Superfund Research Program
UW SRP Co-Hosts Workshop on the Duwamish River Superfund Cleanup Proposal
The University of Washington (UW) Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH) filled the Allen Library Research Commons at UW with approximately 70 attendees for an educational workshop on EPA's Duwamish River Superfund Cleanup Proposal .
The meeting held April 29 included UW students and staff, a Duwamish tribal member, staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington State Department of Ecology, the City of Seattle (representing the Lower Duwamish Waterway LDW Group ), and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group .
Representatives from each group presented their perspectives on the EPA plans for cleanup of the Duwamish River. All participants were also encouraged to make a public comment by June 13. The comment period is the only chance for the public to speak up and influence the EPA’s Cleanup Plan.
In 2001, a 5.5 mile long stretch of the lower Duwamish River was declared a federal Superfund Site. According to the EPA Proposed Plan , more than 40 different toxicants contaminate the river, mostly in the river bottom sediment. The contaminants of highest concern are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and arsenic.
For more information about the workshop and the Duwamish Cleanup Proposal, visit the Ecogenetix website .
Dartmouth SRP Participates in Water Festival
More than 350 fourth grade students from Concord, N.H. elementary schools learned about potential arsenic contamination in drinking water thanks to the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core (CEC) and Research Translation Core (RTC), who built a display and interactive exhibit for the New Hampshire (NH) Department of Environmental Services Water Festival.
At Dartmouth’s booth, RTC Coordinator Laurie Rardin and CEC Coordinator Michael Paul explained to the children that according to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services , arsenic in New Hampshire occurs naturally in the bedrock and can be released into drinking water from private wells drilled into bedrock fractures. The students participated in interactive activities to show them how water doesn’t smell or look differently when contaminated with arsenic, but can still increase the risk of several types of cancer and create health problems such as neurological disorders when a person is exposed.
The Festival was held May 8 in honor of Drinking Water Awareness Week. At the event, students learned about water conservation, water testing, groundwater pollution and keeping water clean. The fourth graders could also participate in a water science fair.
To learn more about Dartmouth’s efforts to explain the risks associated with exposure to arsenic in private well water, visit the Dartmouth SRP website .
Maier Recognized as Leading Edge Researcher
University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Center Director Raina Maier, Ph.D., received a UA at the Leading Edge Recognition award for her work on the discovery and environmental applications of biosurfactants. She received the award at the 10th Annual Innovation Day on March 8, 2013, at UA, which celebrates technology development by highlighting innovative research achievements of students, faculty, and staff. The awards are designed to showcase emerging and important technologies likely to be commercialized in the future.
Through her foundational work on biosurfactant-metal interactions, funded by NIEHS through the UA SRP, Maier has discovered that rhamnolipid biosurfactants strongly and selectively bind to toxic metals and that rhamnolipids are effective in controlling zoosporic plant pathogens. The latter discovery is the subject of a licensed patent and a marketed product called Zonix BioFungicide. Maier envisions biosurfactants as green replacements for more toxic and less biodegradable synthetic surfactants currently on the market.
Visit Maier’s website to learn more about her biosurfactant research.
Superfund Research Highlighted in Nature Paper
An international collaboration led by Julian Schroeder, Ph.D., professor of biology and SRP grantee at the University of California (UC) – San Diego, has discovered important properties of plant transport proteins that, collectively, could have a profound effect on global agriculture.
One of Schroeder’s research advances led to the discovery of a sodium transporter that plays a key role in protecting plants from salt stress, which causes major crop losses in irrigated fields. The work of Dartmouth College SRP grantee Mary Lou Guerinot, Ph.D., also a collaborator, contributes to an understanding of how plants absorb and distribute metals, such as iron and arsenic.
In an article published May 2 in Nature , Schroeder and Guerinot along with 10 other scientists from Australia, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the U.S., describe how their discoveries could jointly be used to enhance sustainable food and fuel production.
The new discoveries of the 12 scientists clarify the way that plants transport important substances across their biological membranes to resist toxic metals and pests, increase salt and drought tolerance, control water loss, and store sugar can have profound implications for increasing the supply of food and energy for our rapidly growing global population.
“More fundamental knowledge and basic discovery research is needed and would enable us to further and fully exploit these advances and pursue new promising avenues of plant improvement in light of food and energy demands and the need for sustainable yield gains,” said Schroeder.
A press release about the collaborative paper is available through the UC San Diego website.
