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Your Environment. Your Health.

Justification Narrative

Fiscal Year 2011 Superfund Budget

 

Authorizing Legislation: Section 311(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, and Section 126(g) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986.

 

Budget Authority

FY 2009 AppropriationFY 2010 AppropriationFY 2011 President's BudgetFY 2011 +/-
FY 2010
$78,074,000$79,212,000$81,763,000$2,551,000

 

FTEs are included with the regular NIEHS appropriation.

 

Superfund Director's Overview

The goal of NIEHS' Superfund Program is to improve human health by addressing and preventing diseases and injuries associated with environmental contaminants. The Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Worker Training Program (WTP) complement each other to create effective community and workplace public health interventions aimed at preventing harmful exposures. SRP provides the scientific research used by WTP and other Federal and state agencies to train workers and educate communities. For example, SRP research provides updated information on exposure risks of arsenic, a component of coal ash dust. This critical information was used by WTP in training workers responding to a massive coal-ash spill in Tennessee, an effort that is still ongoing.

 

SRP and WTP also work together in partnership with other Federal agencies to prevent harmful environmental exposures. For example, WTP-trained members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, under supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), used a science-based worker safety strategy in Tennessee when operating the heavy equipment needed to remediate two rivers and hundreds of acres of land contaminated by over a billion gallons of toxic sludge.

 

Superfund encourages "green" approaches to remediation, such as recycling and reuse of industrial materials. WTP grantees develop methods for safe green remediation, and SRP scientists develop approaches to reuse industrial solid waste materials. For example, SRP University of Arizona researchers reuse fly ash by incorporating it into an iron/cement sorbent useful for removing environmental contaminants

 

SRP researchers at Michigan State University discovered that certain clays are highly effective adsorbents for dioxin, information that provides a potential means for removing dioxins from the environment. SRP researchers at the University of Arizona identified native drought- and salt-tolerant plants that stabilize metals in their roots without concentrating metals in leaf tissue. They completed a successful field trial at the Boston Mill tailings site, and are working with EPA Region 9 to begin a large field trial at the Iron King Mine Superfund site. This sustainable green remediation approach reduces the air-dispersion of toxic tailings, preventing exposures to nearby communities.

 

SRP partners with state and community organizations to prevent exposures. For example, it is not uncommon for municipalities to build new schools on or adjacent to former industrial properties, particularly in the northeast where property is extremely expensive. Unfortunately, vapors from industrial contaminants, such as trichloroethylene (TCE), can seep into building structures, resulting in the inhalation of harmful fumes. Constructing schools without proper site assessment may put children at risk of exposure via this vapor intrusion. Vapor intrusion is difficult to predict; however, SRP researchers at Brown University developed 3D models that provide an assessment of the fate and transport of TCE in the subsurface. Partnering with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and an environmental justice community group, the researchers translated their findings into improved sampling and modeling techniques to inform city planners about vapor intrusion risks prior to development projects. This partnership will develop alternative models for future school sites to be used by regulators and community groups.

 

SRP researchers at the University of Kentucky found one group of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that disrupts critical cellular pathways, which may lead to cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis. They also learned that antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin E, can protect against the cell damage mediated by PCBs. These findings provide a mechanistic basis for the role of antioxidants as a nutritional intervention for PCB exposure. SRP researchers at Columbia University showed that folic acid, a water-soluble B vitamin supplement, lowers total blood arsenic by lowering concentrations of a particular form of arsenic in the blood. These findings imply that folic acid supplementation may reduce body stores of arsenic and has potential for use as a therapeutic strategy to facilitate arsenic elimination from the body. This research offers hope for prevention of arsenic-induced illnesses not only in the U.S., where millions may be exposed to unhealthy arsenic levels in wells, but also in populations overseas, such as Bangladesh, where high arsenic exposures overlap with nutritional deficiencies.

 

WTP's core commitment to prevention is forward looking, examining breakthroughs and opportunities, such as new control banding techniques used to assess and manage workplace risks, the challenge nanotechnologies place on workplace safety and health policies, and even the need to standardize how hazards are communicated. To meet these challenges, WTP recently held a national conference on global safety and health issues and their impact on WTP worker training that included participation from longtime partners such as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Working for prevention through partnerships, WTP continues to meet its obligation to American workers, providing model safety and health training in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the Pacific Territories including American Samoa.

