Superfund Research Program
SRP Researcher Weighs in on Trendy Hair Treatment
UC-Berkeley SRP Program Director Martyn Smith provided comments for a recent Los Angeles Times story about the safety of Brazilian Blowouts, a trendy hair treatment gaining popularity in cities across the country. A proprietary chemical solution used in the treatment is the target of investigation by Occupational Health and Safety departments, which claim that it contains high levels of formaldehyde.
The treatment involves the application of the solution in question to damp, clean hair. The hair is then dried and the process finished with a flat-iron heated to 450 degrees F. Laboratory tests show that the solution contains between 6.3% and 10.6% formaldehyde, up to 100 times the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration's 0.1% "safe" limit. In addition, the bottles containing the solution is marked "formaldehyde free" and "salon safe", leading to claims of false advertising on the part of the manufacturer. The manufacturer contests the veracity of these claims and maintains that the product is safe and correctly labeled.
The treatment is illegal in Europe and Australia, and was banned in Canada in October. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who spoke at this year's Annual Meeting, has asked the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter in this country.
William Glaze featured in Tribute Edition of ES&T
Dr. William (Bill) Glaze is featured in a tribute edition of Environmental Science and Technology(ES&T). Glaze, a friend of the Superfund Research Program, served on the External Advisory Panel in 2003 and has supported Program in other advisory roles over the years.
Dr. Glaze served as the Editor-in-Chief of ES&T from 1988-2002. His research included work on the fate of organic compounds in the environment, the use of ozone and other oxidation techniques for the treatment of drinking water, and other areas of sustainable development, energy, and green chemistry. Several Superfund Research Program Centers contributed articles to the special edition
To read the articles, visit the ES&T webpage .
SRP Researchers Featured in Science
Drs. Stephen Rappaport and Martyn Smith, from the University of California-Berkeley Superfund Research Program, published a perspective in the October 22, 2010 edition of Science magazine. The article, entitled "Environment and Disease Risks", asserts that a more complete picture of environmental exposure is needed in order to help epidemiologists discover the major causes of chronic diseases.
To read the entire article, visit the Science magazine website.
SRP Workshop Yields Two Special Issues of Academic Journals
A 2008 Superfund Research Program-funded (SRP) workshop has yielded special issues of Environmental Science and Technology and Environment International. The workshop, "New Knowledge Gained from Old Pollutants", provided scientists from around the world with the opportunity to meet and discuss the physical, chemical, and biomedical aspects of the detection, movement, metabolism, toxicity, remediation, and risk assessment of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The November 2010 edition of Environment International (Vol. 36, Issue 8) contains seventeen articles, as well as introductory and state of the science articles. Environmental Science and Technology released a Special Focus issue earlier this year, PCB Sources, Exposures, and Toxicities (Vol. 44, Issue 8). It has twenty papers, guest commentary, and summary articles. Summaries and abstracts from the workshop are available on the SRP website (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/events/index.cfm?id=303) .
SRP Researchers featured on NPR story
SRP researchers Ann Aschengrau (Boston) and Phil Brown (Brown) were featured in a September 28 story on Cape Cod, Mass., National Public Radio affiliate WCAI. The story discusses the origins of heightened incidence of certain cancers in the Cape, compared to both around the state and across the nation. In the story, Dr. Aschengrau discusses her epidemiological work, which has linked exposure to perchloroethyene (PCE) in area drinking water in the 1960s and '70s to an increased incidence in breast cancer. Dr. Brown then discusses community engagement and his work with historic urban communities to reduce their exposures to both new and residual environmental contaminants.
If you'd like to listen to the story and the additional extended interview of Dr. Aschengrau, visit the Boston University SRP webpage .
UCSD Researcher Michael Karin Receives Harvey Prize
Michael Karin, University of California-San Diego (UCSD) SRP, has been awarded the 2010 Harvey Prize in human health by the Technion, Israel's premier institute of technology.
