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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

Worker Health and Safety


Protecting workers from disease and injury is vital to our nation's health, and an important component of environmental health. These concerns include stress, indoor air quality and other dangers. Research in the field addresses these emerging issues by assessing work environments to identify potential or actual health problems and proposing solutions to control and prevent disease or injury caused by psychosocial, chemical, physical and biological threats. 

Research Highlights

Can a mask protect me? Putting homemade masks in the hierarchy of controls

The most effective means to prevent exposures to COVID-19 is through elimination – physically removing the hazard (COVID-19). For workplaces deemed necessary, such as hospitals, supermarkets, and banks, this means making sure workers are not coming in when they are ill or have potentially been exposed to others who are ill. In this way, we can eliminate (to the best of our ability) the means of transmission among the workers. For the general public, this means eliminating unnecessary trips to the store or other places where you could come in contact with infected individuals and keeping your distance (6 ft)4 from other people when you must be away from your home.

Public infrastructure disparities and the microbiological and chemical safety of drinking and surface water supplies in a community bordering a landfill

The historically African-American Rogers-Eubanks community straddles unincorporated boundaries of two municipalities in Orange County, North Carolina, and predates a regional landfill sited along its border in 1972. Community members from the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA), concerned about deterioration of private wells and septic systems and a lack of public drinking water and sewer services, implemented a community-driven research partnership with university scientists and community-based organizations to investigate water and sewer infrastructure disparities and the safety of drinking and surface water supplies.

High-Density Livestock Production and Molecularly Characterized MRSA Infections in Pennsylvania

European studies suggest that living near high-density livestock production increases the risk of sequence type (ST) 398 methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) colonization. To our knowledge, no studies have evaluated associations between livestock production and human infection by other strain types. We evaluated associations between MRSA molecular subgroups and high-density livestock production.

Exposure to Pig Farms and Manure Fertilizers Associated with MRSA Infections

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have for the first time found an association between living in proximity to high-density livestock production and community-acquired infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA. Their analysis concluded that approximately 11 percent of community-acquired MRSA and soft tissue infections in the study population could be attributed to crop fields fertilized with swine manure. The study is the first to examine the association between high-density livestock operations and manure-applied crop fields and MRSA infections in the community.

Associated Faculty

Jacqueline Agnew, PhD

The goal of Agnew's research is to better understand the relationship between workplace exposures, worker characteristics, and musculoskeletal disorders so that these debilitating and expensive conditions can be prevented. Risk factors of particular interest are age and occupational stress. Agnew has also studied psychosocial work stressors, and ergonomic factors on musculoskeletal symptoms in garment workers, a group that is a typical example of aging American workers in physically demanding and stressful manufacturing jobs.


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Meghan Davis, DVM, PhD*

As a molecular epidemiologist and an environmental microbiologist, Davis studies the interface of bacteria and hosts to reduce microbe-mediated disease in humans and animals. Her work applies the principles of one health and microbial ecology, evaluating target microbes and bacterial genes specifically and the larger microbial community (microbiome) broadly. Davis also evaluates non-infection outcomes, specifically asthma, from exposure to bacterial agents and their toxic products.


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Kirsten Koehler, PhD*

One of Koehler's research goals involves the use of direct-reading instrumentation to improve spatiotemporal exposure assessment. Direct-reading (i.e. “real-time”) monitors can rapidly assess worker's exposures to various hazards.


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Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD*

Lesliam's research focuses on characterizing environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting agents and examining their potential health effects on highly vulnerable, low-income and minority populations underrepresented and understudied in public health research, including occupational populations, pregnant women and women of reproductive age, and children. 


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Gurumurthy "Ram" Ramachandran, PhD, CIH*

Ramachandran has conducted research in various areas relating to human exposure assessment in occupational and non-occupational settings. His research has included the development of robust occupational exposure assessment strategies for a variety of airborne contaminants.


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Brian Schwartz, MD*

A large part of Schwartz's research applies the methods of occupational, environmental, and molecular epidemiology to studying the health effects of chemicals. 


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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.