 

WTP grantees conduct in-depth job site and task studies to tailor training to the workplace. For example, WTP-funded United Steelworkers developed a proactive technique called "Systems of Safety" that actively seeks to identify, control, and eliminate workplace hazards. This includes a hazard mapping project as part of annual refresher training for hazardous materials workers.

 

Superfund also addresses communication issues for communities with specific needs, such as non-English speakers. For Spanish-speaking workers, WTP grantees translate written materials and take a programmatic approach, considering cultural factors that influence adult-learning for Hispanic workers, to develop and support Hispanic worker-trainers. SRP grantees at Duke University developed fish advisory pamphlets specifically for Spanish-speaking populations and designated a culturally-sensitive strategy of dissemination, improving the impact in preventing mercury exposure through fish consumption.

 

These are but a few highlights of NIEHS’ vital Superfund activities aimed at preventing exposures and protecting the health of our Nation’s and the world's citizens.

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Fiscal Year 2011 Justification by Program

Program Descriptions and Accomplishments

Superfund Research Program (SRP): SRP's goal is to gain a better understanding of how toxicants affect human health, in order to help environmental managers and risk assessors protect the public from exposures to hazardous substances. SRP accomplishes this through research conducted at universities across the country. Also included in the program is research to develop cost effective approaches to detect, remove and/or reduce the amount of toxic substances found in the environment. In a recent study supported by SRP, researchers at Boston University published results that demonstrate that pregnant women’s exposure to solvents in drinking water led to adverse health effects in their children. The research showed that mothers exposed to perchlorethylene (PCE) in their drinking water around the time of conception had an increased risk of children being born with neural tube defects or cleft palate. This study demonstrates the consequences of in utero exposure to hazardous substances and reinforces public health need to protect pregnant women from environmental exposures.

 

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for SRP is $51.974 million, an increase of $1.622 million, or 3.2 percent over the FY 2010 estimate. Resources will be used to support high priority and scientifically rigorous multi-project research grants, covering the diverse areas of science needed to solve complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation’s hazardous waste sites. In FY 2009, NIEHS initiated a new area of investigation in the development of nanotechnology-based tools to understand the mechanisms of bioremediation. These grants will be in their final year of funding in FY 2011. Support of SBIR grants for the development of innovative technologies for monitoring and remediation of hazardous substances in the environment will continue in FY 2011.

Portrait of a Program: Consequences of Childhood Exposures to Hazardous Substances

 

FY 2010 Level$5.584 million
FY 2011 Level$5.584 million
Change$0.000 million

 

The potential impact from exposure to hazardous substances on children’s health is enormous. Children’s environmental health research has been a mainstay of SRP since its inception and will continue in 2011. SRP’s research efforts have covered all stages of childhood development, with some studies focusing on the effects of prenatal exposures and others on infant, childhood, or adolescence exposures. Studies have focused on a wide range of disorders and diseases, and have spanned a wide array of hazardous substances.

 

Because the nervous system is still developing during childhood, children exposed to neurodevelopmental toxicants may experience lifelong detrimental effects. In a study of ten-year-old children in Bangladesh, Columbia University SRP investigators found that well water manganese had an adverse affect on children’s intellectual functioning. These same levels of manganese are found in infant formulas available in the U.S. Studies conducted at the Duke University SRP showed that new pesticides (fipronil and the perfluoroalkyls) have the same adverse effects on neurodevelopment as the organophosphates they replaced in commerce; furthermore, neurodevelopmental toxicants were found to make lasting changes in children’s metabolism, possibly contributing to the recent obesity and diabetes epidemics.

 

SRP investigators at the University of California (UC) Berkeley identified a mutation occurring in the womb, and associated with childhood leukemia, that appears to be environmentally-induced. Other findings indicate that acute lymphoblastic leukemia risk is associated with paint exposure, and that exposure to petroleum-based solvents is associated with a more rare form of childhood leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia. These findings are important to understanding environmental and genetic causes for childhood leukemia, the number one cause of cancer death in children in the United States.

 

SRP investigators at UC Berkeley found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of arsenic (= 200 µg/liter) in drinking water were at a six-fold increase in risk of stillbirth and a twofold increase in risk of neonatal death. SRP researchers at Harvard found that pregnant women exposed to relatively low arsenic demonstrated impaired glucose tolerance. This indicates that children born to these women may be at an increased risk of subsequent impaired glucose tolerance and obesity.