The prize honors Karin's seminal research linking obesity, environmental toxicant exposure, inflammation and cancer. Specifically, judges noted Karin s "pioneering contributions" to the deciphering of the molecular mechanism used by mammalian cells to react to cytokines (proteins that cause inflammation), to adverse environmental conditions and to various pathogens. "These discoveries," the judges said, have "led to the identification of new target proteins that have recently been used to develop new medications for preventing and treating various malignant tumors."\
The Harvey Prize has been awarded annually since 1972 to recipients in human health, science and technology, and for contributions to peace in the Middle East. It is named after Leo M. Harvey, an American industrialist who established the prize fund. To date, 13 Harvey Prize recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.
University of Arizona Receives Grant from National Science Foundation
SRP Program staff would like to congratulate University of Arizona Superfund Research Program researchers who were awarded a three- year grant from National Science Foundation. Dr. Katerina Dontsova is leading the team, which includes SRP researchers Jon Chorover, Raina Maier and Travis Huxman.
The grant, entitled "Plant-microbe-mineral interaction as a driver for rock weathering and chemical denudation", will help researchers understand how plants, bacteria, and fungi with abiotic forcings to support the weathering of key minerals and the early formation of soil. Researchers will use techniques developed from other SRP research on the effects of plant growth on mine tailings geochemistry to look at the role of biological weathering in the alteration of the earth's near surface.
For more information about University of Arizona's grant visit their webpage.
UC Davis Hosts Another Successful Entrepreneurship Academy
The Superfund Research Program helped sponsor the 2010 Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy that the University of California- Davis (UC Davis) Center for Entrepreneurship hosted on June 28-July 2. The Academy received 50 scientists, researchers and engineers from more than 20 universities who came together for a week of workshops and a series of seminars on how to launch a successful green-tech company. Each participant came to the academy with an elevator pitch for their potential company.
The academy was taught by entrepreneurs, university faculty, property officers, industry sponsors and investors from across the country that serve as mentors, providing participants with the information and networks needed to take the next steps toward commercialization. Participants learned to evaluate the marketing, business, and technical aspects of their ideas.
For more information on the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship visit their webpage .
SRP Researchers Use Gulf Oil Spill for Risk Assessment Research
As part of the scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. Kim Anderson of the Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) is sampling polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the air and water in the Gulf of Mexico. She is using passive sampler devices (PSDs) in the Gulf to determine the bioavailable fraction of the contaminants before, during, and after the spill. Results of this sampling campaign will be used to link environmental exposures to biological responses in the environment and reduce uncertainties found in risk assessments of these disasters.
As an addition to their monitoring project, OSU has produced a short film that introduces their work. The film shows the research team deploying the sampling devices at four field sites in the Gulf of Mexico. You can view the film at the OSU webpage . You can also read more about the work OSU is doing by visiting the OSU Superfund Research Program webpage .
Columbia University SRP Shows Arsenic Exposure Increases Risk of Death
According to a new study, 35-77 million Bangladeshis may face a higher risk of death from chronic exposure to arsenic in their drinking water. The Columbia University SRP, led by Habibul Ahsan, published this finding June 19 online in The Lancet . They report that in their six-year cohort study, nearly 21 percent of deaths from all causes and 24 percent of deaths linked to chronic disease could be attributed in part to drinking arsenic-contaminated water.
The drinking water contamination problem began in Bangladesh in the 1970's, when aid organizations dug millions of hand-pump wells in an effort to provide clean, pathogen-free drinking water to the residents. What they didn't know at the time is that the water was contaminated with elevated levels of naturally-occurring arsenic (see BBC story .) According to UNICEF (288KB) , the arsenic wasn't detected until the early 1990's. The World Health Organization calls this situation "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history."
