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Your Environment. Your Health.

Environmental Epigenetics

Epigenetic changes modify the way genetic information is expressed without directly changing the genetic code stored in DNA. Although some epigenetic changes are part of normal development and aging, environmental health scientists are most concerned with understanding how environmental factors can cause epigenetic changes that lead to health problems or disease.

Epigenetic changes likely play an important role in development and are thought to be involved in a wide range of diseases and disorders, including autoimmune and neurodevelopmental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

What NIEHS is Doing

Scientists funded through a variety of NIEHS research programs are working to better understand the link between environmental exposures and epigenetic regulation of gene expression and how these interactions may affect human health and disease. NIEHS-funded researchers are using state-of-the-art technologies to analyze epigenetic changes caused by exposure to heavy metals, air pollution, tobacco smoke, endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A, pesticides, phthalates, and other contaminants. They use animals, cell cultures, human tissue samples, and population-based studies to pinpoint how epigenetic changes might lead to harmful health effects, which could perhaps be passed on to future generations.

Combined efforts in environmental epigenetics research may profoundly alter the way we understand, diagnose, and treat disease by enhancing our understanding of the influence of environmental factors on epigenetic processes and their subsequent involvement in human health and disease. NIEHS funds several research programs aimed at increasing our understanding of how the environment affects epigenetic processes:

For additional information on what NIEHS epigenetics grantees are doing, visit our Who We Fund webpage.

Program Contacts

Program Lead for TaRGET, Animal, Basic, and Mechanistic Research

Frederick L. Tyson
Fred Tyson, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Tel 984-287-3334
Fax 919-564-5064
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop K3-15
Durham, N.C. 27709

Program Lead for Gene-Environment Interactions Research

Kimberly A. McAllister, Ph.D.
Kimberly McAllister, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Tel 984-287-3287
Fax 919-316-4606
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop K3-12
Durham, N.C. 27709
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