Virginia Rauh, ScD, has been a member of Columbia's faculty since 1984 and is professor and Vice Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health. She is an environmental epidemiologist, with postdoctoral training in psychiatric epidemiology. Her work focuses on the adverse impact of exposure to air pollutants, including second hand smoke and pesticides, on brain and neurobehavioral health, particularly in socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority populations. She has been principal investigator on numerous major research projects, including studies of the impact of organophosphorus insecticides and secondhand smoke on neurodevelopment and brain abnormalities (MRI, fMRI), a randomized intervention trial for low birth weight infants, a multi-site study of lifestyles in pregnancy, a study of developmental outcomes of children born to inner-city adolescent mothers, a multi-level analysis of the impact of Head Start on New York City school children, a study of the effects of ambient air pollutants on pregnant women and their children, and a study of links between race, stressors, and preterm birth. She has worked with other Columbia faculty to study the effects of the World Trade Center disaster on pregnant women and newborns. Dr. Rauh has served on numerous national committees, including advisory groups at NIEHS, NICHD, the Scientific Advisory Board for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee (EPA).
ScD, 1982, Harvard University
MSW, 1972, Smith College School for Social Work
BA, 1969, Middlebury College
The Dean's Excellence in Leadership Award; May 2019; Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Honors & Awards
Research Career Development Award, NIH NICHD; 1994
Wilensky Award, Harvard University School of Public Health, 1980
Annual Presidential Award for Research, Pediatric Academic Societies, 2006.
Research Paper of the Year 2012; Environmental Health Perspectives (NIEHS)
Editor's Citation for Research Paper of the Year, Society for Behavioral Medicine,1990
Areas of Expertise
Child Health and Development, Low Birth Weight, Minority Health, Social / Cultural Issues, Social Epidemiology, Environmental Risk Factors, Birth Outcomes, Perinatal Epidemiology
Select Urban Health Activities
Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health: This Center is conducting a longitudinal study of the neurotoxic effects of indoor and ambient air pollution on a cohort of mothers and offspring in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. The study includes an array of biomarkers of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, environmental tobacco smoke, pesticides, diesel exhaust and allergens, among others. The cohort of inner-city participants has now been followed into the early adult years for possible long-term effects on health and neurodevelopment. The study also includes assessment of exposure to social stressors, such as housing quality and other neighborhood conditions.
Trauma-Free NYC: Trauma-Free NYC is a Columbia University-Community Partnership focused on identifying and promoting trauma-informed practice and policies in New York City that will promote health, resilience, and well-being while working to prevent adverse experiences, buffer the impact of disadvantage, and reduce health disparities. The mission is to bring together New Yorkers who are committed to creating trauma-informed partnerships across sectors and to promote the integration of scientific advances regarding the causes and effects of trauma into the work of local government, education, social services, health care, law enforcement, and faith-based communities of NYC.
Effects of prenatal residential pesticide exposure on young adult brain, physiological and neurobehavioral function : Multiple studies have demonstrated an association between organophosphate (OP) insecticide exposure and Parkinson's Disease (PD) in adults, but virtually no studies have explored the pathogenic process that begins long before the appearance of motor symptoms. In this study we test the novel hypothesis that prenatal CPF exposure has long-term motor consequences, including neurological signs and brain-based biomarkers of PD risk that are measureable early in the pathogenic process, prior to the identification of clinically confirmed symptoms or diagnosis in an urban minority birth cohort that has been followed for 20 years, with a prenatal blood biomarker of exposure to a common OP pesticide, chlorpyrifos (CPF), and regular assessments of neurodevelopment, including multimodal brain scans at 12-14 and 18 years. Aims: (1) conduct a single wave of neurological (extrapyramidal motor dysfunction) and physiological measures (REM sleep behavior disorder, autonomic dysfunction, olfactory deficits); (2) conduct structural MRI for neuromelanin to identify substantia nigra involvement (a biomarker of PD) in these same subjects. (3) employ an innovative statistical procedure using a vast number of functional and structural brain characteristics, based on multi-modal imaging data previously collected at 12-14 and 18 years, to determine whether an exposure-related pattern of neural deficits across modalities (a potential biomarker for PD) can be detected in our young adult cohort. This study has the potential to shift the research paradigm from a focus on neurodegenerative processes in PD to incorporate a neurodevelopmental perspective, with potential implications for future interventions.
Select Global Activities
Prevention of Health Effects in Children from Energy-related Air Pollution: An International Collaborative Project : This project investigates the impact of exposure to emissions from coal-burning facilities in selected cities in China on the birth outcomes of pregnant women, before and after the closing of the polluting sites.
Study of Effects of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Environmental Tobacco Smoke in a sample of Polish Women and Newborns : This project evaluates the impact of air pollution on pregnant women and newborns in two Polish urban areas. Data include biomarkers of exposure and extensive neurodevelopmental testing.
Ramphal B, DeSerisy M, Pagliaccio D, Raffanello E, Rauh V, Tau G, Posner J, Marsh R, Margolis AE. Associations between Amygdala-Prefrontal Functional Connectivity and Age Depend on Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status. Cereb Cortex Commun. 2020;1(1):tgaa033.
Thomason ME, Hect JL, Rauh VA, Trentacosta C, Wheelock MD, Eggebrecht AT, Espinoza-Heredia C, Burt. Prenatal lead exposure impacts cross-hemispheric and long-range connectivity in the human fetal brain. SA. Neuroimage. 2019 May 1;191:186-192.
Rauh VA. Polluting Developing Brains--EPA Failure on Chlorpyrifos. N Engl J Med. 2018 Mar 29;378(13):1171-1174.
Rauh VA, Margolis AE. Research Review: Environmental exposures, neurodevelopment, and child mental health - new paradigms for the study of brain and behavioral effects. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Jul;57(7):775-93.
Agha G, Kezios K, Baccarelli AA, DuBois Bowman F, Rauh V, Susser ES, Cohn B, Cirillo P, Link BG, Factor-Litvak P, Staudinger UM. Cognition level and change in cognition during adolescence are associated with cognition in midlife. Ann Epidemiol. 2019 Jul;35:48-52.e2.
Peterson BS, Rauh VA, Bansal R, Hao X, Toth Z, Nati G, Walsh K, Miller R, Arias F, Semanek D, Perera FP. Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollutants (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) on Development of Brain White Matter, Cognition, and Behavior in Later Childhood. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;72(6):531-40.
Perera FP, Chang HW, Tang D, Roen EL, Herbstman J, Margolis A, Huang TJ, Miller RL, Wang S, Rauh V. Early-Life Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and ADHD Behavior Problems. PLoS One 9(11) e111670 2014
Rauh VA, Perera FP, Horton MK, Whyatt RM, Bansal R, Hao X, Liu J, Barr DB, Slotkin TA., Peterson BS. Brain anomalies in children exposed prenatally to a common organophosphate pesticide. PNAS 109 (20) 7871-7876 2012
Rauh V, Garfinkel R, Perera FP, Andrews H, Barr D, Whitehead D, Tang D, Whyatt RM . Impact of prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure on neurodevelopment in the first three years of life among inner-city children Pediatrics 118 e1845-e1859 2006
Rauh V, Arunajadai S, Horton M, Perera F, Hoepner L, Barr DB, Whyatt R. 7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide. Environ Health Perspect. Online 21 Apr 2011