Heather M. Stapleton


Associate Professor of Environmental Health

Dr. Stapleton's research focuses on understanding the fate and transformation of organic contaminants in aquatic systems and in indoor environments. Her main focus has been on the bioaccumulation and biotransformation of brominated flame retardants, and specifically polybrominated diphenyl ethers,(PBDEs). Her current research projects explore the routes of human exposure to flame retardant chemicals and examine the way these compounds are photodegraded and metabolized using mass spectrometry to identify breakdown products/metabolites. She uses both in vivo techniques with fish, and in vitro techniques with cell cultures to examine metabolism of this varied class of chemicals. Also of interest to Dr. Stapleton is the study of the fate of PBDEs in the environment which may lead to bioaccumulation in aquatic systems and examining their bioavailability under different environmental conditions.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Ronie-Richele Garcia-Johnson Distinguished Professor
  • Professor
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 9 Circuit Drive, Box 90328, LSRC Room A207, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 613-8717
  • Email Address: heather.stapleton@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • Ph.D. University of Maryland, College Park, 2003
  • M.S. University of Maryland, College Park, 2000
  • B.S. Long Island University, Southhampton College, 1997

Research Interests

Conducts research on human exposure to organic contaminants, particularly, flame retardants, phthalates, polyfluorinated alky substances (PFAS), and pesticides

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Highly Cited Researcher. Thomson Reuters. 2014

Courses Taught

  • CEE 563: Chemical Fate of Organic Compounds
  • ENVIRON 360: Environmental Health: Pollutant Chemistry and Toxicology
  • ENVIRON 393: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 394: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 540: Chemical Fate of Organic Compounds
  • ENVIRON 593: Independent Studies and Projects
  • ENVIRON 780: Environmental Exposure Analysis
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Young, AS; Herkert, N; Stapleton, HM; Coull, BA; Hauser, R; Zoeller, T; Behnisch, PA; Felzel, E; Brouwer, A; Allen, JG, Hormone receptor activities of complex mixtures of known and suspect chemicals in personal silicone wristband samplers worn in office buildings., Chemosphere, vol 315 (2023) [10.1016/j.chemosphere.2022.137705] [abs].
  • Wiegand, J; Avila-Barnard, S; Nemarugommula, C; Lyons, D; Zhang, S; Stapleton, HM; Volz, DC, Triphenyl phosphate-induced pericardial edema in zebrafish embryos is dependent on the ionic strength of exposure media., Environment International, vol 172 (2023) [10.1016/j.envint.2023.107757] [abs].
  • Crute, CE; Landon, CD; Garner, A; Hall, SM; Everitt, JI; Zhang, S; Blake, B; Olofsson, D; Chen, H; Stapleton, HM; Murphy, SK; Feng, L, Maternal exposure to perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) during pregnancy: evidence of adverse maternal and fetoplacental effects in New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits., Toxicological Sciences (2022) [10.1093/toxsci/kfac126] [abs].
  • Crute, CE; Hall, SM; Landon, CD; Garner, A; Everitt, JI; Zhang, S; Blake, B; Olofsson, D; Chen, H; Murphy, SK; Stapleton, HM; Feng, L, Evaluating maternal exposure to an environmental per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) mixture during pregnancy: Adverse maternal and fetoplacental effects in a New Zealand White (NZW) rabbit model., The Science of the Total Environment, vol 838 no. Pt 4 (2022) [10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156499] [abs].
  • Hammel, SC; Nordone, S; Zhang, S; Lorenzo, AM; Eichner, B; Moody, MA; Harrington, L; Gandee, J; Schmidt, L; Smith, S; Stapleton, HM; Hoffman, K, Infants' diminished response to DTaP vaccine is associated with exposure to organophosphate esters., The Science of the Total Environment, vol 837 (2022) [10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155782] [abs].