My thesis work focuses on maternal exposure to per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (called PFAS), which are manmade chemicals present in commercial household products like nonstick cookware, carpets, furniture, and food packaging. Humans exposure occurs through contaminated drinking water, food, and indoor dust. Exposure to these chemicals are widespread, and many studies have shown that 95-99% of the U.S. population has detectable levels of PFAS in their blood.
Importantly, many epidemiological studies have associated maternal exposure to these compounds with adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including preeclampsia, thyroid hormone disruption, and fetal growth restriction. My work asks how PFAS exposure may cause these complications. I am investigating the hypothesis that PFAS exposure affects the normal development and function of the placenta, leading to adverse pregnancy outcomes. The placenta is critical for a healthy pregnancy, as it supplies nutrients, removes waste, and acts as a communicative interface between mother and child. Interruptions of these essential processes may manifest in pregnancy complications such as those linked to PFAS exposure.
This research motivates me because it informs public health guidance and policy, which contributes to my career goals of developing and utilizing scientific research to improve public health for vulnerable populations around the world.