In addition to its successful efforts to raise awareness of arsenic exposure in the region, Columbia University has also made great strides in reducing arsenic exposure in their study population. In a talk last year at Duke University, Joseph Graziano described some of the program's remediation efforts in the region. Also, the cohort has recently been expanded from 12,000 to 20,000 for examining rarer health outcomes. Finally, one of Dr. Ahsan's newly established projects is to evaluate nutritional interventions to minimize health impacts of arsenic.
Carol Folt Appointed Provost of Dartmouth
Dr. Carol Folt (Dartmouth SRP) was named Provost of Dartmouth College on May 5th, 2010. In his announcement, Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim said, "Carol is an internationally recognized scientist, an outstanding educator, and an astute administrator." In her role, she will oversee the academic integrity, educational and research programs of the College, and will play a crucial role in the development of Dartmouth's next strategic plan. Carol has been part of the Dartmouth SRP since it started in 1995.
SRP Program Staff wishes to offer the warmest congratulations to Dr. Folt. To read the entire press release, visit the Dartmouth College website .
Brown Research Translation Core Holds Two Successful Seminars
The Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Research Translation Cores (RTC) conducted two very successful seminars during the last week of March.
On March 30th, the RTC conducted a professional development event with the Rhode Island Bar Association entitled "Environmental Health and Chemical Exposures: Law and Science." Over 80 attorneys attended the event, which included presentations from Dr. Kim Boekelheide and a prominent local attorney, Jonathan Orent. Feedback from the event included several comments of appreciation for the inclusion of science information and several requested that more scientific information be included in the future.
Brown SRP RTC also hosted a two-day seminar for journalists on March 31st and April 1st, in collaboration with the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting. Boekelheide was substantially involved in this event, as well. He gave a presentation, conducted lab tours, and participated in a case study discussion on bisphenol A (BPA). Other SRP researchers were involved as well: Drs. Mary Hixon (Brown University) and Wendy Heiger-Bernays (Boston University).
The discussions involving science, reporting, and policy were engaging and produced a thought-provoking dialogue.
Thanks to Brown University SRP for hosting these two successful events! To learn more about events happening at Brown, visit the Brown University SRP Events Page .
SRP Welcomes New and Returning Grantees
The Superfund Research Program (SRP) Program Staff are excited to welcome two new grantees into the P42 family. Harvard School of Public Health is returning after a four-year absence with a new program, "Superfund Metal Mixtures, Biomarkers and Neurodevelopment." They will investigate environmental metals in water and soil, and conduct biological research on metals and their mixtures in children. They will also conduct site characterizations and measure genetic susceptibility to these toxins.
Northeastern University is the other new grantee this year. Their project, "Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PRoTECT)," seeks to define the relationship between exposure to Superfund and related contaminants and preterm birth, and to develop new technology for the discovery, transport characterization, and green remediation of these contaminants in karstic aquifers.
Program Staff would also like to welcome back the University of Iowa, the University of Arizona, and the University of California-Davis, who were all re-funded during this application round.
Karin's Research on the Cover of Science!
Michael Karin's (UC-San Diego SRP) latest article, "Sestrin as a Feedback Inhibitor of TOR That Prevents Age-Related Pathologies", was featured on the cover of the March 5th edition of Science magazine. Karin's research group identified the protein Sestrin in fruit flies, which serves as a natural inhibitor of aging and age-related pathologies. The protein is also found in humans and may serve a similar function. You can read the entire article at the Science magazine website .
NIEHS Director References SRP Research in Congressional Testimony
NIEHS Director Dr. Linda Birnbaum acknowledged the research being done at the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program in a testimony to Congress last month. The testimony, delivered to the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, was to educate committee members about the research NIEHS is doing to learn about endocrine-disrupting chemicals in drinking water and the risks they pose to human health and the environment.
