Lectures

Hormonally Active Pollutants

What Are They, What Can They Do, and How Do We Know They're Out There?

Joan Ruderman, Senior advisor to the Science Program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and president and director, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole 

Over the past few decades, an increasing number of chemicals that were designed for one purpose have now been found to have the surprising, additional ability to mimic hormones like estrogen. Examples of such chemicals, often called environmental estrogens, include certain pesticides, plasticizers, detergents, and compounds added to personal care products. There is growing concern that everyday exposures to these chemicals, and to others yet to be discovered, are contributing to increases in reproductive abnormalities, infertility, and estrogen-dependent cancers in both males and females. Previously identified environmental estrogens show little structural similarity to estrogen, making it impossible to predict simply on the basis of structure alone which other chemicals may also be estrogenic. Transgenic zebrafish embryos can play a unique role in screening chemicals that mimic estrogen.  


The Radcliffe Institute is hosting a new cross-disciplinary speaker series by Harvard faculty on topics related to water. These will be relatively informal presentations, followed by discussion with attendees, on topics that approach water from multidisciplinary perspectives. The collegial events are intended to present, and potentially to link, faculty interests, in order to learn more about research currently underway and to foster connections across Harvard schools.

The talks will focus on both national and international topics. They may include issues of water policy, treatment and management, technology, water and migration, water and religion, urban planning, hydrology, water and business, art and water, environmental law, public health and disease, water and conflict, land-use, economic growth, history, etc. The speaker series is designed to be multidisciplinary rather than solely scientific and to complement other offerings throughout the University.