Chemicals and Health

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Course Date: 15 September 2014 to 27 October 2014 (6 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

This course covers chemicals in our environment and in our bodies and how they impact our health. It addresses policies and practices related to chemicals, particularly related to how they get into our bodies (exposures), what they do when they get there (toxicology), how we measure them (biomonitoring) and their impact on our health.

Estimated Workload: 2-4 hours/week

Course Instructors

Megan Latshaw

As the Environmental Health Director at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, Dr. Latshaw works to strengthen environmental and public health laboratories. Her team focuses on creating a national biomonitoring system, testing for agents of chemical terrorism, and building a home base for environmental laboratories. Prior to that, she served as the Senior Director for Environmental Health Policy at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.  While there Dr. Latshaw led the establishment of the State Environmental Health Directors group. 

Her doctorate is in Environmental and Occupational Health from the Johns Hopkins University, where she continues to serve as a Faculty Associate. Additionally, she holds a Masters in Environmental Health Sciences, a Certificate in Risk Sciences and Public Policy, and a Bachelors in Biology from the same University. 

Dr. Latshaw has served on over a dozen national committees; current appointments include serving as the Chair-Elect of the American Public Health Association's Environment Section and the Steering Committee of the National Conversation on Public Health & Chemical Exposures Network. She has authored eight peer-reviewed articles and presented at dozens of conferences and meetings.

Beth Resnick

Beth A. Resnick is an Associate Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management. She is the Director of the Office of Public Health Practice and Training and the MSPH Program in Health Policy. Her research and practice interests include assessing and improving the public health infrastructure, enhancing knowledge of potential environment and health connections, and developing effective public health policies.

Prior to her appointment at Johns Hopkins, Beth Resnick was Director of Environmental Health at the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). She provided education, information, research, and technical assistance to the nation’s 3,000 local health departments and facilitated partnerships among local, state, and federal agencies in order to promote and strengthen local environmental public health practice.

Course Description

Chemicals make up every part of us! Some chemicals are vital to our health, while others may be harmful. This course focuses on the potentially harmful effects of some of the many chemicals we encounter every day, with particular attention to measuring our exposures to these chemicals.

While personal care products, food packaging and other consumer conveniences have greatly improved our quality of life, they have also introduced the opportunity for exposures to many new and not-well-understood chemicals. Studies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, confirm that widely-used chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and flame retardants are routinely found in human blood or urine.

At the end of this course, students will better understand chemicals in the environment, exposure, toxicology, biomonitoring, and related public health and policy implications.


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
  • Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?
  • In addition to hearing from some of the leading figures in environmental health in the US, this course aims to help you think more critically about claims related to chemicals and health.


    Week 1 - Chemicals in our environment: What is a chemical and how are we exposed?

    Week 2 - Toxicology: What do chemicals do in our bodies?

    Week 3 - Biomonitoring: Who and how are we measuring these chemicals in our bodies?

    Week 4 - Health effects of chemicals: How do we figure out how chemicals affect our health?

    Week 5 - Chemicals policy: What do we do about chemicals & health?

    Week 6 - Case studies


    Over 15 US leaders in the field of environmental health will provide lectures spanning across six modules. Each lecture runs approximately twenty minutes, leading to about an hour per module. Videos, a discussion board, two quizzes, a panel discussion and a writing assignment create a diverse and engaging learning approach.

    Course Workload

    2-4 hours/week

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