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Your Environment. Your Health.

Windows of Susceptibility

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Windows of Susceptibility

August 21, 2017

Expert: Ami Zota, Sc.D.

People can be exposed to a wide variety of chemical and non-chemical stressors in their daily lives. These stressors may come from outdoors, homes or workplaces, food consumption, or use of personal care products. Exposure at low levels may not necessarily be problematic for human health, but researchers are looking at different periods in human growth and development where people may be more sensitive to these exposures. Researchers call these especially sensitive periods “windows of susceptibility.” One window of susceptibility is during pregnancy and early development.

In this podcast, hear how researchers are studying windows of susceptibility throughout the lifespan and learn how to prevent potentially harmful exposures to environmental stressors.


Ami Zota, Sc.D

Ami Zota, Sc.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the George Washington University (GW) Milken School of Public Health. Her research examines exposures to environmental chemicals, their effects on women’s and children’s health, and the implications of these risks for disproportionate health outcomes. She received a K99/R00 career development award from National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences to identify how environmental hazards may interact with social disadvantage and psychosocial stressors to exacerbate harms during pregnancy.

Zota is committed to developing innovative approaches for science translation so that her research can more effectively be used to inform decision-making at the individual and societal level. Her research has been featured in high-impact national and international media publications including the Washington Post, the LA Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly. She has helped shape health and safety standards for flame retardants and other consumer product chemicals by participating in legislative briefings, providing technical assistance to the NGO community, and writing commentaries for popular media.

Before joining GW, Zota studied human exposure and health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the Silent Spring Institute and then later at the University of California, San Francisco's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. She received her masters and doctorate in environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

She is an Associate Editor of Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology and on the Editorial Review Boards of Environmental Epigenetics as well as Environmental Health Perspectives.

Additional Resources

Find out more about windows of susceptibility from our PEPH Webinar.

Listen to Dr. Zota talk about the health risks of eating highly processed or fast foods .

Read about a meta-analysis Zota and colleagues developed on the concentrations of chemicals in house dust .

Find out more about environmental agents we may be exposed to and how they can potentially impact our health, and check out the NIH ToxTown interactive website .

Listen to the NIEHS Global Environmental Health Chat podcast on the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.

Relevant Publications

Heindel JJ, Skalla LA, Joubert BR, Dilworth CH, Gray KA. 2017. Review of developmental origins of health and disease publications in environmental epidemiology. Reprod Toxicol 68:34-48. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2016.11.011. [Abstract]

Mitro SD, Johnson T, Zota AR. 2015. Cumulative Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy and Early Development. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2(4):367-78. [Abstract]

Mitro SD, Dodson RE, Singla V, Adamkiewicz G, Elmi AF, Tilly MK, Zota AR. 2016. Consumer Product Chemicals in Indoor Dust: A Quantitative Meta-analysis of U.S. Studies. Environ Sci Technol 50(19):10661-10672. [Abstract]

Woodruff TJ, Zota AR, Schwartz JM. 2011. Environmental chemicals in pregnant women in the United States: NHANES 2003-2004. Environ Health Perspect 119(6):878-85. [Abstract]

Zota AR, Linderholm, L, Park J-S, Petreas M, Guo T, Privalsky ML, Zoeller RT, Woodruff TJ. 2013. A temporal comparison of PBDEs, OH-PBDEs, PCBs, and OH-PCBs in the serum of second trimester pregnant women recruited from San Francisco General Hospital, California. Environ Sci Technol 47(20):1176-11784. [Abstract]

Zota AR, Shamasunder B. In Press. The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern. Am J Obstet Gynecol. [Abstract]

Zota AR, Singla V, Adamkiewicz G, Mitro SD, Dodson RE. 2017. Reducing chemical exposures at home: opportunities for action. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 Jul 29. pii: jech-2016-208676. [Abstract]

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