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California Study Center: California
Phone: 650-721-5746
E-mail: ca@nbdps.org
  1. Study Center
  2. Principal Investigators
  3. Local Activities & Research
  4. Partners
  5. Recent Publications

Study Center
California represents 15% of all births in the United States. This year alone, 17,000 babies with birth defects will be born in California, and as many as 2,000 of these babies will die before their first birthday. Discovering causes is our only hope for preventing these outcomes.

The California Center is a collaborative partnership between Stanford University and the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program in the Department of Public Health. The Center collects data from women residing in eight counties in the Central Valley. It has been funded by CDC since 1997.

Principal Investigators:
Gary Shaw, DrPHGary Shaw, DrPH, is Principal Investigator for the California Center. Dr. Shaw has been conducting research on birth defects for over 20 years and is a recognized leader in birth defects research. He has produced numerous publications on birth defect causes related to diet, obesity, drugs, alcohol, stress, pollution, occupations, and genes. Dr. Shaw is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University...Read More

Suzan Carmichael, PhDSuzan Carmichael, PhD, is Co-Investigator for the California Center and joined the Center in 1998. She is a recognized leader in birth defects research and has produced numerous publications on birth defect causes related to diet, obesity, drugs, alcohol, stress, pollution, occupations, and genes. Dr. Carmichael is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University.…Read More

Local Activities and Research:
Our research answers why certain racial or ethnic groups are at higher risk of birth defects.

  • Why are Latinos at increased risk of brain and spinal birth defects?
  • Why are African-American babies with birth defects more likely to die?
Our research answers questions from parents in California about how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
  • Will stress hurt my baby?
  • Will eating certain foods help my baby?
Our research answers questions about environmental exposures that are especially important in California.
  • Does exposure to pesticides, contaminated water, or air pollution cause birth defects?


Stanford University
California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Division/Center for Family Health, California Department of Public Health
Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute
Dell Pediatrics Research Institute, Austin Texas
University of California, San Francisco
March of Dimes Foundation
Texas A&M University Institute of Biosciences and Technology

Recent Publications:

Padula AM, Yang W, Carmichael SL, Lurmann F, Balmes J, Hammond K, Shaw GM. Air pollution, neighborhood acculturation factors and neural tube defects among Hispanic women in California. Birth Def Res A 2017;109:403-422.

Bruckner TA, Karasek D, Yang W, Shaw GM, Catalano RA. Cohort variation in selection during pregnancy and risk of birth defects among males. Epidemiology 2017;epub.

Steurer MA, Norton ME, Baer RJ, Shaw GM, Keating S, Moon-Grady AJ, Chambers C, Jelliffe-Pawlowski LL. The role of maternal lymphatic markers in fetal diagnosis of critical congenital heart defects – a case control study. Am J Med Genet 2017;173:1231-5.

Von Behren J, Fisher PG, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Reynolds P. An investigation of connections between structural defects at birth and cancers arising in adolescence and young adulthood. J Peds 2017;epub.

Carmichael SL, Yang W, Ma C, Roberts E, Kegley S, English P, Lammer EJ, Witte JS, Shaw GM. Joint effects of residential proximity to pesticide applications and genetic variants on hypospadias risk. Birth Def Res A 2016;epub.

Kutbi H, Wehby GL, Moreno LM, Romitti PA, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM, Olshan AF, DeRoo L, Rasmussen SA, Murray JC, Wilcox A, Lie RT, Munger RG. Maternal underweight and obesity and risk of orofacial clefts in a large international consortium of population-based studies. Int J Epidemiol 2016;epub.

Pettigrew SM, Bell EM, VanZutphen A, Rocheleau CM, Shaw GM, Romitti PA, Lupo PJ, Soim A, Makelarski JA, Michalski A, Sanderson W. Paternal and combined parental occupational pesticide exposure and spina bifida in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2002. Birth Def Res A 2016;106:963-971

Yang W, Carmichael SL, Shaw GM. Folic acid fortification and prevalences of neural tube defects, orofacial clefts, and gastroschisis in California, 1989-2010. Birth Def Res A 2016;106:1032-41.

Lammer EJ, Mohammed N, Iovannisci DM, Lidral AC, Ma C, Shaw GM. Genetic variation of FOXE1 and risk for orofacial clefts in a California population. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2770-6.

Marini NJ, Yang W, Asrani K, Witte JS, Rine J, Lammer EJ, Shaw GM. Sequence variation in folate pathway genes and risks of human cleft lip with or without cleft palate. Am J Med Genet A 2016;170:2777-87.