An Li, PhD., Samuel & Catherine Epstein Professor

Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences  

School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

Phone (312) 996-9597, Fax (312) 413-9898, Email:


Faculty Profile, PubMed, Google Scholar, Research Gate, Publons, ORCID


Ph.D. in Water Chemistry. 1993. University of Wisconsin - Madison

MS in Environmental Engineering. 1988. Utah State University




The prohibition of new carcinogenic products, reduction of toxins in use, and right-to-know laws - these are among the legislative proposals which could reverse the cancer epidemic. - Dr. Samuel Epstein (1926 – 2018)



As an environmental chemist, I study and research on how human activities influence the natural environment and how the changes in turn affect human health. Among countless number of chemicals, my research team particularly focuses on persistent, bioaccumulative, and potentially toxic organic chemicals. We have measured many groups of legacy and emerging pollutants in air, water, soil, dust, sludge, and sediment. The data allowed us to see how these chemicals transport and transform in the ecosystem, and how such behavior depends on molecular structure and other factors. We also investigate the presence of such pollutants in human. For example, our data from blood and placenta tissue samples are being used in epigenetic studies and are useful to understand the mechanisms of across-placenta transfer among chemicals.

Our laboratory consists of 8 well equipped rooms with a total area of >3,500 sqft. The major gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) instruments include Agilent 7890/7000 GC-MS/MS, two 6890+/5973 GC-MS (EI/NCI/PCI), and 6890+ with ECD. We also have an Agilent 1200/6410 HPLC/MSMS, and two Waters Micromass Quattro Micro LC/MSMS systems. Other major equipment includes Dionex ASE350 accelerated solvent extraction system, Labconco 4.5L and Virtis model 2K freeze drying systems, Beckman Avanti30 centrifuge, etc., as well as various air and sediment sampling equipment.

The major projects are listed below:

- Method Development for Analyzing Microplastics in Sediment of Lake Michigan

- Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance Program (GLSSP) (Featured in cover story on C&EN and online, and in UIC News. See sampling video on YouTube.)

- NCS Formative Research - Organic Contaminants in Placenta Tissue (The National Childrenճ Study)

- Debromination of PBDEs in Aquatic Sediments (NSF Summary)

- Method Development for the Analysis of PBDEs in Human Placenta Tissue (NIEHS Summary)

- Historical and Emerging Halogenated Flame Retardants in Sediment of the Great Lakes (EPA Final Report)

- Measuring Water Ingestion Among Water Recreators (WERF Final Report)

- Chronology of PBDE Air Deposition in the Great Lakes from Sedimentary Records (EPA Final Report)

- Source Apportionment of Indoor PAHs in Urban Residence Homes (EPA website, NUATRC Final Report)



- EOHS543/CME523: Environmental Organic Chemistry

- EOHS440/CME411: Chemistry for Environmental Professionals

- EOHS594: Water and Health Seminar



Erik R. Christensen and An Li. Physical and Chemical Processes in the Aquatic Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2014. ISBN: 978-1-118-11176-5.

An Li, Shinsuke Tanabe, Guibin Jiang, John P. Giesy, Paul K. S. Lam (Eds). Persistent Organic Pollutants in Asia - Sources, Distributions, Transport, and Fate. Elsevier Publications. 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-08-045132-9. ISBN-10: 0-08-045132-2. [pdf access through institution subscription]


Recent Journal Publications [List of Publications]

Yingxue Liu, An Li, Qi An, Kai Liu, Ping Zheng, Shanshan Yin, Weiping Liu. Prenatal and postnatal transfer of perfluoroalkyl substances from mothers to their offspring. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology. 51, 1886556. 2021.

Yingxue Liu, An Li, Susan Buchanan, Weiping Liu. Review article: Perfluoroalkyl substances in mothers and infants: prenatal and postnatal exposure and transfer of congeners, isomers, and enantiomers. Environment International. 144, 106012. 2020.

Ruijie Zhang, Kefu Yu, An Li, Weibin Zeng, Tian Lin, Yinghui Wang. Occurrence, phase distribution, and bioaccumulation of organophosphate esters (OPEs) in mariculture farms of the Beibu Gulf, China: A health risk assessment through seafood consumption. Environmental Pollution. 263, Part B, 114426. 2020.

