News Release

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., Named New Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced the appointment of Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Dr. Birnbaum, who is currently a senior advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she served for 16 years as director of the Experimental Toxicology Division, will begin her appointment in January 2009.

"I look forward to Dr. Birnbaum joining us," Dr. Kington said. "She has a long and distinguished career conducting research into the health effects of environmental pollutants, and the cause and effects relationships at pollutant concentrations which mimic those occurring in the environment."

As NIEHS director, Dr. Birnbaum will oversee a $730 million budget that funds multidisciplinary biomedical research programs, prevention, and intervention efforts that encompass training, education, technology transfer, and community outreach. NIEHS is located in Research Triangle Park, near Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. NIEHS currently supports more than 1,240 research grants.

"I am excited about serving as the director of NIEHS at a time when integration across disciplines is essential, from molecular biology to pharmacology and physiology to epidemiology. Complex environmental issues require individual and team efforts to address the interactions between the environment and human health," said Dr. Birnbaum. "Chronic exposures and chronic diseases can have multiple causative factors. A broad array of scientific expertise is needed to understand such problems in order to prevent disease. I am eager to translate the work of the basic scientist and epidemiologist into improvements for the health of our citizens and communities."

A native of New Jersey, Dr. Birnbaum received her M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois, Urbana. A board certified toxicologist, Dr. Birnbaum has served as a federal scientist for nearly 29 years — the first ten of those at NIEHS — first as a senior staff fellow at the National Toxicology Program, then as a principal investigator and research microbiologist, and finally as a group leader for the Institute’s Chemical Disposition Group.

Dr. Birnbaum has received numerous awards, including the Women in Toxicology Elsevier Mentoring Award, the Society of Toxicology Public Communications Award, EPA’s Health Science Achievement Award and Diversity Leadership Award, and 12 Science and Technology Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA’s external Science Advisory Board, for specific publications. She is the author of more than 600 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, abstracts, and reports. Dr. Birnbaum’s research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals; mechanisms of actions of toxicants, including endocrine disruption; and linking of real-world exposures to effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health, the Toxicology Curriculum, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as well as in the Integrated Toxicology Program at Duke University.

Dr. Birnbaum is also an active member of the scientific community. She is currently president-elect of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries; former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world; former chair of the Division of Toxicology at the American Society of Pharmacology and Therapeutics; and former vice president of the American Aging Association.

NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, please visit our website at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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