Heather M. Stapleton


Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management

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

  • Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management
  • Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy in the Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Associate Professor in Pediatrics
  • 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


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

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Highly Cited Researcher. Thomson Reuters. 2014

Courses Taught

  • CEE 563: Chemical Fate of Organic Compounds
  • ENVIRON 360: Environmental 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 898: Program Area Seminar
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Phillips, AL; Herkert, NJ; Ulrich, JC; Hartman, JH; Ruis, MT; Cooper, EM; Ferguson, PL; Stapleton, HM, In Vitro Metabolism of Isopropylated and tert-Butylated Triarylphosphate Esters Using Human Liver Subcellular Fractions., Chemical Research in Toxicology (2020) [10.1021/acs.chemrestox.0c00002] [abs].
  • Hammel, SC; Hoffman, K; Phillips, AL; Levasseur, JL; Lorenzo, AM; Webster, TF; Stapleton, HM, Comparing the Use of Silicone Wristbands, Hand Wipes, And Dust to Evaluate Children's Exposure to Flame Retardants and Plasticizers., Environmental Science & Technology (2020) [10.1021/acs.est.9b07909] [abs].
  • Cooper, EM; Rushing, R; Hoffman, K; Phillips, AL; Hammel, SC; Zylka, MJ; Stapleton, HM, Strobilurin fungicides in house dust: is wallboard a source?, Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, vol 30 no. 2 (2020), pp. 247-252 [10.1038/s41370-019-0180-z] [abs].
  • Ingle, ME; Mínguez-Alarcón, L; Carignan, CC; Butt, CM; Stapleton, HM; Williams, PL; Ford, JB; Hauser, R; Meeker, JD; EARTH Study Team,, The association of urinary phosphorous-containing flame retardant metabolites and self-reported personal care and household product use among couples seeking fertility treatment., Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, vol 30 no. 1 (2020), pp. 107-116 [10.1038/s41370-019-0122-9] [abs].
  • Escher, BI; Stapleton, HM; Schymanski, EL, Tracking complex mixtures of chemicals in our changing environment., Science (New York, N.Y.), vol 367 no. 6476 (2020), pp. 388-392 [10.1126/science.aay6636] [abs].