Howard Hu, M.D., M.P.H., Sc.D.

Howard Hu

Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health Sciences


Professional Summary

On July 1, 2012, Dr. Hu transitioned from full-time status at the University of Michigan to the University of Toronto, where he will be leading the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Dr. Hu is a physician board-certified in internal medicine and occupational/environmental medicine who also holds a doctoral degree in epidemiology. He has continued research collaborations on multiple NIH- and EPA-funded epidemiologic investigations of the contribution of exposure to metals (and other pollutants), genetics, gene-environment interactions and epigenetics to the causation of chronic diseases in adults and impaired development in children.


Sc.D., Epidemiology, Harvard University, 1990
M.S., Epidemiology, Harvard University, 1986
M.P.H., Occupational Health, Harvard University, 1982
M.D., Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1982
B.Sc., Biology, Brown University, 1976

Research Interests & Projects

Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants
Principal Investigator: Howard Hu
Sponsor: NIEHS

ELEMENT, a collaboration between investigators at the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, has been a model of international teamwork and environmental epidemiology using state-of-the-art methods that won the 1999 NIEHS Progress and Achievement Award. ELEMENT established 3 birth cohorts using similar methods that we continue to follow. In this particular R01 (2006-2011), we are following up, collecting and analyzing new data and samples on all 3 cohorts and capitalizing on a rich associated bank of archived data and samples to address two major themes representing novel hypotheses with critical implications for public health: (A) the potential of fetal neurotoxicant exposure to negatively impact on child behavior (aggression and attention deficit/hyperactivity); and (B) the potential for the impact of fetal neurotoxicant exposures on both cognition and behavior to be modified by gene-environment interactions involving candidate genes critical to NS cholesterol metabolism. Our primary fetal exposure of concern remains environmental lead exposure, because of its continuing primacy as an environmental hazard in the United States and Mexico. This research promises to provide key insights into mechanisms of neurotoxicity, individual susceptibility, and both behavior and cognition as toxic endpoints.

Gene-Metal Interactions and Parkinson's Disease
Principal Investigator: Hu, Howard
Sponsor: NIH/NIEHS

This is a study of Parkinson's Disease (PD) in cases and controls in relation to markers of exposure to lead and other toxins and to the C282Y and H63D polymorphisms of the hemochromatosis (HFE) gene.

Study of Lead Exposure & Outcomes Amongst Children in Chennai, India
Principal Investigator: Hu, Howard
Sponsor: NIH/FIC

This study aims to describe lead exposure and exposure-dose relationships of lead dose to neurobehavioral outcomes (and the modifying effect of genetic polymorphisms on those same relationships) in primary school children in Chennai (formerly Madras), India.

Metals Mixtures and Children's Health (Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research)
Principal Investigator: Hu, Howard
Sponsor: NIH/NIEHS

This new program project consists of 4 inter-disciplinary and highly integrated research projects and 4 cores. The research revolves around the theme of potential interactions between lead and manganese on the neurodevelopment of children born at the Tar Creek Superfund site and entails a community-based epidemiologic study, a community-based environmental exposure assessment study, and a molecular study of metal-metal interactions in relations to metals transport in the gastrointestinal tract and lung.

FAMU and Harvard Center for Health and Health Care Disparities
Principal Investigator: Hu, Howard (of the Center's Research Project)
Sponsor: NIH/NCMHD

The purpose of the grant is to establish a Center for health and health care disparities that uses research, training, community partnerships, coalition building and social transformation to create models for eliminating health disparities in both rural and urban communities.

Lead Biomarkers, Aging, and Chronic Disease
Principal Investigator: Hu, Howard
Sponsor: NIH/NIEHS

The purpose of this study is to test hypotheses regarding the cross-sectional and prospective relationships of lead dose to kidney function, blood pressure, cognitive performance, and other measures of autonomic nervous function; and the potential modifying influence of candidate genetic polymorphisms related to metals metabolism and cholesterol metabolism.

Selected Publications

Search PubMed for publications by Howard Hu >>

Roy A, Hu H, Bellinger DC, Mukherjee B, Modali R, Nasaruddin K, Schwartz J, Wright RO, Ettingre AS, Palaniapan K, Balakrishnan K, (January, 2011). Hemoglobin, Lead Exposure, and Intelligence Quotient: Effect Modification by the DRD2 Taq 1A Polymorphism. Environmental Health Perspectives, 1, 144-9.

Bush KF, Luber G, Kotha SR, Dhaliwal RS, Kapil V, Pascual M, Brown DG, Frumkin H, Dhiman RC, Hess J, Wilson ML, Balakrishnan K, Eisenberg J, Kaur T, Rood R, Batterman S, Joseph A, Gronlund CJ, Agrawal A, Hu H. (2011). Impacts of Climate Change on Public Health in India: Future Research Directions. Environmental Health Perspectives

Hu H (2011). Heavy Metals In Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, JamesonJL, eds. (Ed.) Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, (18th edition). McGraw-Hill (New York).

Wright RO, Schwartz J, Wright R, Park SK, Hu H, Sparrow D, Vokonas P, Baccarelli A (Summer, 2010). Biomarkers of Lead Exposure and DNA Methylation within Retrotransposons Environmental Health Perspectives

Basu N, Abare M, Buchanan S, Cryderman D, Nam D-H, Sirkin S, Schmitt S, Hu H (December, 2010). A combined ecological and epidemiologic investigation of metals exposure amongst indigenous peoples near the Marlin Mine in Western Guatemala Science of the Total Envrionment, 1, 70-77.

Cantonwine D, Hu H, Téllez-Rojo MM, Sánchez BN, Lamadrid-Figueroa H, Ettinger AS, Mercado-García A, Hernández-Avila M, Wright RO (July, 2010). HFE gene variants modify the association between maternal lead burden and infant birthweight: a prospective birth cohort study in Mexico City, Mexico Environmental Health, 43.

Peters JL, Weisskopf MG, Wright RO, Spiro A, Schwart J, Sparrow D, Nie H, Hu H, Wright RJ (2010). Interaction of Stress, Lead Burden and Age on Cognition in Older Men: The VA Normative Aging Study Environmental Health Perspectives

Weisskopf MG, Weuve J, Nie H, Saint-Hilaire M-H, Sudarsky L, Simon DK, Hersh B, Schwartz J, Wright RO, Hu H (2010). Association of Cumulative Lead Exposure with Parkinson's Disease Environmental Health Perspectives, 1609-1613.

Weisskopf MG, Jain N, Nie H, Sparrow D, Vokonas P, Schwartz J, Hu H (2009). A prospective study of bone lead concentration and death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer in the VA Normative Aging Study Circulation

Park, S.K., O'Neill, M.S., Vokonas, P.S., Spiro, A., Tucker, K., Suh, H., Hu, H., Schwartz, J." (2008). Traffic-related particles are associated with elevated homocysteine: the VA Normative Aging Study American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine


Slides from lead exposure and toxicity talk

View video of the slide talk given by Howard Hu on "The Contribution of Environmental Exposures to the Etiology of Disease: Lead Exposure and Toxicity as a Case Study" at the UM Medical School Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics in October 2011.

Recent News Items

  • "Lead in moms hikes girls hypertension risk," Futurity, September 29, 2011
  • "Mom's lead exposure linked to higher blood pressure in their daughters," Health Canal, September 27, 2011
  • "U-M to study why childhood exposure to toxicants makes us sick as adults," R&D Magazine, May 10, 2011