmental Chemicals in Fetal Cord Blood and Maternal Urine: A Pilot Study.

This research study explores the presence of environmental chemicals linked to endocrine disruption and certain cancers in maternal/fetal pairs among patients undergoing Cesarean sections at HackensackUMC. These chemicals have become ubiquitous and are present to varying degrees in cosmetics, personal hygiene products, food additives, detergents, medications, and an array of plastics including baby bottles and children’s toys. As exposure to these chemicals rises, so does the concern over their potential adverse health effects. The study is a collaboration between The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at HackensackUMC, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University, and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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