Julia Varshavsky


Assistant Professor

Health Sciences

Research Interests

Endocrine disrupting chemicals, maternal-child health, reproduction and development, vulnerable populations


Dr. Julia Varshavsky is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Northeastern University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Health Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering. Julia previously worked at the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in the California Environmental Protection Agency as a research scientist in epidemiology and biostatistics to conduct biomonitoring studies of health-related chemical exposures. Julia’s most recent position prior to joining OEHHA was as a postdoctoral researcher in environmental epidemiology and biostatistics for the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), where she conducted biologically-based population-level studies on exposure and health risks associated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), and organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs). Specifically, her recent work highlights maternal-fetal exposure to PBDEs, PFASs, and OPFRs during mid-gestation in relation to biomarkers of placental development and disease that are associated with maternal and fetal health complications.

Julia aims to improve public health by studying reproductive and developmental health impacts related to EDCs commonly found in consumer and personal care products and identifying opportunities to reduce exposure and associated health risks among vulnerable populations. Julia earned her MPH and PhD in environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. Her dissertation research focused on developing methods for; characterizing disparities in; and evaluating dietary sources of cumulative phthalates exposure. Prior to graduate school, Julia facilitated scientific dialogue and research translation around developmental impacts of environmental contaminants as the reproductive health working group coordinator for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE). Julia studied molecular biology as an undergraduate and contributed to laboratory research that improved chemical screening methods in water through microarray development.

Selected Recent Publications

Varshavsky J.R., Robinson J.F., Zhou Y., Puckett K.A., Kwan E., Buarpung S., Aburajab R., Gaw S., Sen S., Gao S., Smith S.C., Park J.S., Zakharevich I., Gerona R.G., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Organophosphate flame retardants, highly fluorinated chemicals, and biomarkers of placental development and disease during mid-gestation. Toxicological Sciences, March 2, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfab028.

Varshavsky J.R., Sen S., Robinson J.F., Smith S.C., Frankenfield J., Wang Y., Yeh G., Park J.S., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Racial/ethnic and geographic differences in polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels across maternal, placental, and fetal tissues during mid-gestation, Scientific Reports, July 22, 2020, 10:12247. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69067-y.

Varshavsky J.R., Robinson J.F., Zhou Y., Puckett K.A., Kwan E., Buarpung S., Aburajab R., Gaw S., Sen S., Smith S.C., Frankenfield J., Park J.S., Fisher S.J., Woodruff T.J., Association of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) levels with biomarkers of placental development and disease during mid-gestation. Environmental Health, June 3, 2020; 19(1):61. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-020-00617-7.

Varshavsky J.R., Morello-Frosch R., Harwani S., Snider M., Petropoulou Syrago-Styliani E., Park J., Petreas M., Reynolds P., Nguyen T., Quach T., A pilot biomonitoring study of cumulative phthalates exposure among Vietnamese American nail salon workers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2, 2020, 17(1), 325. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17010325.

Padula A.M., Monk C., Brennan P.A., Borders A., Barrett E.S., McEvoy C.T., Foss S., Desai P., Alshawabkeh A., Wurth R., Salafia C., Fichorova R., Varshavsky J.R., Kress A., Woodruff T.J., Morello-Frosch R., A review of maternal prenatal exposures to environmental chemicals and psychosocial stressors-implications for research on perinatal outcomes in the ECHO program, Journal of Perinatology, October 15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-019-0510-y.

Varshavsky J.R., Smith A., Wang A., Hom E., Izano M., Huang H., Padula A., Woodruff T.J., Heightened susceptibility: A review of how pregnancy and chemical exposures influence maternal health. Reproductive Toxicology, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2019.04.004.

Varshavsky J.R., Morello-Frosch R., Woodruff T.J., Zota A.R., Dietary sources of cumulative phthalates exposure among the U.S. General population in NHANES 2005–2014. Environment International, 2018; 115, 417–429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.02.029.

Varshavsky J.R., Zota A., Woodruff T.J., A novel method for calculating potency-weighted cumulative phthalates exposure with implications for identifying racial/ethnic disparities among U.S. reproductive-aged women in NHANES 2001–2012. Environmental Science and Technology, 2016; 50(19):10616-10624.


Intro to Environmental Health


Varshavsky J.R., Yesterday’s flame retardants in today’s bodies. Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). PRHE blog. July 23, 2020. https://prheucsf.blog/2020/07/23/yesterdays-flame-retardants-in-todays-bodies/.

Varshavsky J.R., Don’t put pregnancy in a corner: It’s about more than fetal health. Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). PRHE blog. June 25, 2019. https://prheucsf.blog/2019/06/25/dont-put-pregnancy-in-a-corner-its-about-more-than-fetal-health/.

Varshavsky J.R., No free lunch with phthalates on the menu. Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). PRHE blog. March 28, 2018. https://prheucsf.blog/2018/03/28/no-free-lunch-with-phthalates-on-the-menu/.

Selected Public Service

Reviewer, National Academy of Science Workshop Proceedings, 2020 Predicting Human Health Effects from Environmental Exposures: Applying Translatable and Accessible Biomarkers of Effect

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Reviewer Board Member 2020–Pres

Certificate of Recognition, American Chemical Society Publications, Reviewing Activity September 2018

Outstanding Reviewer, Environment International April 2018

Recognized Reviewer, Environment International February 2018

Member, Task Force for Harmonizing Human Toxicity in Life Cycle Impact Assessment 2016–Pres

UNEP–SETAC Life Cycle Initiative

In the News

Eating out increases levels of phthalates in the body, study finds

Are phthalate chemicals in food?

Would you like phthalates with that?

Dining out is bad for your health, according to a new study

Eating out increases exposure to harmful phthalates

When you eat out, how much phthalates are you really eating?