Skip to Content
Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

SWCOEH alum Jennifer Ish, PhD, MS, co-authors study of Maternal occupational exposure to chemicals and child cognitive function

Houston (July 21, 2022) – Jennifer Ish, PhD, MS, an alumnus of the Occupational Epidemiology program at the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) at UTHealth School of Public Health, was the first author of a study examining associations between maternal occupational exposure to chemicals and child cognitive function. The article was published by Pediatric Research, the official publication of the American Pediatric Society, the European Society for Paediatric Research, and the Society for Pediatric Research.  

The article, “Maternal occupational exposure to chemicals and child cognitive function”, was co-authored by Dr. David Gimeno, Center Director and Occupational Epidemiology Program Director for the SWCOEH, and Dr. George Delclos, Deputy Director of the SWCOEH.

The article continues a collaboration between the SCWOEH and the INMA Project – Environment and Children, a research project based in Spain that that aims to study the role of the most important environmental pollutants in the air, water and diet during pregnancy and the beginning of life, and their effects on child growth and development.

The collaboration began with Ish’s abstract “Maternal occupational exposure to chemicals and neurocognitive development at 4-5 years of age", which she presented at ISEE 2021 last August, and continued with Ish co-authoring a study of Maternal occupational exposures and fetal growth, published in April 2022. Ish currently is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIOSH).

“In this study population, women who worked as hairdressers or domestic cleaners made up about half of those who were likely to be exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) at their workplace,” said Ish. “Further, although most of our findings were not statistically significant, the individual EDC groups that were associated with both lower cognitive test scores and reduced fetal growth were most common among women who worked in these two occupations.”

“In our global world, we can only learn so much just focusing our research in our closest environment,” Dr. Gimeno said. “International research collaborations help, particularly to early stage researchers, to think more broadly and to understand other perspectives on the same issue, which then allow us to enhance and extend our reach." 

If afforded additional time and funding for further research in this area, Ish would target other areas of neurodevelopment.

“Our study considered only one of several aspects of child neurodevelopment that may be sensitive to work-related EDC exposures during pregnancy. Thus, one direction for further study would be to evaluate other domains of neurodevelopment (e.g., attention or behavior) at various developmental stages during childhood. In addition, a valuable contribution to this area of research would be to better characterize work-related EDC exposures. Knowing more about the risk of exposure based on job tasks and work environments would allow researchers to more accurately assess the potential influence of work-related EDC exposures on fetal and child development.”

The SWCOEH provides a variety of graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.