Jiehong Guo, Zhuona Li, Prabha Ranasinghe, Karl J. Rockne, Neil C. Sturchio, John P Giesy, An Li. Halogenated flame retardants in sediments from the Upper Laurentian Great Lakes: Implications to long-range transport and evidence of long-term transformation. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 384, 121346. 2020.

Xu Han, Lingling Meng, Yuedong Xu, Feng Zhangd, Yingming Li, An Li, Mary E. Turyk, Ruiqiang Yang, Pu Wang, Jianqing Zhang, Qinghua Zhang, Guibin Jiang. Exposure to organochlorine pesticides and the risk of type 2 diabetes in the population of East China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 190, 110125, 2020.

Ruijie Zhang, Kefu Yu, Yinghui Wang, An Li, Changgui Pan, Minwei Han, Yang Ding, Weibin Zeng, Ruiling Zhang, Xueyong Huang. Antibiotics in coral reef fishes from the South China Sea: Occurrence, distribution, bioaccumulation, and dietary exposure risk to human. Science of the Total Environment. 704, 135288. 2020.

Xu Han, Lingling Meng, Yingming Li, An Li, Mary E. Turyk, Ruiqiang Yang, Pu Wang, Ke Xiao, Junpeng Zhao, Jianqing Zhang, Qinghua Zhang, Guibin Jiang. Associations between the exposure to persistent organic pollutants and type 2 diabetes in East China: a case-control study. Chemosphere, 241, 125030. 2020.

Minwei Han, Ruijie Zhang, Kefu Yu, An Li, Yinghui Wang, Xueyong Huang. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Corals of the South China Sea: Occurrence, Distribution, Bioaccumulation, and Considerable Role of Coral Mucus. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 384, 121299. 2020.

Erik R. Christensen, Ruijie Zhang, Garry Codling, John P. Giesye, An Li. Poly- and per-fluoroalkyl compounds in sediments of the Great Lakes: Loadings, temporal trends, and sources determined by positive matrix factorization. Environmental Pollution. 255, 113166. 2019.

Xu Han, Lingling Meng, Yingming Li, An Li, Mary Turyk, Ruiqiang Yang, Pu Wang, Ke Xiao, Wenjuan Li, Junpeng Zhao, Qinghua Zhang, Guibin Jiang. Associations between exposure to persistent organic pollutants and thyroid function in a case-control study of East China. Environmental Science and Technology, 53, 9866-9875. 2019.

Tian Lin, Zilan Wu, An Li, Shanshan Zhou, Huan He, Jiehong Guo, Limin Hu, Yuanyuan Li, Zhigang Guo. Sedimentary records of polychlorinated biphenyls in the East China Marginal Seas and Great Lakes: Significance of recent rise of emissions in China and environmental implications. Environmental Pollution. 254, Part A, 112972. 2019.

Xiaoxue Pan, Chenguang Li, Jing Chena, Jiaoqin Liu, Jiali Ge, Jiayi Yao, Siyuan Wang, Zunyao Wang, Ruijuan Qu, An Li. The photodegradation of 1,3,6,8-tetrabromocarbazole in n-hexane and in solid-mediated aqueous system: Kinetics and transformation mechanisms. Chemical Engineering Journal, 375, 121986. 2019.

Ruijie Zhang, Kefu Yu, An Li, Yinghui Wang, Ruiling Zhang, Minwei Han, Weibin Zeng, Xueyong Huang, Zhenjun Qin, Jiying Pei. Antibiotics in corals of the South China Sea: occurrence, distribution, bioaccumulation, and considerable role of coral mucus. Environmental Pollution, 250, 503-510. 2019.

Shanshan Zhou, Xiaoxue Pan, Qiangzhi Tang, Hongbin Zhu, Lu Zhao, Jiehong Guo, Zunyao Wang, Weiping Liu, An Li. Photochemical Degradation of Polyhalogenated Carbazoles in Hexane by Sunlight. Science of The Total Environment, 671, 622-631. 2019.


Book Chapters

An Li. Predicting Cosolvency for Pharmaceutical and Environmental Applications. In: Handbook of Solvents, Volume 2: Use, Health, and Environment. Wypych, G. Ed. ChemTec Publishing, Toronto, Canada. Chapter 13.21.2. pp. 186-210. 2014. ISBN 978-1-895198-65-2

Hua Wei and An Li. Semi-volatile Organic Pollutants in the Gaseous and Particulate Phases in Urban Air. In: Urban Airborne Particulate Matter: Origins, Chemistry, Fate and Health Impacts. Fathi Zereini & Clare Wiseman (Eds). Springer Publishing Company. 2010. pp. 339-362. ISBN: 978-3-642-12277-4

Qinghua Zhang, Yawei Wang, An Li, Guibin Jiang. Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins, Dibenzofurans, and Biphenyls, and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in China. In: Persistent Organic Pollutants in Asia - Sources, Distributions, Transport, and Fate. An Li, Shinsuke Tanabe, Guibin Jiang, John P. Giesy, Paul K. S. Lam (Eds). Elsevier Publications. 2007. ISBN-10: 0-08-045132-2. Chapter 4.

