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Laura Vandenberg - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Laura Vandenberg

Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Acting Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Laura Vandenberg looks at how exposures to plastics, and other chemicals especially early in life, can predispose individuals to diseases.

Expertise (6)

Plastics and Human Health

Endocrine Disruptors

Plastic Exposure

Developmental Biology

Hazard Assessment

Chemical Exposure


A renowned environmental health scientist, Laura Vandenberg looks at how exposures to chemicals and chemical mixtures, especially early in life, can predispose individuals to diseases.

Her work instead addresses how low doses of chemicals during critical windows of development can alter gene expression, cell differentiation, and tissue organization in subtle ways that can lead to diseases in adulthood, including such as cancer, obesity and infertility.

Vandenberg is specifically interested in the class of chemicals termed "endocrine disruptors" and have worked extensively with chemicals used as plasticizers and flame retardants. Her research also focuses on how traditional toxicology assays have failed to identify a number of ubiquitous endocrine disruptors, and how current risk assessment practices can be improved in the study and regulation of this class of chemicals.

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BPA Health Risks with UMass Professor Laura Vandenberg | Connecting Point | Nov. 27, 201


Education (2)

Tufts University School of Medicine: Ph.D., Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology

Cornell University: B.S., Biology

Select Media Coverage (6)

No, You Shouldn't Microwave Plastics

America's Tet Kitchen  


Laura Vandenberg says you should never microwave plastic containers, even those that are labeled as “microwave safe.” She says all plastics break down and release chemical constituents into foods and beverages stored in them, a process that can be accelerated when plastics are heated. The chemicals in plastics have been linked to “altered brain development, neurological and behavioral conditions, increased risk of metabolic diseases, increased risk of some cancers, altered fertility outcomes, altered thyroid hormones and more,” Vandenberg says.

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TOXIC Walmart and McDonald’s receipts could be a danger to your health & contain chemicals that can ‘never be in a human body’

The Sun  


Laura Vandenberg omments on chemicals found in some receipt paper and the potential danger they pose because of their ability to be absorbed through the skin. “We don’t think of these things being hazardous or dangerous when they are handed to us by a cashier,” said Vandenberg, however, “These are not chemicals we should have in our bodies.”


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How gas utilities used tobacco tactics to avoid gas stove regulations

NPR  radio


Laura Vandenberg comments in an article comparing tactics used by gas utilities to counter claims of risks from gas stoves to tactics historically used by the tobacco industry. She says consulting groups that are hired by the utilities, “pretty much have never seen a pollutant that they think is that bad.”

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Definitely Do Not Put Plastic in the Microwave

Bon Appetit  


Laura Vandenberg comments in an article about potential health risks from heating plastic food containers. Vandenberg says substances in some plastics are endocrine disruptors that can mimic, block or interfere with the body’s hormones and possibly increase the risk of various conditions, including infertility, some cancers, metabolic diseases, neurological conditions and immune system dysfunction. “Personally, I avoid heating food in any plastic with an automatic default to glassware,” she says.

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Opinion: Hitting the gym or going to yoga? Your workout clothes could be doing more harm than you realize

CNN  tv


Laura Vandenberg, is quoted in an article questioning the safety of the chemical BPA in athletic clothing.There is no safe dose, as “Even small changes in the hormone level could have drastic changes in the biological effect,” Vandenberg says.

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What you should know about Tupperware and plastic container safety

CNN  tv


Laura Vandenberg is quoted in an article examining the safe lifespan of vintage, pre-2010 Tupperware and other plastic containers that contain the chemical Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA. “We worry about those hard, shatter-resistant plastics that were made a decade ago, that were made with BPA,” Vandenberg says. “Every single time that they’re used, they’re leaching small amounts of BPA out of them. Even the low levels of BPA that leach from consumer plastics, canned food linings or other consumer goods… have been shown to be associated with harm, and people certainly should care about it.”

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Select Publications (5)

Skeletal Muscle Function Is Altered in Male Mice on Low-Dose Androgen Receptor Antagonist or Estrogen Receptor Agonist


2023 In males, skeletal muscle function may be altered by shifts in either circulating testosterone or estrogen. We examined the effect of acute (2-week) exposures to 17α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2), an estrogen receptor (ER) agonist, or flutamide, an androgen receptor (AR) antagonist, on the contractile function of individual skeletal muscle fibers from slow-contracting soleus and fast-contracting extensor digitorum longus muscles from adult male mice. Single fiber specific tension (force divided by cross-sectional area) was decreased with flutamide treatment in all myosin heavy chain (MHC) fiber types examined (I, IIA, and IIB); similar effects were observed with EE2 treatment but only in the fastest-contracting MHC IIB fibers.

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The regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to minimize their impact on health

Nature Reviews Endocrinology

2023 Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are substances generated by human industrial activities that are detrimental to human health through their effects on the endocrine system. The global societal and economic burden posed by EDCs is substantial. Poorly defined or unenforced policies can increase human exposure to EDCs, thereby contributing to human disease, disability and economic damage. Researchers have shown that policies and interventions implemented at both individual and government levels have the potential to reduce exposure to EDCs. This Review describes a set of evidence-based policy actions to manage, minimize or even eliminate the widespread use of these chemicals and better protect human health and society.

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Benzophenone-3 exposure alters composition of tumor infiltrating immune cells and increases lung seeding of 4T1 breast cancer cells

Advances in Cancer Biology-Metastasis

2023 Elsevier Description Environmental chemicals are a persistent and pervasive part of everyday life. A subset of environmental chemicals are xenoestrogens, compounds that bind to the estrogen receptor (ER) and drive estrogen-related processes. One such chemical, benzophenone-3 (BP3), is a common chemical in sunscreen. It is a potent UV protectant but also is quickly absorbed through the skin. While it has been approved by the FDA, there is a renewed interest in the safety of BP3, particularly in relation to breast cancer. The focus of this study was to examine the impact that BP3 has on triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) through alterations to cells in the immune microenvironment.

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Evaluating adverse effects of environmental agents in food: a brief critique of the US FDA’s criteria

Environmental Health

2023 In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) is charged with protecting the safety of food from both pathogens and chemicals used in food production and food packaging. To protect the public in a transparent manner, the FDA needs to have an operational definition of what it considers to be an “adverse effect” so that it can take action against harmful agents. The FDA has recently published two statements where, for the first time, it defines the characteristics of an adverse effect that it uses to interpret toxicity studies.

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Association between urinary phthalate biomarker concentrations and adiposity among postmenopausal women

Environmental Research

2023 Obesity is a leading risk factor for chronic diseases, potentially related to excess abdominal adiposity. Phthalates are environmental chemicals that have been suggested to act as obesogens, driving obesity risk. For the associations between phthalates and adiposity, prior studies have focused primarily on body mass index. We hypothesize that more refined measures of adiposity and fat distribution may provide greater insights into these associations given the role of central adiposity in chronic disease risk.

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