Environmental Factor, September 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Superfund Grantee Honored by American Chemical Society
By Eddy Ball
Louisiana State University (LSU) chemist and Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) grantee Barry Dellinger, Ph.D., was one of three scientists who received the prestigious Astellas USA Foundation Award August 17 in Philadelphia at the Presidential Symposium of the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Dellinger was honored for his significant contributions to scientific research that improved public health through his studies in the chemical and related sciences.
As part of the award, which carries with it a check for $30,000, Dellinger was invited to present a lecture in translational chemistry at the national symposium. In his talk, he described his group's investigations into the mechanisms of formation of combustion-generated nanoparticles known as environmentally persistent free radicals (PFRs).
"We believe it is possible that some health effects attributed to molecular pollutants may actually be due to the PFRs," Dellinger said when he received the award, "and the concentration of PFRs may ultimately be shown to correlate with health effects of fine particles in epidemiologic studies."
PFRs are a by-product of any flame-producing chemical reaction, including coal and fuel power plants and burning wood. Because they are persistent, lasting for much longer than previously assumed, the microscopic PFRs are a threat to human heart and lung health and, under the right conditions, could cause health risks similar to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Dellinger's findings help explain why non-smokers, who make up nearly 15 percent of lung cancer cases, are also susceptible to the disease.
According to Dellinger, an estimated 50,000 Americans die annually from illness linked to PFRs. PFRs reside on fine particulate matter with a mass mean aerosol diameter of less than 2.5 microns, which allows them to evade the lung's filtering efforts, enter the blood stream and generate reactive oxygen species that can result in DNA strand breakage. Over time, this damage to DNA can result in the development of various cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Dellinger's findings grew out of a three-year SBRP grant, "Development of a Demonstrable Model of Dioxin Formation," administered by Center for Risk and Integrated Sciences Program Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D. Dellinger conducted research on the emissions from hazardous waste incinerators, especially the highly toxic dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/F), in order to better understand how the by-products of combustion, rather than toxic chemical itself, pose a risk to health.
During the week-long meeting, Dellinger also chaired an all-day session on the Health and Environmental Impacts of Combustion-Generated Nanoparticles that included several researchers supported by research centers funded as part of the Superfund Basic Research Program
Along with Dellinger, ACS also honored his colleague Isiah M. Warner, Ph.D., LSU Boyd Professor and Philip W. West Chair in Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, at the meeting. Warner was presented with the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Spectrochemical Analysis recognizing research that has advanced the field of spectrochemical analysis and optical spectrometry.
The Astellas Award is the latest of several honors Dellinger has received for his work. He is the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of Environmental Chemistry at LSU and has been recognized with the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation Certificate of Merit, the Wohleben-Hochwalt Research Award and the Environmental Protection Agency STAR (Science to Achieve Results) Award.