OSU Hosts Oregon Congressional Representative
On April 19, Oregon 1st District Congressional Representative Suzanne Bonamici visited Oregon State University (OSU) to learn more about its Superfund Research Program (SRP) research.
OSU SRP project leader Robert Tanguay, Ph.D., gave Bonamici and two of her staff a tour of the Sinnhuber Aquatic Resource Laboratory (SARL) zebrafish facility. At SARL, OSU SRP scientists evaluate biological interactions and responses to environmental chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and nanoparticles using rapid throughput approaches. Researchers then seek to understand the mechanisms by which these exposures produce biological responses, with an emphasis on mechanisms of developmental toxicity.
Dave Williams, Ph.D., OSU SRP Program Director, also attended the tour and discussed the national NIEHS SRP program as a whole with Bonamici.
“Bonamici was interested in learning more about the Oregon State University Superfund Center partially because we have a focus on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and the Portland Harbor Superfund site,” said Tanguay. “She was fascinated to learn how we use innovative high throughput approaches in zebrafish to begin to understand all of the chemicals in the environment. She was also particularly interested in how we translate our basic science data to the public and to policy makers.”
For more information about Tanguay’s research and the SARL facility, visit the OSU SRP website
UK Research Award Recognizes Bhattacharyya
Congratulations to University of Kentucky (UK) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., who is one of seven winners of the inaugural UK Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. He was honored at the Faculty Awards Reception April 22, 2013 at the UK College of Engineering. The award recognizes and rewards outstanding research accomplishments of lasting impact on engineering and computer science at UK.
A Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Bhattacharyya is the Alumni Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-founder of the Center for Membrane Sciences at UK, where he produces outstanding, internationally recognized research achievements.
In recent work, Bhattacharyya extended his fundamental membrane research to develop new functionalized membranes and nanostructured materials for enzyme catalysis, ultra-high capacity metal capture, and other environmental and bio-based applications. Bhattacharyya has also been a pioneer in the application of green synthesis techniques for membrane functionalization, leading to new membrane supports for a range of water remediation applications.
For more information about the award and Bhattacharyya’s accomplishments, visit the UK College of Engineering website .
Folt named chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill
Carol Folt, Ph.D., interim president of Dartmouth College and member of the NIEHS-funded Dartmouth Superfund Research Program, was elected the 11th chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) on April 12, 2013. Folt, who will assume her new role July 1, will be the first woman to lead UNC.
“Over the past three decades, Carol Folt has accumulated a wealth of academic and leadership experience at one of the top-10 universities in America,” said Tom Ross, President of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system. “At each step along the way, she has proven herself to be an engaged and effective leader who promotes openness and collaboration, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving, and an unwavering commitment to academic excellence and student success.”
A faculty member at Dartmouth since 1983, Folt was named provost in May 2010 and later appointed Dartmouth’s interim president in July 2012. An internationally recognized environmental scientist and award-winning teacher, she has served the college in a series of senior academic and administrative roles since 2001.
A press release about Folt’s appointment is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill website.
Potential Therapy for Stopping Cardiac Fibrosis Discovered
A unique therapy for preventing or reducing harmful cardiac scar tissue, a common development in people following a heart attack, may result from a new finding by NIEHS-supported researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Their study of laboratory mice shows that blocking soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH), an enzyme that promotes inflammation, can prevent cardiac fibrosis, a scarring tissue damage that often leads to heart failure.
A combined 11-scientist team determined that treatment with a potent sEH inhibitor results in significant improvement in cardiac function. They also determined the molecular mechanisms underlying this beneficial effect after a heart attack. The scientists were led by Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., who directs the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, and Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, M.D., a professor of cardiovascular medicine at UC Davis.
In the study, mice receiving sEH inhibitors showed significant decreases in adverse cardiac muscle remodeling, or enlargement, following a heart attack. Their overall cardiac function also improved. Additional tests performed in Hammock’s lab indicated significantly reduced levels of inflammatory factors in the mice. The research team hopes to next test the sEH inhibitor on another animal model as a precursor to conducting human clinical trials.
"Cardiac fibrosis is a common final pathway for many cardiac diseases and heart failure that has been difficult to treat in the clinic,” said Javier E. López , M.D., a cardiovascular medicine professor at UC Davis and part of the research team. “This study shines some light on to this pathway and offers perhaps a new therapeutic target that may expand available treatments for these patients in the future."
For more information, visit the UC Davis news page .
Indiana Harbor and Canal Dredging Project Begins, Iowa SRP Collecting Data
Researchers at the Iowa University Superfund Research Program (Iowa SRP) are measuring polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the air in the communities around the Indian Harbor and Canal Dredging Project to determine if the project poses any health risks for nearby residents.
PCBs can enter the air during the process of removing contaminated sediment from the canal bottom and then storing it above ground. Because of this threat, Iowa SRP researchers are conducting the Airborne Exposures to Persistent Organic Pollutants (AESOP) study to assess exposures to atmospheric PCBs. They are collecting and comparing samples of air for PCB concentrations before and during dredging operations. They will also analyze samples of blood for PCB metabolites from children and their mothers who live in the affected community.
Unfortunately, according to a 2010 Iowa SRP study , the area is already contaminated with legacy pollutants including PCB contamination from intense past industrial activity, and this dredging project has the potential to increase PCB exposures in the community.
In anticipation of the dredging project, the researchers collected many air samples inside and outside homes and local schools. They also took annual blood samples. These samples and the resulting analysis of environmental exposures will be compared to people living in a low-exposure area of rural Iowa. Now that the dredging has begun, Iowa SRP researchers continue to collect data.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the dredging operation to create a deeper canal for ships. The project will place 3.5 million cubic meters of sediment contaminated with PCBs into a confined disposal facility a half a mile from the East Chicago Junior High and High Schools.
UNC SRP trainee receives the Syngenta Fellowship Award at 2013 Society of Toxicology Meeting
University of North Carolina Superfund Research Program (UNC SRP) grantee Julia Rager, Ph.D., received the prestigious Syngenta Fellowship Award in Human Health Applications of New Technologies at the 2013 Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Rager is a former doctoral student and now postdoctoral researcher with UNC SRP investigator Rebecca Fry, Ph.D. She received the award for her project, "Elucidating the Relationship between Exposure-Induced DNA Damage and Dysregulated MicroRNAs."
The Syngenta Fellowship Award is intended for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees to support mode-of-action research aimed at better understanding the dose-dependent effects of chemicals on humans. Rager's past research has investigated the link between formaldehyde and microRNAs in human lung epithelial cells and non-human primate nasal epithelium. Her most recent work on formaldehyde was published in the March 2013 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives .
Using Plants as Tools for Environmental Clean-Up
In consideration of climate change conditions and the need to conserve water and other ecosystem services, demand for affordable and robust phytotechnology solutions to reduce exposures will increase in the future. As such, practitioners of phytotechnologies are well positioned to use technology-driven plant science to effectively address the environmental exposure prevention needs faced globally.
Advances in phytotechnology reserch and application are featured in the article Phytotechnologies – Preventing Exposures, Improving Public Health in the International Journal of Phytoremediation (Volume 15, Issue 9). Various phytotechnologies are presented to illustrate how plants can help meet basic public health needs for access to clean water, air, and food. Because these plant-based technologies often have minimal cost and low infrastructure needs, communities can use them to minimize potential contaminant exposure and improve environmental quality.
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., collaborated with SRP Director William Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H., University of Arizona SRP Director Raina Maier, Ph.D., University of Iowa SRP grantee Jerald Schnoor, Ph.D., former SRP grantees Lee Newman, Ph.D., and Joel Burken, Ph.D., and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency engineer Steve Rock to develop the paper.
Brown SRP Scientists Partner with ATSDR to Discuss Nanomaterial Design
To present nanomaterial research and foster collaboration between Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) scientists, Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees Robert Hurt, Ph.D., and James Rice, Ph.D., spent Feb. 27, 2013 at ATSDR in Atlanta.
Hurt presented his NIEHS-funded nanomaterial research to an audience of ATSDR and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees as an invited speaker in a joint SRP and ATSDR seminar and networking series. Hurt discussed both the applications and implications of nanotechnology for environmental health, one of the themes of Brown SRP and the main focus of his project and collaborative work with Brown SRP grantee Agnes Kane, Ph.D.
“It is interesting to merge the two topics because one sees the risk-benefit tradeoffs quite clearly,” said Hurt. “It also opens up the possibility to design technologies for safety up front by considering risks at the early stage of development.”
Rice, the State Agencies Liaison in the Brown SRP Research Translation Core, joined in for a networking lunch and discussion sessions with ATSDR staff as well as some EPA employees. Rice and Hurt delved into their research ideas, answered general questions about their work, and learned about current research needs from ATSDR staff.
“Based on the feedback by ATSDR staff, the visit assured us that what we are doing at Brown SRP is valuable and relevant,” said Rice. “ATSDR and EPA employees also gave us some ideas that will help us formulate new research moving forward.”
Superfund Pollutants and Reproductive Health Discussion Features SRP Grantees
Early-life exposure to several common pollutants in our food, drinking water, and household products have been associated with neurotoxic effects and other health outcomes, according to NIEHS-funded Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees on a recent Reproductive Health Working Group Call . The call was hosted by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) and the Boston University SRP.
Susan Korrick, M.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) SRP, discussed prenatal polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and mercury exposure from consumption of fish and subsequent neurobehavioral development. Korrick and her team, with funding from SRP and other NIEHS grants, found that an increase in ADHD-associated behaviors was linked with prenatal PCB and prenatal mercury exposure. Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D., from the Boston University SRP, discussed her study that reported an association between early life exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) from contaminated drinking water, and risky behaviors as a teen or adult.
Chemicals in many common household products amplify the activity of hormones in the body and act as endocrine disruptors, according to Bill Lasley , Ph.D., SRP grantee at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis), who also presented during the call. Lasley’s group is working to identify the mechanism of action and effect of parabens , such as triclocarban , as endocrine disruptors.
CHE is an international partnership committed to strengthening scientific and public dialogue on environmental factors linked to disease and disability. Madeleine Scammell, D.Sc., the Boston SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) leader and co-host on the call, worked to form the partnership with CHE and participate in the reproductive health working group to improve application of SRP findings and consolidate resources.
“That call was the first time I heard SRP grantees from three different programs talking specifically about their research on reproductive health,” said Scammell. “I think the working groups established by CHE may provide nice frameworks for learning about and fostering cross-SRP Center collaboration.”
Suk Honored for Leadership by Society of Toxicology
The Society of Toxicology (SOT) has selected NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., to receive its 2013 Founders Award . SOT will present Suk with a plaque and a stipend at a ceremony March 10 during its 52nd annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
Suk has served as SRP director since the program’s inception in 1987. He has led the development of comprehensive research, remediation, education, translation, and outreach efforts, to prevent disease and illness related to exposure to toxic substances. The program has nurtured productive relationships with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees hazardous waste cleanup at Superfund sites, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which shares the SRP public health mission.
Midwest Legislators Convene at NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Summit
Environmental health topics ranging from indoor air pollution in schools to the health effects of hydrofracturing for natural gas were the subjects of a workshop in January 2013, which was co-hosted by the NIEHS-funded University of Iowa Superfund Research Program (SRP). The purpose of the Midwest Environmental Health Summit, was to inform state legislators of environmental health issues in the Midwest. More than 20 legislators and a number of legislative staff attended the summit in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Iowa SRP worked with the NIEHS-funded Iowa Environmental Health Science Center, along with the National Conferences of State Legislators and the American Lung Association, to organize and support the successful two-day workshop. Sessions included information on airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are the Iowa SRP’s main research focus, radon, biofuels, agriculture, and hydrofracturing.
David Osterberg, Iowa SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) leader and former Iowa State legislator, helped organize the summit and spoke during a working lunch session about translating research into information that policy makers can use.
The legislative workshop in the Midwest was the fourth of its kind convened by the Iowa SRP RTC since 2007.
“State senators and representatives in the Midwest region are generally part-time and understaffed,” said Osterberg. “Our legislative workshops are designed to bring elected officials unbiased, current environmental health information to inform decisions.”
NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum Visits Northeastern SRP Partner in Puerto Rico
On February 4, 2013, NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., visited the University of Puerto Rico Medical Campus (UPRMC) to discuss the importance of transdisciplinary research in the environmental health sciences. Braulio Jimenez, Ph.D., an investigator in the Northeastern University Superfund Research Program (SRP) human subjects and sampling core, located at UPRMC, coordinated the talk.
During Birnbaum’s visit, she gave a lecture entitled “Future Research at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,” where she discussed the Northeastern SRP Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) program. The PROTECT program, supported with NIEHS SRP funding, studies exposure to environmental contamination in Puerto Rico and its contribution to preterm birth.
