Born in 1947, Prof. Reiko Kishi was a medical student when she first learned about the victims of the Minamata mercury poisoning. Thereafter she began to study toxicology and obtained her PhD from Hokkaido University (1977). In 1990, she received an MPH degree from the School of Public Health, Harvard University. In 1997, she was the first woman to become a full professor of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Hokkaido University. She is currently a Distinguished Professor of Hokkaido University, Center for Environmental and Health Sciences.

She was a trailblazer in the elucidation of various health impacts of developmental exposure to low-level environmental chemicals in birth cohort studies. The Hokkaido Study of Environment and Children’s Health (N=514 and 20,926) was launched in 2002. The most remarkable feature of this study is that it is a study of the effects of general background levels of chemicals in the environment. Her group discovered that chemicals such as PFASs have effects on birth weight, and immune function. In addition, they found strong evidence of endocrine disruptions caused in utero in humans. An increase in maternal dioxin, PFASs and MEHP was found to be related to some sex hormone levels in cord blood. Her work emphasizes the life course approach, focusing on the early life period as it sets the stage for lifelong health. In the last 20 years, her group has published more than 150 original research papers from the cohort. Their biomolecular studies revealed that even with a similar level of exposure to chemicals, genetic polymorphisms such as those in aryl hydrocarbon receptors, and drug-metabolizing enzymes were associated with large differences in fetal effects.

She has also used environmental epidemiology to influence public policy. From 2005, as a member of the Science Council of Japan she organized several committees that issued more than ten recommendations to the government and academia. In 2011, after the great East Japan earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident, she used environmental epidemiology to effect public policy. As the Chair of the Food Hygiene Council of the Japan Committee of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, she worked to codify the safety limits for the level of radiation-contaminated foods in Japan. This contributed to decrease the risk of thyroid cancer in Fukushima.

In 2011, she was a cofounder of the Birth Cohort Consortium of Asia (BiCCA). Since 2015, her center has been a WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health and Prevention of Chemical Hazards and she has been its director. She has been a member of the ISEE Asia and Western Pacific Chapter Executive Council since 2014 and was the president of the 4th ISEE & ISES (joint) Asian Chapter Meeting. (2016)

As she noted in two of her recently published books, Health Impacts of Developmental Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, and Indoor Environmental Quality and Health Risk Toward Healthier Environment for All, Springer Nature, 2020, the accumulation of scientific knowledge and reinforcement of political actions based on scientific evidence are exceedingly important and of key significance for SDGs.