With more than $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health over the next four years, Brown University epidemiologist Joseph Braun will study how exposure to three common chemicals during pregnancy and childhood affects brain development and the thyroid.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemicals bisphenol A, triclosan and phthalates is ubiquitous in the United States, raising concerns that they may affect health. With a new four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Brown University epidemiologist Joseph Braun will try to close a gap in research: the effect of these exposures on the brain and thyroid during pregnancy and childhood.

For years Braun has been working with a cohort of 389 mothers and their children in Cincinnati. Over the course of the study he and his colleagues have collected data on chemical exposures from mothers during pregnancy and their children during the first eight years of life. They have also collected detailed measures of children’s behavior, memory, and learning. In this study Braun will zero in on the hypothesis that the chemicals may alter the action of thyroid hormones which are important for brain development.

“While some studies have examined the impact of these exposures during pregnancy on child brain development, we know little about the effect of BPA, phthalate, or triclosan exposure during other sensitive periods of brain development,” Braun said. “Our new study will determine if child behavior, learning, and memory is associated with these exposures during pregnancy, infancy, or childhood. In addition, we will determine if these chemicals are associated with thyroid hormone levels in the mother, newborn infant, and child.”