Roberta White

Roberta F. White, PhD

Emeritus Professor, Environmental Health - Boston University School of Public Health


Roberta F. White is a trans-disciplinary scientist whose research focuses on the effects of exposure to industrial pollutants on brain function. Initially trained as a clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist, her work employs cognitive and behavioral test measures and neuroimaging techniques to identify pollutant effects on the central nervous system. Combining the fields of public health, behavioral neuroscience, and epidemiology as well as clinical neuropsychology, she has explored the effects of occupational lead and solvent exposures on cognitive and affective expressions of brain function; elucidated prenatal effects of exposure to methylmercury and polychlorinated biphenyls on cognitive function and neuropsychological outcomes; identified chemical exposures that are associated with the occurrence of Gulf War Illness (GWI) following the Gulf War in 1991, and uncovered cognitive and neuroimaging evidence of structural brain damage associated with GWI and sarin exposure in the GW veteran population. Her work has had significant public health impact in setting standards for occupational exposure to lead, environmental exposure to methylmercury in utero, and acceptance of GWI as a physical illness related to chemical exposures in theatre. She has written extensively on the clinical correlates of encephalopathies caused by exposure to chemical pollutants and co-wrote the World Health Organization criteria for diagnosis of solvent encephalopathy that are used internationally.

Dr. White’s research and clinical career have led to leadership positions in the field of public health and psychology. She was Chair of the Department of Environmental Health 2003-2017 and was Associate Dean for Research at Boston University School of Public Health from 2008-2015. In addition, she was Scientific Director of the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness from 2008-2015, which advises the Veterans Administration on its GWI research portfolio. She has testified before Congress and the National Academy of Medicine many times in her areas of research expertise, particularly GWI. Prior to beginning her tenure as Chair of Environmental Health, she ran the neuropsychology programs at BUSM and VA Boston Medical Center, overseeing clinical work as well as APA-approved doctoral and post-doctoral training programs in clinical neuropsychology. She also directed a VA-funded center on Environmental Hazards through two funding cycles before leaving the VA to work fulltime at BUSPH.

Other Positions

  • Emeritus Professor, Neurology - Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine


  • Wayne State University, PhD Field of Study: Clinical/Counseling Psychology
  • Wayne State University, MA Field of Study: Clinical/Counseling Psychology
  • Michigan State University, BA Field of Study: Psychology/Sociology



  • Published on 2/16/2024

    Schildroth S, Kordas K, White RF, Friedman A, Placidi D, Smith D, Lucchini RG, Wright RO, Horton M, Claus Henn B. An Industry-Relevant Metal Mixture, Iron Status, and Reported Attention-Related Behaviors in Italian Adolescents. Environ Health Perspect. 2024 Feb; 132(2):27008. PMID: 38363634.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 10/11/2023

    Friedman A, Schildroth S, Bauer JA, Coull BA, Smith DR, Placidi D, Cagna G, Krengel MH, Tripodis Y, White RF, Lucchini RG, Wright RO, Horton M, Austin C, Arora M, Claus Henn B. Early-life manganese exposure during multiple developmental periods and adolescent verbal learning and memory. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2023; 100:107307. PMID: 37832858.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 9/28/2023

    Schildroth S, Valeri L, Kordas K, Shi B, Friedman A, Smith D, Placidi D, Wright RO, Lucchini RG, White RF, Horton M, Claus Henn B. Assessing the mediating role of iron status on associations between an industry-relevant metal mixture and verbal learning and memory in Italian adolescents. Sci Total Environ. 2024 Jan 01; 906:167435. PMID: 37774885.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 2/10/2023

    Schildroth S, Friedman A, White RF, Kordas K, Placidi D, Bauer JA, Webster TF, Coull BA, Cagna G, Wright RO, Smith D, Lucchini RG, Horton M, Claus Henn B. Associations of an industry-relevant metal mixture with verbal learning and memory in Italian adolescents: The modifying role of iron status. Environ Res. 2023 May 01; 224:115457. PMID: 36773645.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 1/12/2023

    Nielsen GH, Heiger-Bernays WJ, Levy JI, White RF, Axelrad DA, Lam J, Chartres N, Abrahamsson DP, Rayasam SDG, Shaffer RM, Zeise L, Woodruff TJ, Ginsberg GL. Application of probabilistic methods to address variability and uncertainty in estimating risks for non-cancer health effects. Environ Health. 2023 Jan 12; 21(Suppl 1):129. PMID: 36635712.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 11/12/2022

    Leibler JH, Abdelgadir A, Seidel J, White RF, Johnson WE, Reynolds SJ, Gray GC, Schaeffer JW. Influenza D virus exposure among US cattle workers: A call for surveillance. Zoonoses Public Health. 2023 Mar; 70(2):166-170. PMID: 36370131.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 11/8/2021

    Friedman A, Bauer JA, Austin C, Downs TJ, Tripodis Y, Heiger-Bernays W, White RF, Arora M, Claus Henn B. Multiple metals in children's deciduous teeth: results from a community-initiated pilot study. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2022 May; 32(3):408-417. PMID: 34750512.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 8/31/2021

    Bauer JA, White RF, Coull BA, Austin C, Oppini M, Zoni S, Fedrighi C, Cagna G, Placidi D, Guazzetti S, Yang Q, Bellinger DC, Webster TF, Wright RO, Smith D, Horton M, Lucchini RG, Arora M, Claus Henn B. Critical windows of susceptibility in the association between manganese and neurocognition in Italian adolescents living near ferro-manganese industry. Neurotoxicology. 2021 12; 87:51-61. PMID: 34478771.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 6/21/2021

    Fruh V, Rifas-Shiman SL, Coull BA, Devick KL, Amarasiriwardena C, Cardenas A, Bellinger DC, Wise LA, White RF, Wright RO, Oken E, Claus Henn B. Prenatal exposure to a mixture of elements and neurobehavioral outcomes in mid-childhood: Results from Project Viva. Environ Res. 2021 10; 201:111540. PMID: 34166661.

    Read At: PubMed
  • Published on 10/30/2020

    Bauer JA, Fruh V, Howe CG, White RF, Henn BC. Associations of metals and neurodevelopment: a review of recent evidence on susceptibility factors. Curr Epidemiol Rep. 2020 Dec; 7(4):237-262. PMID: 33777647.

    Read At: PubMed

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