Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, DIH, FAAP, FACPM, FACOEM is a pediatrician and epidemiologist who directs the Program in Global Public Health and the Common Good and the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health at Boston College.
For four decades, Landrigan has undertaken research elucidating connections between the environment and human health and translated this work into policies and programs to safeguard health and prevent disease. Children’s environmental health, occupational health and neurodevelopmental toxicity have been three consistent foci in his research.
Landrigan’s career began at CDC in the 1970’s with investigations of lead poisoning in children living near ore smelters. These studies were among the first to show that airborne lead from industrial facilities can cause childhood lead poisoning and among the first also to document subclinical neurotoxicity with IQ loss and shortened attention span in asymptomatic children with increased lead exposure. They led to Landrigan’s becoming centrally involved in the decision process to remove lead from gasoline in the USA, an action that reduced childhood lead poisoning by 95% and resulted in a nearly 5-point gain in the mean IQ of all American children born since 1980.
Landrigan has studied the neurodevelopmental toxicity of pesticides. From 1988-1993 he chaired a congressionally mandated Committee at the US National Academy of Sciences on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. This Committee documented children’s exquisite sensitivity to pesticides and other neurotoxic chemicals and catalyzed fundamental revision of US pesticide law to better protect children’s health.
During his 33 years at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, Landrigan oversaw the medical and epidemiologic follow-up of 22,000 9/11 first responders - firefighters, police officers, paramedics, construction workers, and volunteers – who served at the site of the World Trade Center Disaster of September 11, 2001. These ongoing, prospective studies have documented a more than 40% prevalence of abnormal lung function in previously healthy responders and a high frequency of persistent mental health problems.
To address the rapidly growing but neglected problem of toxic environmental exposures in low- and middle-income countries, Landrigan and colleagues formed The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. This Commission’s 2018 report documented the enormous global burden of disease and death caused by pollution. It presented new data on pollution’s great economic costs; highlighted the links between pollution, poverty and injustice; and concluded that pollution prevention is highly feasible, will advance attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and could slow the pace of global climate change.
From 1995 to 1997, Dr. Landrigan served on the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses.
In 1997-1998, he served as Senior Advisor on Children's Health to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and was instrumental in helping to establish a new Office of Children's Health Protection at EPA.
Dr. Landrigan served from 1996 to 2005 in the Medical Corps of the United States Navy. He retired in 2005 at the rank of Captain (O-6). He served in Korea and Ghana and was Officer-in-Charge of the West Africa Training Cruise, a medical humanitarian mission to Senegal in 2004 that saw more than 11,000 patients. He was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal (3 awards), the National Defense Service Medal and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.
Dr. Philip Landrigan graduated from Boston Latin School (1959), Boston College (1963), Harvard Medical School (1967) and the London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, University of London (1977). He completed a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston. He trained in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and served for 15 years as a CDC epidemiologist with extended overseas tours in Nigeria and El Salvador. He serves a s President of the Collegium Ramazzini, an international society comprised of specialists in occupational and environmental medicine. He was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine in 1987.