An Li. Predicting Cosolvency for Pharmaceutical and Environmental Applications. In: Handbook of Solvents. Wypych, G. Ed. ChemTec Publishing, Toronto, Canada. Chapter 14.21.2. pp. 997-1016. 2001. ISBN 1-895198-24-0.


Research Team

Yi-Ling Cheng – MS student, 2018-2020

Ruijie Zhang – Visiting Scholar, 2018-2020

Cornelia Forrester – MS student, 2017-present

Xiaoxue Pan – Visiting PhD student, 2017-2018.

Qiaozhi Tang – Visiting PhD student, 2016-2017.

Tian Lin – Visiting Scholar, 2015-2018.

Huan He - Visiting Scholar, 2015-2016.

Shanshan Zhou - Visiting Scholar, 2015-2016.

Jiehong Guo - Ph.D. 2015. Spatial Distribution and Time Trend of Organic Pollutant Chemicals in the Sediments of Upper Great Lakes.

Denisse Herrera - Undergraduate Research Assistant. 2014-2016.

Ishan Parikh - Undergraduate Research Assistant. 2013-2016.

Zhuona Li - Postdoc Research Associate. 2013-2014.

Priyanthi Shyamalee Dassanayake - PhD 2014. Legacy and Emerging Environmental Organic Pollutants in Human Placenta and Blood.

Prabha Ranasinghe - MS 2014. Spatial Distribution of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Surface Sediment of Lake Huron.

Ying Wang - Visiting Scholar 2013-2014.

Admasu Wondmagegn - Undergraduate Research Assistant. 2012-present.

Yawei Wang - Visiting Scholar 2012-2014.

Xiaowen Lu - Visiting Scholar 2012.

Yulin Xia - MS 2012. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Human Placentas in the United States

Jessica Nanes - MS 2012. Legacy Persistent Organic Pollutants in Human Placental Tissue from the United States

Andy Sandy - Postdoc Associate. 2010-2012.

Hua Wei - PhD 2012. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Sediments from Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana of the United States.

Suraj Panthi- MS 2010. Quantification of Cyanuric Acid in Outdoor Swimming Pool Water and Human Urine Samples Using HPLC.

Colin McLeod - Student research assistant. 2009-2010.

Amit Patel - UIC Honor College. Undergraduate research assistant. 2009-2010.

Ruiqiang Yang - Visiting Scholar. 2009-2010.

Yue Huang - Postdoc Associate 2009.

Priyanthi Shyamalee Dassanayake - MS 2008. Preliminary method development to analyze polybrominated diphenyl ethers in human placenta.

Hua Wei -MS 2007. Analytical Method Enhancement for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in Environmental Samples.

Rachel C. Chen -2006. High School Research Intern. Intel Science Talent Search Semi-finalist.

Wenlu Song - PhD 2005. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in the Sediment of the Great Lakes.

Justin C. Ford - MS 2005. Sedimentation in the Laurentian Great Lakes as Determined by Alpha Spectroscopy.

Lymari Ruiz-Sanchez - MS 2003. Analytical Method Development for Mycotoxins in House Dust Samples.

Gwennetta M. Butler - MS 2003. Solubility of 4-chlorobiphenyl in Water-Alcohol Mixtures at Four Temperatures.

Todd M. Schoonover - MS 2002. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Residential Air of Ten Chicago Area Homes.

Jim Q. Zou - PhD student research assistant. 2000-2002.

Xiaoyu Liu - MS student research assistant. 1998-2000.

Jae-Kil Jang - PhD 2001. Spatial and Temporal Distribution and Source Identification of Priority Pollutants in Lake Calumet Area.

Felice Norlock - MS 2000. Method Development on the Analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Urban Residence Homes.

Kent A. Cheung - MS 1998. Cosolvent Enhanced Electrokinetic Remediation of Soil Contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons