Dr. Laurel Schaider is a Research Scientist at Silent Spring Institute, where she leads the Institute’s water quality research on highly fluorinated chemicals (PFASs) and other contaminants of emerging concern. Her research focuses on characterizing PFAS exposures from drinking water, understanding health effects associated with PFASs, identifying other sources of PFAS exposure such as food packaging, investigating socioeconomic disparities in exposures to drinking water contaminants, and working with communities to develop research studies and resources to address their concerns.
Dr. Schaider is the principal investigator for the PFAS-REACH (PFAS Research, Education, and Action for Community Health) study, a researcher-community partnership that is evaluating PFAS exposures and immune system effects in children in communities with PFAS water contamination and developing an online resource center for PFAS-affected communities. As co-leader of the Community Engagement Core for the STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs) Superfund Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, she is leading a study to evaluate PFAS levels in private wells on Cape Cod and identify contamination sources. She was the lead author of two papers documenting septic systems as sources of PFASs and other emerging contaminants to public and private drinking water wells, and led a critical review of removal and discharges of emerging contaminants from septic systems, which treat the wastewater of nearly one in four Americans.
Prior to joining Silent Spring, she was a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she studied heavy metal contamination and exposures in affected communities. She led an NIEHS-funded community-based research study in northeastern Oklahoma that found consumption of local fish to be a major source of mercury exposure among anglers and their families, including members of local Native American tribes. As a research fellow in the Center for Children’s Environmental Health project at the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma, she was lead author on two papers that linked metal speciation—how metals are distributed among various chemical forms—to mobility in the environment and likelihood of exposure, notably in mine waste particles small enough to be inhaled. In addition, Dr. Schaider co-authored two papers that evaluated impacts from nutrient pollution and physical disturbance on mercury methylation in the “Dead Zone” of the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Schaider has gained nationwide recognition as an expert on PFAS contamination and water quality and has been interviewed by National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Dr. Oz Show, Chemical & Engineering News, Environmental Health News, and many local news outlets. She is a technical advisor to ATSDR’s Community Assistance Panel at the Pease Tradeport and is vice-chair of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern committee for the New England Water Environment Association. Dr. Schaider earned her MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and an SB in Environmental Engineering Science from MIT. She has taught ecology and environmental engineering courses at MIT and Northeastern University. She currently holds an appointment as a visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.