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Worker Training Program (WTP): WTP trains workers to protect themselves and their communities from exposure to hazardous materials encountered during hazardous waste operations, hazardous materials transportation and environmental restoration of contaminated facilities or chemical emergency response. WTP works with a network of experienced worker safety and health experts, trainers and support staff that can be mobilized to protect and assist during times of national crisis. One example of this work is the safety and health training provided for workers still responding to a massive coal-ash spill in Tennessee. 128 WTP-trained members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, under the supervision of the EPA, are running the heavy equipment needed to remediate two rivers and hundreds of acres contaminated by over a billion gallons of toxic sludge. WTP is also providing assistance in the earthquake response in Haiti. NIEHS translated earthquake responder resources into native Creole and posted them on the web for sharing by response agencies, including DHHS, the Pentagon deployment office, the National Red Cross, CDC/NIOSH and OSHA as part of our role with the National Response Team (DHS/FEMA). These materials are available on NIEHS’ Haiti Earthquake Response page at: http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/index.cfm?id=2479 . The NIEHS Earthquake Response Training Tool: Protecting Yourself While Responding to Earthquakes  is an awareness-level health and safety resource for skilled support personnel who will participate in an earthquake response and cleanup. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a WTP awardee, has been involved in the initial deployment to Haiti of search and rescue teams from Los Angeles, California and Fairfax County, Virginia, including hazmat technicians. In addition to response training, prevention training is also a critical component of WTP. Through training in accident and "near miss" analysis, and in the proper storage, handling and transportation of hazardous materials, WTP awardees are in the forefront, working to prevent environmental hazards and protect individuals and communities.

 

Budget Policy:The FY 2011 budget estimate for WTP is $29.789 million, an increase of $929 thousand, or 3.2 percent over the FY 2010 estimate. During FY 2011, WTP will continue to support occupational safety and health training for workers who are or may be engaged in activities related to hazardous waste removal, containment or chemical emergency response. WTP will also fund comprehensive training to disadvantaged urban youth in order to prepare them for employment in the construction and environmental cleanup fields. WTP plans to continue its support of small businesses through its innovative SBIR e-learning for worker safety and health training program. WTP will also continue to pursue pre-deployment strategies and development of training materials on a number of issues of key national response concern.

Portrait of a Program: Ensuring Green Jobs are Safe Jobs

 

FY 2010 Level$0.500 million
FY 2011 Level$0.600 million
Change$0.100 million

 

During Fiscal Year 2010, WTP is undertaking a significant effort related to the safety and health training of workers involved in the newly emerging field of "green" remediation and deconstruction. This effort builds upon the lessons learned during a recent national WTP meeting entitled "Implications for Safety and Health Training in a Green Economy," where WTP partner agencies and grantees identified “green approaches” as a commonly held goal. Remediation of hazardous materials has always been a "green" issue - one whose successful achievement benefits individuals, communities, and the environment. WTP has found that many contaminated former industrial sites (Brownfields) can be reclaimed by following green principles of deconstruction, rather than simple demolition. During deconstruction, materials are separated, and often reused, thus greatly reducing the volume of contaminated materials. Compared to traditional clean-up methods, this new green approach, if safely done, holds the promise of lowering clean-up costs while providing additional opportunities for small businesses.

 

Recent insights from the field show some areas of concern: a new, younger workforce with less experience; health and safety trainers needing updated information; and older construction safety curricula that do not cover these new risks. In addition, it cannot be assumed that a strong safety culture exists throughout the industry; therefore, the WTP model of training, based on published criteria and strong evaluation components, can have a major impact in this field. This effort will be planned and implemented through the existing WTP awardee community and incorporated into training plans, curricula creation and revision, and train-the-trainer sessions.

 

Recovery Act Implementation

 

Recovery Act Funding: $19.297 million

 

In FY 2009, NIEHS Superfund received $19.3 million under the Recovery Act. Of this amount, $16.3 million was obligated in FY 2009 and $3.0 million will be obligated in FY 2010. These funds support research and training to improve health around hazardous waste sites. The SRP supplements are targeted to promote interdisciplinary research collaborations, especially those with clear impact on translation to improved health, such as adapting epidemiological software tools for use in public health practice and identifying populations at higher risk of environmental exposure. The WTP is providing supplements to support health and safety training for unemployed and underemployed workers hired for cleanup activities supported by other ARRA-funded projects and for new workers in the area of commercial and residential weatherization, alternative energy development, green remediation, green construction and other emerging industries. The benefits of the awards will also reach a much larger audience as on-line training tools funded by these supplements through the Small Business Innovative Research Program are completed, including an interactive safety and health tutorial for workers with green jobs doing solar panel installation.

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