Birnbaum had this to say about Dartmouth's research: "An NIEHS-funded group at the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program discovered that arsenic can act as a potent endocrine disruptor. They have shown that arsenic profoundly affects the function of five steroid hormone receptors, as well as the function of related nuclear receptors for thyroid hormone and retinoic acid...They have also shown that arsenic has a significant effect on the ability of an activated hormone receptor to regulate gene expression, and that low level drinking water arsenic has strong, tissue-specific effects on expression of genes and proteins involved in the innate immune response in mouse lung. They found that mice that were exposed to 100 ppb arsenic in drinking water had a significantly compromised response to H1N1 influenza infection."
Dr. Birnbaum's full testimony is available as a PDF from the House of Representatives.
Dartmouth Film Shows Risks of Arsenic in Drinking Water, Outlines Simple Solutions
The Dartmouth SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) premiered their film, "In Small Doses: Arsenic", to an audience of 40 stakeholders, including industry officials and state legislators, on February 11 in Concord, N.H. The film seeks to encourage owners of private wells to check the levels of arsenic in their drinking water.
Approximately 40% of the state is serviced by private wells, which are not subject to mandatory arsenic tests. At the time of the screening, a bill was under consideration that would make well testing mandatory throughout the state. Though the bill did not pass through committee, those in attendance were energized and dedicated to working with state legislators to enact testing laws.
"We have been working with our state and regional partners on this issue for more than a decade,"; says Bruce Stanton, Ph.D., Program Director of the Dartmouth SRP. "We are all concerned that it's 2010 and still most private well owners are not testing, in spite of concrete evidence that wells in New Hampshire contain potentially high and harmful levels of arsenic if ingested over long periods of time."
You can see Dartmouth's video at Youtube .
UC-Berkeley SRP Researcher Elected to National Academy of Engineering
Prof. Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, researcher with the University of California-Berkeley Superfund Research Program and Chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Academy membership honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to research, practice, or education or have made major advancements in the field. Dr. Alvarez-Cohen was elected as a member for her "discovery and application of novel microorganisms and biochemical pathways for microbial degradation of environmental contaminants." Alvarez-Cohen's work in the UC-Berkeley SRP involves genome-enabled approaches to environmental microbiology, such as application of expression microarrays and meta-omics analyses in order to improve bioremediation of Superfund contaminants
Tackling Triclosan: Congressman Calls for Review
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is calling on the EPA to consider more stringent regulations on triclosan (TCS) and triclocarbon (TCC), antimicrobial ingredients found in myriad personal care and cleaning products. The latest research, including work from the University of California-Davis SRP and University of Arizona SRP, has demonstrated the chemicals' biopersistance and bioaccumulation in aquatic species, and indicates that TCC and TCS may also indirectly act as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
Last year, the agency generally approved uses of TCC and TCS under pesticide law, but Markey advocates that there may be a "strong basis" justifying testing and regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Most uses of the chemicals were re-approved in a 2008 review. However, due to the significant research and available data, the next review of the chemicals will be held in 2013, a full ten years ahead of schedule.
Arizona Researchers Assist Government in Emissions Education
University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (SRP) has been asked to serve as the "go to" experts for educating the public about a recent set of dust emission violations by the ASARCO Mission Complex Mine Tailings which are just south of Tucson in the community of Sahaurita, AZ.
Pima County Dept. of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) requested Eric Betterton and Raina Maier to attend an emergency meeting on Jan. 22 to discuss the dust violations and what could be done about the violations in short and long term measures. PDEQ also requested Maier to attend a community meeting on Jan. 29 to help explain to the residents what they were exposed to. Monica Ramirez attended the community meeting and provided informational brochures "What are Mine Tailings?" and "Risk Assessment" to the meeting attendees. PDEQ has posted one of the University of Arizona SRP Mine Tailings review articles on their website for the general public.
According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 9 assessment of state data, there are approximately 420,000 abandoned mines in the states of California, Arizona and Nevada. University of Arizona SRP research is investigating easy, low-cost ways to revegetate mine tailings to reduce both wind dispersion and water erosion.