Birnbaum highlighted the PROTECT program as an excellent example of transdisciplinary research that not only identifies treatments but also works to understand and communicate preventative measures. Birnbaum also focused on the need to better understand the interaction between chemical and physical environmental factors and the potential synergistic effects individuals are subject to a number of exposures.
Birnbaum previously highlighted PROTECT program research in a February 2011 Statement for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ Hearing on Drinking Water Contaminants .
For more information about the Northeastern SRP and Birnbaum’s talk, visit the PROTECT website .
LSU and OSU Co-host Workshop to Improve Post-Disaster Communication
The Louisiana State University (LSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Programs (SRP) co-hosted “Response, Recovery, and Resilience to Oil Spills and Environmental Disasters: Engaging Experts and Communities,” a symposium and workshop for community stakeholders, researchers, and policy makers. The purpose of the workshop was to enhance communication between experts and citizens, encouraging better monitoring and sharing of information concerning local environmental conditions following disasters.
The symposium and workshop took place at LSU and was open to members of community and student environmental groups, state and federal regulatory agencies, and academic researchers and educators at no charge.
The morning session featured leaders of environmental groups including the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, researchers from LSU and OSU, and officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Speakers discussed their work in the aftermath of recent environmental events.
In the afternoon, attendees participated in group discussions on response and characterizing exposure, recovery and the role of “citizen scientists,” and resilience and community participation.
To learn more about the meeting, please visit the OSU SRP website
Obama names Christiani to National Cancer Advisory Board
President Obama named Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee, David Christiani, M.D., to the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) in December. The NCAB advises and assists the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) about the national cancer program. By law, the NCAB must review and approve grants before they can be awarded by the NCI.
Christiani is the Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics at HSPH, a position he has held since 2009. He co-leads two HSPH SRP projects on the epidemiology of developmental windows, metal mixtures, and neurodevelopment (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=P42ES164540101&FY=2012) and genetic epidemiology of neurodevelopment metal toxicity (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=P42ES164540102&FY=2012) . Christiani has also been a physician at the Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital since 2000, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School since 1996.
The Board will consist of 18 members appointed by the President and 12 nonvoting ex officio members.
The announcement was released in an official White House press release .
Chen Attends International Global Mercury Meeting
Celia Chen, Ph.D., Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) researcher and Research Translation Core leader, attended the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland in January of 2013. The purpose of this meeting, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), was to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury ( INC5 ).
Chen attended the negotiations on the mercury treaty representing Dartmouth College and the Coastal and Marine Mercury Ecosystem Research Collaborative (C-MERC) , a group sponsored by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program. C-MERC focuses on identifying key processes related to the inputs, cycling, and uptake of mercury in marine ecosystems and the pathways to human exposure.
As a member of the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership, Chen observed the international process of negotiation and attended contact group meetings where articles of the Treaty on mercury emissions and releases as well as mercury products and processes were reviewed and modified line by line.
Chen also distributed 300 copies of a report recently released by C-MERC, Sources to Seafood: Mercury Pollution in the Marine Environment , which reviews the pathways of mercury pollution leading to seafood across marine systems.
Chen sees this research translation as a crucial role that scientists must play in policy-making forums. “We need to take what we know about the science and put it in a language that is accessible to policy makers,” said Chen.
Chen also displayed a C-MERC poster during the meeting and collaborated with Noelle Selin, Ph.D., of MIT and her graduate students who assisted with the distribution of the C-MERC report and communicated its key message to attendees.
For more information about Chen and C-MERC, visit the Dartmouth SRP website .
Iowa SRP Research Featured in News Story
University of Iowa Superfund Research Program (SRP) Investigator Keri Hornbuckle, Ph.D., was highlighted in the Environmental Health News article, "Dredging could unleash PCBs in Indiana community" , for her work on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in water sediments and their release into air, resulting in human exposure. Hornbuckle discusses how dredging of a highly contaminated canal along the shore of Lake Michigan, that has already begun, could release harmful levels of PCBs into an Indiana community.
To dig a deeper canal for ships, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is removing large volumes of contaminated sediment – equivalent to about 160 million truckloads – from the Indiana Harbor and Canal.
In a $180-million project that will take 8 to 10 years, the Army Corps will be removing 1.6 million cubic yards of sediment from several feet below the surface, where PCB concentrations are up to six times higher than surface sediments, according to 2011 study a led by Hornbuckle.
