Patrick Parsons

Expert in how trace elements affect human health and the development of technologies that measure internal and external exposures.

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Patrick Parsons

School of Public Health
Department: Environmental Health Sciences

Childhood lead poisoning; atomic spectrometry; trace element analysis; inorganic mass spectrometry; human biomonitoring and environmental measurements of toxic metals.

Campus phone: 518-474-7161
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Patrick Parsons, an environmental chemistry professor, researches how trace elements affect human health. He develops new technologies and tools to measure internal (biomonitoring) and external exposures.

The goal of this research is to provide better insights into what is now called the “exposome." The exposome can be defined as “the measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime and how those exposures relate to health,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Each person has a unique exposome, which begins before birth, and continues throughout life with exposures from the environment, diet, lifestyle, etc., interacting with our own unique genetics and physiology.

Understanding how trace elements may impact the exposome is important – from the nutritional role of the essential elements, e.g., Cu, Se and Zn, to assessing exposure to non-essential toxic elements such as Pb, Cd, Hg and As.

Parsons, who grew up in England, joined the New York State Department of Health’s (NYS DOH) Wadsworth Center in 1986 as Director of the state’s Lead Poisoning Laboratory. Under the MOU between the University and the NYS DOH, he received a joint appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and was later promoted to Professor in 2007. He served as the Department Chair from 2011 to 2017

Parsons’ laboratory has developed specialized techniques for measuring trace elements at extremely low levels in human tissues and body fluids, as well as in food and environmental matrices, using state-of-the-art analytical techniques based on atomic spectrometry.

The laboratory has developed new methods for human biomonitoring based on inorganic mass spectrometry. Trace element analysis at the µg/L to ng/L range is carried by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The Parsons’ lab is well equipped with 3 triple quads, a sector field ICP-MS, and 6 single quad ICP-MS, three portable XRF instruments, and three class 100 clean rooms. Ongoing collaborations are supported by NIEHS and CDC funding.

Parsons has published more than 160 papers in his field of expertise and has served on national panels related to childhood lead poisoning. He received his Ph.D. in inorganic biochemistry from the University of London, England, and completed postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. At Wadsworth, Parsons is current Director of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, and Chief, Laboratory of Inorganic and Nuclear Chemistry.