Acting Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety

Jim Pirkle, MD, PhD
Jim Pirkle, MD, PhD

Jim Pirkle, MD, PhD, is serving as the Acting Associate Director for Laboratory Science and Safety (ADLSS) and Acting Director of the Office of Laboratory Science and Safety (OLSS) at CDC. In these capacities, Dr. Pirkle provides high-level oversight and coordination of critical laboratory science policies and operations, particularly those associated with laboratory safety and quality management at CDC.

In his permanent position at CDC, Dr. Pirkle serves as the Director of the Division of Laboratory Sciences (DLS), National Center for Environmental Health, where he oversees 26 reference and research laboratories. In this role, Dr. Pirkle has led major efforts to expand and improve biomonitoring (measurements of environmental chemicals in blood and urine to assess exposure) to help prevent environmental disease. He has also led or collaborated in many studies of human exposure and health effects including studies of lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, dioxins and furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, perchlorate, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), tobacco smoke, pesticides, and herbicides.

He also served as a senior scientist in developing new methods to detect and diagnose botulism and anthrax and improve preparation of influenza vaccine. He started the CDC Tobacco Laboratory that measures addictive and toxic substances in tobacco products, tobacco smoke, and in people. He led three National Reports on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals – the most comprehensive assessments ever done of exposure of the U.S. population to environmental chemicals.

Dr. Pirkle has authored or coauthored more than 145 publications in peer-reviewed, scientific journals focusing on the diagnosis and prevention of disease and harmful exposures in populations. Jim’s scientific publications include characterizing the exposure of the U.S. population to many environmental chemicals, identifying lead in gasoline as a major source of human lead exposure, risk factors for coronary artery disease, first-time assessment of the exposure of the U.S. population to secondhand smoke, and identifying Vitamin E acetate as the probable cause of the national outbreak of vaping-associated lung injury.

Dr. Pirkle is board certified in clinical pathology.  He completed his PhD in physical chemistry, medical degree, and post-graduate fellowship in clinical pathology at Emory University.

Page last reviewed: November 1, 2021