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Meet the Scientist Featuring Dr. Andreas Sjodin

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DLS scientist Andreas Sjodin.  Photo courtesy of Andreas Sjodin.
DLS scientist Andreas Sjodin. Photo courtesy of Andreas Sjodin.

The NCEH/ATSDR “Meet the Scientist” series provides insight into the work of NCEH/ATSDR scientists. The series also aims to give you a sense of the talented people who are working to keep you safe and secure from things in the environment that threaten our nation’s health.

For three decades, scientists at CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have been keeping America safe from hazards in our environment. For example, scientists at ATSDR have worked in more than 900 communities across the nation to assess and explain the health risks involved in exposures to hazardous substances and educate community members so they can keep their families safe.

NCEH’s scientists produce cutting-edge work, including new laboratory methods and programs to prevent or reduce asthma and lead poisoning.

Have you ever gone diving for spare change beneath the cushions on your old beloved sofa? If so, chances are you’ve come across a flame-retardant label. Meet Division of Laboratory Sciences researcher Dr. Andreas Sjodin. Learn more about his research on flame-retardants and his love of hiking and photography.

Path to Public Health

Andreas was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and lived there for most of his life. His PhD thesis was to research occupational and dietary exposure to certain pollutants, with special emphasis on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a type of flame retardant. Dr. Donald Patterson, Deputy Branch Chief for the Organic Analytical Toxicology Branch at the time, recruited Andreas to come to the CDC as an ORISE Fellow. “It was exciting to see how different Atlanta would be compared to Sweden,” said Andreas. He liked Atlanta so much that in 2000, he joined the Division of Laboratory Sciences in NCEH. At CDC, Andreas conducts research on PBDEs, which manufacturers add to plastics and foam products to make them less flammable. “Between the 1970s and 2000s, various manufacturers produced and used large amounts of PBDEs. Much of my work has been specifically related to PBDE flame-retardants, which began to be phased out in 2004. This happened after CDC data on human exposure to PBDEs showed 10 times higher levels in Americans compared with people in most European nations. NHANES biomonitoring data further solidified the assessment that exposure to these chemicals was high among Americans.

Current Work Projects

Although they’re no longer manufactured, people can still be exposed to PBDE flame-retardants, including through upholstered furniture containing polyurethane foam and plastics. “Let’s use an upholstered sofa as an example. The lifetime of a sofa may be 10 years. Some consumers may opt to use a previously owned sofa, as opposed to buying a new one. The older sofa could contain PBDE flame-retardant compounds, extending the exposure past the first buyer of the furniture. As a result, large reservoirs of these compounds still exist. Going forward, it will be important to look at how to handle the reservoirs.”

Andreas is conducting additional research to 1) assess if the chemicals have reproductive and hormonal effects in adults and 2) better understand children’s exposure. “It is well known that children are exposed to larger amounts of indoor dust than adults. We have recently shown in a study that children have higher levels of PBDEs in the 4- to 6-years age range compared with adults,” he said.

What’s Most Rewarding?

“It is rewarding that now, as a result of our research, some manufacturers are using different chemicals that are less persistent than those used in the past. I’m happy that CDC has taken a lead role in that change by using biomonitoring data to investigate the health effects of this chemical class.”

Andreas shared that phasing out the chemicals is not the work of one person. “I’ve worked with a great motivated team of scientists for 14 years. It’s possible for us to look into health concerns and for our work to contribute to these chemicals being phased out. Actually being able to solve something is rewarding.” As a result of his years of research, he has close to 100 publications.

Activities Enjoyed Outside Work

 

Grand-Canyon-Andreas-Sjodin
Grand-Canyon-Andreas-Sjodin

“I have two hobbies that I like combining into one: hiking to experience remote areas in the wilderness, and photography. Perhaps photography is my greatest passion.”

Hope you enjoyed reading about Andreas Sjodin. Interested in other Meet the Scientist conversations and NCEH/ATSDR accomplishments? Visit the NCEH/ATSDR Your Health, Your Environment blog!

 

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