Richard R. Monson
Professor

Richard R. Monson

Professor of Epidemiology, Emeritus

Environmental Health

monson@hsph.harvard.edu


Overview

Research

I am a general epidemiologist who has focused on the evaluation of occupational exposures. Also, I am involved in cancer, radiation, reproductive, and psychiatric epidemiologic studies. During the 1970s, much of my research was conducted on the relation between employment in the rubber industry and the occurrence of ill health, especially cancer. While in general there was no overall increase in mortality from cancer or other causes, some specific groups of rubber workers had some excesses that likely were work-related. A general reduction in workplace exposures to chemicals was recommended.

During the 1980s until the present, I and my colleagues have conducted a number of studies of employees of General Motors Corporation who were exposed to machining fluids (cutting oils). The concern is that these ubiquitous exposures may be related to the development of respiratory disease or cancer. We have found that while the mists of these fluids appear to be respiratory irritants, there is minimal evidence for any long-term relationship with pulmonary function. However, there is some suggestion that some types of machining fluids may be relatively weak causes of larynx and possibly certain digestive cancers.

Another focus of research that has continued until the present is the evaluation of the risk of exposure to ionizing radiation. I and my colleagues have evaluated children exposed to prenatal x-ray, tuberculosis patients exposed to multiple fluoroscopic examinations, women treated with radiation for benign gynecologic conditions, persons with thyroid conditions who were treated with radioactive iodine, patients for whom Thorotrast was used for neurological examination, and patients who received radiation therapy for an enlarged thymus. These cohorts remain part of long-term follow-up studies being conducted at the National Cancer Institute. From 1999-2005 I chaired the National Research Council Committee on Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII, Phase 2).

M.D., 1963
Harvard Medical School

S.D., 1969
Harvard School of Public Health


Bibliography

IARC monographs: 40 years of evaluating carcinogenic hazards to humans.

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Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jun. 123(6):507-14. PMID: 25712798