Widely used as electrical insulators and industrial lubricants, PCBs have been linked to many health effects, including cancer, reduced IQs in children and asthma.
A new, as-yet unpublished study from Hornbuckle’s group has also found that indoor air in East Chicago, Indiana already has PCB levels about three times higher than its outdoor air.
“If the underlying sediment is twice as concentrated with PCBs as the surface sediment they’re getting rid of, then it’s likely the airborne levels will double” in East Chicago, Hornbuckle said.
The potential for additional PCBs from the dredging could add to a heavy pollution burden already faced by East Chicago’s 29,764 residents, who are 92 percent Hispanic and African American, according to U.S. Census data. Thirty-six percent of its households have incomes under the poverty level, more than three times higher than Indiana’s poverty rate. The region, Lake County, has the state’s highest hospitalization rate for asthma, according to the Indiana Department of Community Health.
Rusyn Chairs WHO Subgroup to Assess Mechanistic Evidence of TCE Carcinogenicity
Trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical that was often used as a degreaser and in dry cleaning, has been reclassified from a cancer "hazard" to "carcinogenic to humans" during an evaluation by 18 international scientists, including University of North Carolina (UNC) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee, Ivan Rusyn, M.D., Ph.D.
Rusyn chaired a subgroup of scientists who focused on mechanistic evidence used to evaluate this change in classification. Mechanistic data results from or is related to a process that involves physical, rather than biological or chemical change.
The scientists convened at the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France. During an eight-day meeting in October 2012, the group evaluated evidence and reached conclusions about the potential of several chlorinated solvents, including TCE, to cause cancer in humans.
"TCE was widely used for degreasing metal parts and in dry cleaning and is still used in chlorinated chemical production," said Rusyn. "It is one of the most pervasive environmental contaminants and, despite numerous studies over the past 50 years, the conclusion that it is a 'known human carcinogen' has only just been reached."
To learn more, visit the UNC news page .
SRP Trainee Wins ACS 2013 Graduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry
Congratulations to Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) trainee Oleksii Motorykin on winning the American Chemical Society (ACS) 2013 Graduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry. Motorykin is a graduate student with Staci Simonich, Ph.D., who leads an OSU SRP project to understand the composition, exposure, and mutagenicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in highly exposed populations.
As part of his graduate research project with Simonich, Motorykin investigated the relationship between lung cancer mortality rates, carcinogenic PAH emissions, and smoking on a global scale. He also assessed the contribution of carcinogenic PAH emissions to lung cancer mortality rates for countries with different socioeconomic groupings.
Motorykin found a positive association between lung cancer deaths and PAH emissions, independent of smoking prevalence, for high income and for the combination of upper middle and high socioeconomic country groups. This study is the first to link PAH emissions with lung cancer on a global scale and shows the need to take air pollution into account when assessing lung cancer risks.
The ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry sponsors up to 25 annual awards to full-time graduate students currently enrolled in a United States educational institution in chemistry, environmental engineering, or other programs emphasizing environmental chemistry. The award is based upon students’ records in course work, evidence of research productivity and on statements from graduate faculty advisers.
For more information about Simonich’s research group, visit the OSU SRP website .
Duke Researcher Uncovers Widespread Use of Flame Retardants in U.S. Couches
Duke University Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., led a team of researchers to test polyurethane foam from residential U.S. couches to identify the type and amount of flame retardants they contained. Theinvestigation revealed that 85% of the 102 couches tested contained flame retardants, one of which – tris(1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate (TDCPP) – is a suspected human carcinogen.
Although flame retardants are widely used to meet the California flammability standard, it is often difficult to determine which are present in a product because of the proprietary nature of some flame retardant manufacturers and the lack of a labeling requirement. This lack of clarity makes research into sources of human exposure complicated.
To address this knowledge gap, the team examined 102 polyurethane foam samples from couches purchased between 1985 and 2010 submitted from volunteers across the United States.
TDCPP was the most frequently detected flame retardant, present in over 40% of all the samples and in 52% of the couches purchased in 2005 or later. The flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (PentaBDE), which was phased out in 2005 due to its potential to negatively affect thyroid hormone regulation and neurodevelopment, was detected in 39% of the couches purchased before 2005. The samples from couches purchased between 2005 and 2010 had a larger variety and concentration of flame retardants.
The results of this study point toward the need for more health studies of these flame retardants.
The research team’s study was published in Environmental Science & Technology on November 28, 2012.