Ruthann Rudel leads Silent Spring Institute’s exposure and toxicology research programs focusing on endocrine active chemicals and on mechanisms by which chemicals may influence breast cancer risk. Her work in toxicology includes a review of early life exposure to chemicals that alter mammary gland development and implications for testing protocols and risk assessment, published in Environmental Health Perspectives. She also directed a major review of animal mammary gland carcinogens—published in Cancer in 2007—that compiled existing research on these carcinogens, reviewed key issues in study design and animal models, and synthesized information on exposure opportunities. Building on these findings, her 2014 review in Environmental Health Perspectives identifies methods for detecting metabolites of 100 prevalent mammary carcinogens, for use in biomonitoring and in breast cancer cohort studies. She has published on toxicology and risk assessment for metals, indoor air pollutants, and endocrine disruptors. Her current research includes a project funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program to identify biological pathways that are relevant to breast cancer etiology and develop methods to test chemicals for those activities. This work involves analyzing existing data, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ToxCast data, and developing novel in vitro methods for chemical testing.
Rudel has made major contributions to understanding exposures to semivolatile indoor pollutants, especially endocrine active chemicals. She directs Silent Spring’s Household Exposure Study, which was described by Environmental Science & Technology as the “most comprehensive analysis to date” of exposures in homes and is widely cited. Rudel has expanded the initial study to include indoor and outdoor air, house dust, urine, blood, and self-reported exposure data from 250 participants in California, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Louisiana, leading to at least 20 peer-reviewed, exposure-related papers with more than 1000 citations to date. Major contributions include the identification of previously unrecognized sources of ongoing PCB exposures in homes and the discovery that PBDE exposures are higher in California due to the state’s unique furniture flammability standards. EPA is using these data to validate high-throughput exposure models for consumer product chemicals. Her current research seeks to identify biological and environmental measures of chemical exposure suitable for integration into existing breast cancer cohort studies, with target chemicals selected based on cancer bioassays and other experimental data.
Rudel’s research has been conducted in collaboration with co-investigators at Harvard University, Brown University, Tufts University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Florida, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. She has an appointment as a Research Associate in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown and is currently serving on the National Academy of Sciences panel Unraveling Low Dose Toxicity: Case Studies of Systematic Review of Evidence. Rudel also has served on the U.S. National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors and the Toxic Substances Control Act and Regulatory Affairs and Legislative Assistance Committees of the Society of Toxicology. She is active in the area of environmental toxicology and has participated in numerous environmental regulatory reviews for EPA, Health Canada, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, and others, and serves as an ad hoc manuscript reviewer for such journals as Environmental Science & Technology and Environmental Health Perspectives. Rudel earned her B.A. in chemistry and neuroscience from Oberlin College, and an M.S. in environmental management and policy from Tufts. Rudel has been co-leading Silent Spring’s research program, in collaboration with the Institute's executive director, for the past 21 years. Before joining Silent Spring, she worked as a consultant at Gradient Corporation.