Hornbuckle Kicks off 2010 ATSDR Seminar Series
Dr. Keri Hornbuckle spoke in Atlanta last week at the offices of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Her presentation, "Industrial Chemicals in Urban Environments: Airborne PCBs and their Sources," was shared with over 50 ATSDR staff members, nine EPA Region 4 staff members, and additional participants who joined in via the web. Hornbuckle then spent the afternoon meeting with individual ATSDR staff members to discuss technical aspects of her presentation and explore options for collaboration on future work. Several more seminars are planned throughout the remainder of the year.Visit the ATSDR Seminar Series Information page or the SRP Events page for details.
UK SRP Researcher Bhattacharyya Recieives Gerhold Award
University of Kentucky SRP researcher Dibakar (D.B.) Bhattacharyya was the recipient of the prestigious Clarence G. Gerhold Award at the 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting, held Nov. 8-13 in Nashville, TN. Professor Bhattacharyya was recognized for his outstanding contributions to environmental and industrial membrane separations. He is currently a University Alumni Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies at University of Kentucky.
Bhattacharyya has worked tirelessly in graduate education and his effective collaboration with practitioners of other disciplines in advancing multi-displinary research in innovative membrane approaches. He is co-founder of the University of Kentucky Multidisciplinary Membrane Center. He has served as the Co-PI of the NSF-IGERT program and Co-PI of the NSF-REU program. These programs have trained many undergraduate and graduate students in environmental science and technology, particularly involving water-related issues. Beyond the classroom lectures and graduate research advising, he has mentored many undergraduates in research on separation technologies, which many are for environment applications
Layshock Wins Award at SETAC
Julie Layshock from Oregon State University Superfund Research Program (SRP) won "Best Graduate Student" for her "Oxy-PAHs in Environmentally Relevant Matrices" poster at the annual North American Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meeting in New Orleans, Nov. 2009. With over 3000 attendees and hundreds of graduate student posters in the competition it is a great recognition of her and her work. Ms. Layshock's poster demonstrated the analytical capabilities to measure oxy-PAHs in air, diesel exhaust, soil, water and fish.
Ms. Layshock is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Environmental & Molecular Toxicology department at Oregon State University (OSU) and is a part of the SRP research on Biological Response Indicator Devices for Gauging Environmental Stressors (BRIGES). Her research at OSU has focused primarily on PAHs, specifically on the distribution on airborne particles.
Concern Over Canal Mud as Dredge Plan Nears
The town of East Chicago, IN has a legacy of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination due to its history of intense industrial and shipping activities. A team of researchers led by Dr. Keri Hornbuckle, from the University of Iowa SRP, sampled soil in and around the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal to determine the level of PCB contamination. The study found that sediment in the area is so contaminated with the cancer-causing industrial pollutant that it could rank among the most contaminated sites in the nation, requiring extensive cleanup.
However, The Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge the canal starting in late 2011 to facilitate ship traffic. Hornbuckle and her team are interested in any unintended effects the dredging might cause. Neither the researchers nor the Army Corps of Engineers know how deep the PCBs go. Dredging could remove a lot of the contaminated sediment, but it might also stir up the PCBs and enlarge the contamination area. The dredging is expected to take seven to 10 years and take out about 1.6 million cubic yards of sediment.
LSU Researcher Dellinger Honored by AAAS
In Baton Rouge, LA, Louisiana State University SRP researcher Barry Dellinger was honored with the rank of "Fellow" by the American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS), the world's largest scientific organization.
LSU ranks among the top 10 institutions in number of honorees, with only seven others having more fellows this year.
Dellinger, Patrick F. Taylor Chair for the Environmental Impact of Hazardous Waste, was honored for seminal contributions to the origin of toxic combustion by-products, concentrating most recently on dioxins, combustion-generated nanoparticles and environmentally persistent free radicals.
Election as a fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers in recognition of their efforts toward advancing science applications deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.
The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association's 24 sections, or by any three fellows who are current AAAS members.
Dellinger will be presented with an official certificate and a rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego.