Superfund Research Program
UC Berkeley Grantee Appointed to Carcinogen Identification Committee
Congratulations to University of California (UC) Berkeley Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Luoping Zhang, who has been appointed to the California Carcinogen Identification Committee (CIC). The CIC advises and assists the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) in compiling the list of chemicals known to the State to cause cancer.
The OEHHA is the lead agency for the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 in California, or Proposition 65. As a member of the CIC, Zhang will serve as a qualified expert for determining whether a chemical has been clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing and in accord with generally accepted principles, to cause cancer.
Since 2006, Zhang has been a co-project leader on the Genetic Susceptibility to Superfund Chemicals project at the UC Berkeley SRP. The goal of the SRP research is to identify genetic factors that contribute to human susceptibility to toxicity as a result of exposure to chemicals present at Superfund sites. She has also served in multiple positions at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health since 1992, including associate adjunct professor, specialist, associate specialist, and assistant specialist.
C-MERC Papers Published in Environmental Research
The Coastal and Marine Mercury Ecosystem Research Collaborative (C-MERC) , organized and facilitated by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) Research Translation Core, recently had nine papers published in a special issue (November 2012) of the journal Environmental Research . The issue is dedicated to exploring the pathways and transformations of mercury and methylmercury from sources to seafood consumers in specific marine ecosystems. Two additional C-MERC human health papers were published in Environmental Health Perspectives in June 2012.
The C-MERC papers are the culmination of two years of work by approximately 70 mercury and marine scientists from multiple disciplines, including biology, ecotoxicology, engineering, environmental geochemistry, and epidemiology. The research provides a synthesis of the science on the sources, fate, and human exposure to mercury in marine systems by tracing the pathways and transformation of mercury to methylmercury from sources to seafood to consumers.
A companion report, Sources to Seafood: Mercury Pollution in the Marine Environment (5MB), released in December 2012, reviews the pathways and consequences of mercury pollution across marine systems by drawing on findings from the C-MERC papers, scientific literature, and data from a range of marine systems and coastal basins.
The report findings indicate that mercury released into the air and then deposited into oceans contaminates seafood commonly eaten by people in the U.S. and globally. In addition, in the past century, mercury pollution in the surface ocean has more than doubled as a result of past and present human activities, such as coal burning, mining, and other industrial processes. The report also examines the effects of local mercury inputs that dominate some coastal waters near shore.
C-MERC was established by the Dartmouth SRP in 2010 to review current knowledge and knowledge gaps relating to mercury contamination of marine fish and to use science to inform policy decisions on a regional, national, and global scale. As part of the C-MERC process, the Dartmouth SRP Research Translation Core held two workshops over a two-year period for over 50 international marine mercury scientists and policy stakeholders to formulate and respond to policy relevant questions as they outlined papers to compile and distill information on the inputs, cycling, and uptake of mercury in ocean ecosystems and the links to fish, wildlife, and human exposure to methylmercury.
In early December, the C-MERC team organized and participated in briefings in Washington, D.C. to report the findings to a range of stakeholders, including environmental managers, policymakers, and scientists involved in national and international mercury policy.
Harvey and Team Win International Groundwater Prize
Congratulations to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Charles Harvey, Ph.D., and his team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), winners of the 2012 Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) Groundwater Prize. The team was recognized for its work in Bangladesh to address arsenic contamination of groundwater.
Harvey and his team received the award for developing a complete diagnostic and conceptual model to understand and prevent arsenic contamination of groundwater. To do this, the team followed the contamination of arsenic in the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh for more than 10 years.
Harvey discovered that dissolved organic carbon in groundwater was one of the main causes of arsenic contamination, which led to investigating the carbon sources. Step by step, his research revealed an increasingly complex view of the mobilization to the deposition of arsenic in an aquifer system. Arsenic mobilization was influenced by many different land use activities, like rice field irrigation and sewage disposal. Harvey's persistence in following his research clues demonstrates that complex systems can be understood.
The ceremony for the 5th Award will be held in Riyadh on January 6, 2013, concurrently with the 5th International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments (ICWRAE 5), which will run from January 7-9, 2013.
Grassroots Well Water Testing Initiative Reveals High Levels of Arsenic and Radon
A recent push to test well water revealed high levels of arsenic and radon in homes throughout Tuftonboro, New Hampshire. Following a presentation in June by the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core (CEC) to the Tuftonboro Town Selectboard about the importance of regular well testing, the Tuftonboro Conservation Commission led an effort to increase well testing rates in the region.
In partnership with the Dartmouth CEC and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), the Commission made it easier for residents to test their water by providing a drop-off location and then delivering samples to the state lab. To publicize the well water testing opportunity, they wrote articles for the town newsletter and local newspaper and placed notices in the town post offices with information about the health risks associated with elements commonly found in New Hampshire wells.
Test results were sent directly to the residents. In October, the Dartmouth CEC presented the collective results from the testing kits to the town; 34% of samples exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's maximum contaminant level for arsenic, and 25% of the samples were above the advisory level for radon.
Based on these results, the New Hampshire DES hosted a forum on November 13 to allow residents to ask questions about their test results and remediation options. The Dartmouth CEC continues to work with the residents in the community, informing them of the importance of testing wells regularly and providing them with options to reduce exposure to arsenic and radon from well water.
SRP Grantees are in the News
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees were in the spotlight in four news articles published in November:
University of Washington SRP grantee Clement Furlong, Ph.D., was featured in an article in The Daily Express, a UK newspaper. The article, "Hello, it's your pilot speaking. I am about to go unconscious... ," exposes the dangers of cabin air for pilots in passenger jets. Furlong's work has shown that there are more potentially dangerous toxins in jet engine oil than previously thought. Oil leaks can contaminate cabin air and contribute to nausea, dizziness, and long-term psychological damage.
Northeastern University SRP grantee Jose F. Cordero, Ph.D., was recently quoted in a Fox News: Latino article related to preterm births in Puerto Rico. In the article, "Premature births increase in Puerto Rico, lack of health insurance major factor ," Cordero is quoted because of his work and expertise in environmental exposures and preterm birth. Cordero is the Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Puerto Rico.
University of North Carolina SRP researcher Damian Shea, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University was highlighted in "Gulf spill harmed small fish, studies indicate " in ScienceNews after presenting findings during a symposium at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) annual meeting in mid-November. Shea studied the potential for exposure to and accumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other oil components in the food chain following the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon well blowout. Shea found that weathered oil is less likely to shed PAHs into the water (and thus threaten sea life) than fresh crude oil.
UC Berkeley SRP grantee Martyn Smith, Ph.D., was quoted in a Nature news article, "Daily dose of toxics to be tracked ." Smith is participating in a newly funded Exposomics project to help better understand environmental exposures and disease susceptibility.
Fumio Matsumura: 1934-2012
Fumio Matsumura, Ph.D, a distinguished professor of environmental toxicology and entomology at the University of California (UC) Davis, and internationally known as “one of the grand masters of insect toxicology,” died Thursday, Dec. 6 in a Sacramento hospital following a brief illness.
He had been hospitalized with pneumonia and developed acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to his family.
Matsumura was one of the original participants of the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (SRP), which began in 1987. Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., UC Davis SRP Center Director and a longtime friend and colleague, described him as fun and stimulating. “Each day he made the world a brighter and more interesting place with his enthusiasm over science, teaching and the pleasure of life,” said Hammock.
“For some 50 years, Fumio has been at the cutting edge of both pesticide and environmental toxicology, and his pioneering research has helped to define both fields,” said Ron Tjeerdema, Ph.D., professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology. “Fumio has also been a major contributor to the success of our department, and his legacy will continue for many years to come through the many students and postdoctoral fellows he has mentored.”
His research involved the environmental toxicology of pesticides and dioxin-type chemicals; toxicology of pollutants; microbial degradation of toxicants; insect toxicology; and extensive studies of biologically active substances, oncogenes, and protein kinases.
“Fumio was a pioneer and a giant in the field of toxicology, but also an outstanding educator and the ultimate gentleman,” said Joel Coats, Ph.D., the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in the Department of Entomology, at Iowa State University, who worked with him on scientific advisory panels. “Our profession has lost a treasure.”
His family plans to establish a memorial fund in his honor through the UC Davis Foundation. Details are pending.
To learn more about Matsumura life and accomplishments, please visit the UC Davis website .
Baker Featured in December Papers of the Month
Congratulations to University of Kentucky (UK) Superfund Research Program (SRP) trainee and 2012 Wetterhahn awardee, Nicki Baker, whose recent journal article, “ PCBs impair glucose homeostasis in mice ,” was chosen as an Extramural Paper of the Month by the Environmental Factor. The article,
published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, brings novel insight into how environmental toxins, namely co-planar polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), affect human health. PCBs are a class of hazardous chemicals that were banned in the 1970s but continue to linger in groundwater and soil.
In the study, Baker found that when obese mice experienced weight loss, those exposed previously to PCBs lost the benefit of glucose homeostasis, or stability, reducing the influence of weight loss in preventing type 2 diabetes. Baker investigated the effects of coplanar PCBs on the expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), a known contributor to insulin resistance, and the levels of glucose and insulin in lean and obese mice.
Baker, the 15th recipient of the annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, is a doctoral student under the guidance of Lisa Cassis, Ph.D., in the Graduate Center for Nutritional Sciences at UK. The SRP acknowledged Baker for her contributions to research, as well as her contributions to the community. Baker accepted the prestigious award Oct. 23 at the NIEHS SRP annual meeting. She was also featured in the December 2012 issue of the Environmental Factor.
SRP Grantees are Well Represented on NRC Committee to Review Inorganic Arsenic Risk
Several Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees will serve on the National Research Council’s new committee to evaluate critical scientific issues in assessing effects from oral exposure to inorganic arsenic. The committee will provide expert guidance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a human health risk assessment of inorganic arsenic and review EPA's assessment before it is finalized.
SRP Center Director Joe Graziano, Ph.D. (Columbia University) is the chair of the committee. Other committee members include SRP grantees Margaret Karagas, Ph.D. (Dartmouth College), Rebecca Fry, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina), Habibul Ahsan, M.D. (University of Chicago) and Robert Wright, M.D. (Mount Sinai School of Medicine).
Starting this year, the committee's first charge will be to plan and conduct a public workshop to evaluate critical scientific issues in assessing cancer and non-cancer effects from oral exposure to inorganic arsenic. The workshop will enable the committee to gather a variety of perspectives from stakeholders and others on the issues.
The committee will then recommend ways to address the current issues in understanding arsenic health risks in EPA’s Integrate Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of inorganic arsenic. After the IRIS assessment is revised by the EPA, the committee will then review it to determine whether dose-response relationships between inorganic arsenic and cancer and non-cancer effects are appropriately estimated and characterized. The entire process is set to last approximately 3 years.
EPA's IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. Through the IRIS Program, EPA provides the highest quality science-based human health assessments to support the Agency's regulatory activities. The IRIS database is Web accessible and contains information on more than 550 chemical substances.
For more information on the committee, visit the NRC Project Information website .
Bhattacharyya’s Patents Licensed for Water Applications
Three patents from the University of Kentucky (UK) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center have been licensed by Sepro Membranes, Inc. in Oceanside, Calif. Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., University Alumni Professor of Chemical Engineering in the UK College of Engineering, serves as principal investigator on the projects.
Bhattacharyya and his graduate students in the SRP developed the package of functional membrane technology patents. This group of related issued and pending patents degrade water-borne contaminants (including toxic organic compounds), sequester heavy metals at very high capacity, and synthesize nanoparticles, all within the membrane pore structure.
"The integration of nanotechnology and membrane provides a novel approach for water detoxification technologies through the use of non-toxic nanoparticles and green chemistry approaches," said Bhattacharyya. "Sepro manufactures large scale systems — their goal will be to integrate our membrane functionalization approaches (through the licensing of 3 new patents and 5 previous patents) for new and untapped water technology markets."
For more information, visit the UK news website .
Dartmouth Receives Accreditation as Non-governmental Organization for International Global Mercury Meeting
Researchers from the Coastal and Marine Mercury Ecosystem Research Collaborative ( C-MERC ), a group sponsored by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, are invited to attend the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland in January of 2013 as an observer. The purpose of this meeting, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), is to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury ( INC5 ). The C-MERC researchers, as a newly accredited non-governmental organization, will be able to observe the negotiations about mercury regulation.
C-MERC is focused on identifying key processes related to the inputs, cycling, and uptake of mercury in marine ecosystems and the pathways to human exposure. It also works to facilitate communication between stakeholders and scientists about important mercury questions relevant to environmental health policy.
The UNEP is responsible for guiding United Nations’ activities related to harmful chemicals and hazardous waste. Priorities for action in the UNEP mercury program include reducing mercury in small-scale gold mining, controlling mercury release during coal combustion, and mercury waste management. The UNEP facilitates negotiations of international treaties and global policies related to toxic metals, endocrine disruptors, persistent organic pollutants, and other harmful substances.
As an accredited organization attending the meeting, the Dartmouth team will be able to submit scientific information relevant to the negotiations on global mercury regulation. The meeting will also provide an outlet for collaboration between C-MERC and other organizations focused on mercury in the environment.
ASU Appoints Halden as Director of New Center for Environmental Security
Arizona State University (ASU) professor and Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Rolf Halden, Ph.D., has been appointed to lead the Center for Environmental Security (CES), a new effort to protect human health and critical ecosystems.
“The goal of CES is to protect human populations and our planet by detecting, minimizing and ultimately eliminating harmful chemical and biological agents through engineering interventions,” said Halden, a professor in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, Biodesign Institute researcher, and senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. “We will be utilizing a proactive approach to examine chemical and biological threats in the environment locally and globally, to track human diseases caused by environmental exposure, and to develop intervention strategies suitable for mitigating these threats."
Halden currently leads an NIEHS-funded SRP Individual Research Grant (R01) to develop an in situ sampling tool for assessing bioavailability and toxicity of sediments. The project addresses the pressing need of Superfund stakeholders to determine in a convenient and reliable fashion both human health risks from contaminated sediments and the effectiveness of implemented remediation strategies.
As the director of the new center at ASU, Halden sees the necessity to work on a regional, national, and global scale to protect environmental quality and human health using both traditional and innovative public health strategies.
Support for the establishment of the CES includes funding from the Piper Charitable Trust’s Health Solutions and ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative and Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.
For more information about the new Center, visit the ASU website .
SRP Grantees Contribute to Consumer Reports Story about Dietary Arsenic
Warning against complacency about dietary arsenic sources, Allan Smith, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley Superfund Research Program (SRP), was recently quoted in a Consumer Reports story for his work on health effects of arsenic. Smith’s studies have shown that arsenic in public water in Chile and Argentina causes lung and bladder cancer and other disease. In the Consumer Reports article, Smith explained that the adverse health effects of arsenic clearly indicates the need for national standards for allowable levels of arsenic in foods.
“We already know that high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water result in the highest known toxic substance disease risks from any environmental exposure,” said Smith. “So we should not be arguing to wait for years until we have results of epidemiologic studies at lower arsenic intake, such as from rice consumption, to take action.”
Based on its independent analysis of inorganic and organic arsenic levels in more than 60 rice and rice-based food products, Consumer Reports states that there is a real need for federal standards for arsenic in food. Consumer Reports researchers found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, in various products including organic baby rice cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, and white rice.
The article also covers the previous studies at Dartmouth College SRP which reported inorganic arsenic in rice and brown rice syrup at levels that may contribute to health effects. A Dartmouth SRP study published in late 2011 indicated that consuming slightly more than a half-cup of cooked rice per day results in a significant increase in urinary arsenic levels. The study compared this level of exposure in rice to the effects of drinking a liter of water containing the federal maximum arsenic concentration of 10 parts per billion. The results indicate potentially harmful levels of arsenic exposure with the additive exposure from rice and water consumption. In another study , researchers at Dartmouth SRP found elevated levels of inorganic arsenic in products containing organic brown rice syrup.
To read the full Consumer Reports investigation, please visit the Consumer Reports website .
UNC Showcases its Research Projects
The University of North Carolina (UNC) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center has released 5 short videos to highlight each of their scientific research projects. The videos are presented on the UNC website on each project page.
"Biomarkers of exposure versus effect" explains the UNC project led by James Swenberg, Ph.D., D.V.M. The group is working to understand the effects of various chemicals on human health by determining biomarkers of exposures that can be used to identify DNA damage caused by oxidative stress.
"Genomic and genetic analysis of liver and kidney toxicity of Trichloroethylene" highlights the UNC project led by Ivan Rusyn, M.D., Ph.D. The group is investigating the inter-individual differences in the metabolism of trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE, a degreasing agent, is the most frequently reported organic contaminant in groundwater.
"Elucidating mechanisms of cadmium-induced toxicity and disease" features the UNC project led by Rebecca Fry, Ph.D. The group is studying the effects of cadmium exposure on pregnant women and newborns.
"Measuring chronic exposure to & bioavailability of organic chemicals and their metabolites" focuses on the UNC SRP project at NC State University led by Damian Shae, Ph.D. The group is developing a passive sampling device for chemical detection determination of bioavailability of multiple chemicals in water and sediment.
"Beyond parent compound disappearance in the bioremediation of PAH contaminated soil" highlights the UNC project led by Michael Aitken, Ph.D. The group is investigating bioremediation as a tool for cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
2012 Annual Meeting Celebrates SRP Trainees
The annual meeting of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Oct. 21-24 in Raleigh was an occasion to highlight trainee accomplishments. The meeting, which attracted over 350 researchers and trainees from across the nation, was hosted by SRP grantees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.
Along with the traditional presentations and plenary sessions, the meeting set aside time for celebrating award-winning students.
NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training Director, Gwen Collman, Ph.D., introduced the 2012 winner of the coveted Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, Nicki Baker, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky. Baker is the 15th SRP trainee to receive this award.
Collman also presented awards for the meeting’s poster session, which featured 143 posters from SRP trainees. There were three winners in both the biomedical and non-biomedical categories.
Non-Biomedical poster session:
1st place: Timothy Jobe, University of California, San Diego
“Regulation of the High Affinity Sulfate Transporter, SULTR1;2, in Glutathione Biosynthesis Mutants Exposed to Cadmium and Arsenic”
2nd place: Sahar Fathordoobadi, University of Arizona
“Role of Biomineralization in Arsenic Sequestration under Landfill Conditions”
3rd place: Daniel Brown, Duke University
“Sublethal Embryonic Exposure to Complex PAH Mixtures Alters Later Life Behavior and Performance in Fundulus heteroclitus”
Biomedical poster session:
1st place: Caitlin Howe, Columbia University
“Associations between S-adenosylmethionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine and Arsenic Methylation”
2nd place: Chase Williams, University of Washington
“Effects of Cadmium on Molecular Biomarkers In the Olfactory System of Coho Salmon”
3rd place: Erika Fritsch, University of California, Davis
“Non-Coplanar PCBs and Ca2+ Signaling In Teleost Species: Addressing Comparative Mechanisms of Toxicity and Developed Resistance in New Bedford Harbor”
To read more about the meeting, check out the November issue of the Environmental Factor.
Brown SRP Supports Clean-up of Blackstone River
Through its Research Translation Core (RTC), the Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) joined a transdisciplinary effort to test the Eco-Machine, the only bioremediation unit in the country that uses fungi, plants, and animals to naturally clean up oil and other contaminants in water. Initial results show that the Eco-Machine reduces aliphatic hydrocarbons in river water by as much as 90%.
Woods Hole scientist John Todd created the Eco-Machine to restore and remediate the Fisherville Mill site in Grafton, Mass. The site is next to the Blackstone River, which flows into Rhode Island, and is contaminated primarily by petroleum released from storage tanks. The Eco-Machine began operating in May to treat water in the river to reduce industrial petroleum hydrocarbons as well as nitrogen and phosphorous from stormwater. Researchers at Brown SRP partnered with Todd to test the machine’s ability to clean up pollutants in the Blackstone River.
Brown is working with a research group from Clark University to test the bioremediation potential of the fungi and with Fisherville Mill Redevelopment Corp., John Todd Ecological Design, the town of Grafton, and EPA Region 1 to monitor petroleum hydrocarbons in the river water. Researchers at Brown SRP are analyzing river sediment and water from multiple locations in the river and from the Eco-Machine tanks.
James Rice, Ph.D., and Eric Suuberg, Sc.D., from the Brown RTC, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Fisherville site.
A press release about the Eco-Machine is available in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Former Superfund Trainee Honored for Mass Spec Research
Food chemist and toxicologist Nils Schebb, Ph.D., was honored September 18 for research he conducted as a postdoc in the University of California (UC) Davis Superfund Research Program (SRP). To assess human exposure to the persistent and widely used antibacterial soap additive triclocarban (TCC), Schebb and his co-authors developed and validated a method to rapidly analyze the compound and its major metabolites in urine and other biological samples. Schebb and other researchers at UC Davis then used the method to investigate human exposure to TCC after showering with antibacterial soap that contains the compound.
The German Society of Mass Spectrometry presented Schebb with the 2012 Sciex LC (Liquid Chromatography)/MS (Mass Spectrometry) Award for his extraordinary work in the field of LC/MS during its annual workshop at the historic concert hall in Wuppertal, Germany.
The award-winning study referenced recent findings from the group indicating that TCC has significant biological effects on mammalian targets. At high concentrations, they wrote, it might act as an endocrine disruptor by enhancing the action of testosterone and other steroids.
From 2009 to 2011, Schebb was a member of the UC Davis Laboratory of Pesticide Biotechnology headed by veteran NIEHS grantee Bruce Hammock, Ph.D. After he completed his postdoc, Schebb formed his own group in the Institute for Food Toxicology and Chemical Analysis at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Hannover, Germany. Schebb’s study was one of 15 toxicological and laboratory methods papers he has co-authored on work with the Hammock group.
The award-winning study was published in 2011 in Environmental Science and Technology .
SRP Researchers Receive EPA Awards to Advance Chemical Safety Research
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Oregon State University (OSU) were awarded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants to develop methods for chemical toxicity testing. On September 13, the EPA announced eight Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant awards for a total of $11 million. One award will go to UNC SRP grantee Ivan Rusyn, Ph.D., and another to OSU SRP grantee Robert Tanguay, Ph.D.
The grantees will focus on developing methods and models to predict how exposures to environmental and man-made chemicals and chemical mixtures may harm the public. The innovative testing methods will be used to predict a chemical’s potential to interact with biological processes that could lead to reproductive and developmental problems.
Rusyn’s project, Carolina Center for Computational Toxicology: Assays, Models, and Tools for NextGen Safety Assessments , is developing chemical effect testing for in vitro systems and computational toxicology solutions to measure risk in populations. Based on resulting data, Rusyn’s group will create models to better understand reproductive and developmental toxicity.
Tanguay’s project, Toxicity Screening with Zebrafish Assay , is testing zebrafish assay methods and comparing results to traditional toxicity tests. Based on results, Tanguay’s research group will determine if these quick and inexpensive methods could be used as alternatives for existing toxicity tests.
Another one of the eight awards will go to a previously funded SRP grantee, Rich Finnell, Ph.D., at the University of Texas – Pan American. His project, “High Information Content Toxicity Screening Using Mouse and Human Stem Cell Models of Endocrine Development and Function ,” is testing chemicals that impact fertility and embryotic development to create a model to classify chemicals according to risk. Finnell previously led an SRP-funded project at Texas A&M University from 2000 to 2008.
EPA’s STAR grant program supports human health, ecology, economics, and engineering sciences through grants, centers, and fellowships. For more information on the grant awards, visit the EPA website .
Superfund Grantee Receives Patent to Remediate Acid Rock Drainage
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grantee Blue Planet Strategies (BPS), was granted a patent for the invention of an apparatus and method to recover metals from liquid streams. The patent, Method for Electrochemical Modification of Liquid Streams , specifically focuses on recovering copper metal and other metal toxins from Acid Rock Drainage (ARD). ARD refers to the acidic and polluted water outflow from abandoned metal and coal mines.
The NIEHS-funded project, led by Patrick James, Ph.D., creates an economic driver to promote environmental cleanups and stop metal toxin discharge by targeting metals that are profitable once removed. This is particularly valuable for the many abandoned mines leaking toxic ARD nationwide where no previous economic incentive to remediate exists.
“The flexibility and consistency of the SRP support has enabled Blue Planet Strategies to weather the inevitable fiscal and time constraint challenges faced by startups that often kill young businesses,” said James. “The result has facilitated introduction of the technology to the market, development of the business, and attention during the pivotal quest for non-SBIR funding to support the commercialization of the technology and building of a viable self-sustaining and job-creating business.”
For more information about BPS, visit the company website .
EPA Adds Twelve New Sites to National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding 12 new hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund Sites. The sites are located across 10 states and include former wood treating facilities, contaminated groundwater plumes, previous chemical and ammunition manufacturers, and a former lead and zinc mine.
For more information, visit the EPA website .
Dartmouth SRP Mercury Movie Premiers on the Big-Screen
Aiming to inform consumers about mercury in seafood, the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth screened a short film at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in early September. The video “Mercury: From Source to Seafood,” created by the Dartmouth SRP, raises awareness of the health effects of mercury in seafood and simplifies the complexities surrounding seafood consumption.
The 10-minute video follows the journey of mercury from coal-fired power plants to the seafood we eat, and discusses which species of fish contain the least and most mercury. It also describes the health benefits of eating low-mercury fish and the need to keep mercury from entering the environment.
A panel discussion followed the film screening in both locations. The panel included Celia Chen, Ph.D., research professor in Dartmouth's Department of Biological Sciences; Duane Compton, Ph.D., dean of research at the Geisel School and a longtime biochemistry researcher; Carolyn Murray, M.D., a member of DHMC's occupational-medicine team and a lead researcher for the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth; and Mary Saucier Choate, food and nutrition educator for the Co-op Food Stores.
"I have been studying mercury in the environment for many years, and I am particularly pleased that this movie takes the confusion and mystery out of whether people should eat seafood," said Chen. "While it is important to have the health benefits of eating fish, everyone needs to know which fish are safe to eat."
The film screening and panel discussion were held at the DHMC on September 5, 2012, the HSPH on September 7, 2012, and Red River Theatres on September 14, 2012. To watch the video, visit the Dartmouth SRP Source to Seafood website .
Study First to Quantify TCE in Breast Milk
For the first time, researchers have reported on the levels of the environmental contaminant trichloroethylene (TCE) in breast milk. Scientists at the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) detected TCE in all water samples collected in a study and found that TCE concentration in breast milk was significantly associated with the concentration of TCE in water used for bathing and laundry, but not drinking and cooking.
TCE, a degreasing agent, is the most frequently reported organic contaminate in groundwater. More than 300 million pounds of TCE are produced each year in the United States.
In the study, investigators sampled breast milk from women in 20 households in Nogales, Ariz., a city known to have TCE-contaminated groundwater. Researchers also collected samples of water used for drinking, cooking, laundry, and bathing and administered a risk factor questionnaire.
From the samples collected, seven of the twenty breast milk samples (35%) contained concentrations of TCE ranging from 1.5 to 6 ng/mL. Mothers were also more likely to have breast milk containing TCE if their infant had a body mass index of less than 14.
The results of this small scale pilot study suggest that more in-depth research will be important to understand the risk to infants of TCE exposure via breast milk intake. In the meantime, the authors stress that mothers should continue to breastfeed their children to ensure critical health benefits for both mother and baby.
UA SRP investigators Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., Eduardo Sáez, Ph.D., Leif Abrell, Ph.D., and colleagues published the study in Environmental Science and Technology .
OSU Trainee Receives ACS Student Paper Award
Carlos Manzano, a graduate student in the Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP), received a prestigious 2012 Student Paper Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS). He presented his work at a symposium during the 244th ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia.
In the paper, Manzano reported on his research exploring the effects of using different gas chromatography (GC) column combinations to separate and identify polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sample mixtures. Manzano was able to identify 89 PAHs in one chromatographic run.
“Due to the complexity of most environmental samples, we should move toward a more comprehensive analysis of them,” said Manzano. “It was an honor to present our work during the conference, and to be selected as one of the award winners.”
The SRP at OSU works toward developing and improving analytical methods for the analysis of semi-volatile organic compounds, such as PAHs, which are contaminants often present in environmental samples.
Manzano conducted this GC work at OSU under Staci Simonich, Ph.D., and in collaboration with Eunha Hoh, Ph.D., from the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. The article, published in Environmental Science and Technology, is available on the ACS publications website .
Exposure to Triclosan Linked to Impairment of Heart and Muscle Activity
Triclosan (TCS), a chemical widely used for its antibacterial properties, was shown to weaken heart and skeletal muscle activity in animal models, according to research performed at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and the University of Colorado. The study was supported, in part, by the Superfund Research Program (SRP) center grant at UC Davis.
“Triclosan is found in virtually everyone’s home and is pervasive in the environment,” said Isaac Pessah, professor of molecular biosciences and principal investigator of the study. “These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.”
TCS is a high-production-volume chemical commonly found in antibacterial personal-care products, such as hand soap and toothpaste, as well as cleaning supplies and other household products. Researchers investigated the effects of TCS on muscle activity with studies using doses similar to those that people and animals may be exposed through the use of consumer products and in the environment. Investigators found that TCS impaired muscle contractions of isolated human heart muscle cells and skeletal muscle fibers, reduced heart function and grip strength in mice, and reduced swimming activity in fathead minnows, a small fish used to study the potential impacts of pollution in aquatic environments.
The triclosan research is reported in the August 13 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America .
UC Davis Bioassay Adopted for EPA Screening Program
An estrogenic cell bioassay, developed in a University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program (SRP) group led by Michael S. Denison, Ph.D., was accepted as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 1 screening program for estrogenic chemicals. The BG1Luc assay will be adopted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Validation Management Group for Non-Animal Testing as an international test guideline to detect estrogen receptor agonist and antagonist activity of chemicals in vitro.
The UC Davis SRP Center Project that developed the assay, entitled “Development and Applications of Integrated In Vitro and Cell-Based Bioassays,” aims to develop and validate mechanistically-based cell and in vitro bioassays to screen for specific chemicals or chemical classes in environmental and biological samples.
Data generated from studies performed using the validated BG1Luc assay will be accepted in all 34 OECD member countries, including the United States. It will also satisfy the Estrogen Receptor Transcriptional Activation requirement of the EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.
SRP Grantees Gather, Meet with ATSDR Representatives
More than 100 Superfund Research Program grantees and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Research (ATSDR) scientists gathered on August 7-8 at the ATSDR campus in Atlanta, Ga. to investigate points of shared research interest and possibilities for collaboration. NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., D. A. B. T., and ATSDR Director Chris Portier, Ph.D., each opened one of the day’s sessions
The meeting was broken into four topic areas: legacy contaminants, community engagement, fate and transport of chemicals, and emerging contaminants. Each subject area featured presentations from several SRP researchers, followed by a panel discussion with ATSDR scientists to discuss ways the research could be incorporated into their work. The panel discussions featured researchers from the NIEHS and ATSDR, and Birnbaum and Portier both participated in the closing panel discussing emerging contaminants and action items for each group.
A full meeting report will be available in the September edition of the NIEHS Environmental Factor.
Harvard Welcomes New SRP Director Bellinger
Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff would like to welcome David Bellinger, Ph.D., as the new center director of the Harvard SRP Center. He is replacing Robert O. Wright, M.D., who has accepted a position as professor of preventative medicine and pediatrics and director of the Division of Environmental Health at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Wright will continue to lead his Harvard SRP project “Epidemiology of developmental windows, metal mixtures, and neurodevelopment.”
Bellinger is a developmental psychologist, epidemiologist, and an expert on metal-associated cognitive defects in children. Since the Harvard SRP program began in 2010, he has served as co-investigator of two Harvard SRP projects. Bellinger has extensive experience to support its research theme of child development and exposure to metals.
SRP Announces 2012 K.C. Donnelly Externship Winners
Superfund Research Program staff are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2012 K.C. Donnelly Externship Award. The annual award is given to honor SRP researcher K.C. Donnelly and his commitment to mentoring his students, instilling in them the importance of applying their knowledge and skills to communities exposed to environmental contaminants. The 2012 recipients are:
- Vanessa De La Rosa (University of California, Berkeley), who will travel to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study trichloroethylene (TCE), particularly its metabolites and mechanisms for mediating TCE-induced renal cancer;
- Steven O’Connell (Oregon State University), who will work with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remediation specialists at the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site to measure bioavailable contaminants in water and sediment; and
- Sabine Vorrink (University of Iowa), who will be at the University of Arizona conducting mechanistic studies of the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and oxygen deprivation on the metabolism of liver and skin cells.
Program staff offer their congratulations to this year’s winners!
Dartmouth SRP Featured on NH Public Radio
In response to a Science Café sponsored by the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program, the New Hampshire public radio recently aired a story promoting individuals testing of private wells for arsenic contamination. During the café, attendees learned about arsenic exposure, health effects, public health strategies, and the importance of testing private wells, which are not regulated by the state. The Dartmouth SRP has promoted individual testing of private wells in New England for several years, and in 2010, produced a short film on the issue.
Dartmouth SRP researcher Brian Jackson, Ph.D., participated as a panel member in the Café event. He was joined by Paul Susca, N. H. Department of Environmental Services, and Joe Ayotte, U.S. Geological Survey. The Science Café New Hampshire is a grassroots effort to develop interaction between science, research, and the general public with the aim of increasing local understanding. To hear the story, and read the transcript, visit the NH public radio website .
EPA Adds Three New Sites to National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) announced that it is adding three sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. The recent additions are in California and Washington and include a metal fabrication facility, an adhesive manufacturer, and a former gasworks facility. Contaminants at the sites include benzene, heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and perchloroethylene (PCE).
These three additions bring the number of sites on the NPL up to 1,664. More information about the sites is available from the U.S. EPA website .
Brown SRP Hosts Interdisciplinary Workshop to Understand Superfund Impacts
A team of scientists, community members, legal, regulatory, and redevelopment practitioners gathered in Providence, R.I., on May 9-10 to educate one another on the full spectrum of impacts of living in proximity to Superfund sites. The Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) hosted the interdisciplinary group at a workshop entitled “Social, Psychological, and Economic Impacts of Superfund and Other Contaminated Sites”.
During the workshop, participants shared their viewpoints regarding contaminated neighborhood or site issues, then discussed and identified possible research topics for which one or more of the social sciences could provide a more holistic understanding of the effect that hazardous waste sites have on communities. Attendees also shed light on how practitioners and decision-makers consider critical issues, such as science, economics, and health care when considering the future of a given site.
The participants will develop a white paper summarizing the state of the field, which they will submit for publication and intend to share at the 2012 SRP Annual Meeting. For more information about the meeting, contact James Rice, Ph.D. (James_Rice@brown.edu), at Brown University.
Brown Trainee Receives Switzer Fellowship
David Ciplet, a graduate student in the Brown University Superfund Research Program, has been named a 2012 recipient of a prestigious Switzer Foundation Fellowship Award. Ciplet is one of 20 students nationwide selected to receive the fellowship.
Switzer Fellows are highly talented graduate students in New England and California whose studies are directed toward improving environmental quality and who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their field. Ciplet will receive a cash award to support his graduate study as well as networking and leadership support from the foundation.
Program staff would like to offer their congratulations to Ciplet. For more information on the fellowship, visit the Switzer Foundation website
Folt Appointed Interim President at Dartmouth
Carol Folt, Ph.D., a member of the Superfund Research Program team at Dartmouth College since it started in 1995, was appointed interim president of the college April 17.
Folt’s areas of expertise include ecotoxicology, health-environment interactions, and science education. Metal toxicity and the effects of dietary mercury and arsenic on aquatic life and human health is her research focus. She and her colleagues developed new technologies to assess mercury environmental exposure and its effects. They also conduct cross-cutting research on chemical signaling, restoration and conservation of Atlantic salmon, and global climate change. Folt serves on federal scientific review panels and foundation boards, reviews for journals, and has held elected offices in international scientific societies. She became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in recognition of her contributions to environmental science and higher education.
A faculty member since 1983, Folt was previously named Provost in May 2010, which made her the second ranking officer at Dartmouth. Folt received a B.A. in aquatic biology and an M.A. in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara; a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis; and was a postdoctoral fellow at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station.
A press release about Folt’s appointment is available from the Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs.
Senator Tours Brown SRP with Federal, State Officials
The Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) hosted U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), NIEHS Division Director Gwen Collman, Ph.D., the Region 1 director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and directors of state environmental and health departments on Monday, April 9.
“I enjoyed meeting Senator Reed and the Brown Superfund Partners from the Rhode Island Department of Health, Department of Environmental Management, and EPA Region 1,” reported Collman, who attended on behalf of the NIEHS and SRP.
While there, Sen. Reed and the officials toured the SRP facilities and learned about the Program’s contributions to remediating contaminated sites in Rhode Island and across the country. They also saw how the Program is connecting with local communities and developing the next generation of environmental leaders.
After the tour, the visitors were given a chance to share their impressions. “Putting people to work to reduce the negative impacts of abandoned hazardous waste sites is a smart investment to protect public health, the environment, and our economy,” said Reed. “I am pleased that Brown’s federally funded Superfund Research Program is working through targeted research and community outreach to address health concerns and design novel techniques to reduce toxic chemicals at Superfund sites in Rhode Island.”
“Senator Reed was very knowledgable and supportive of SRP activities at Brown and of the work done by NIEHS. It was a great day,” said Collman.
A press release of the Senator’s visit is available through the Brown University website .
Environmental Protection Agency adds Nine Sites to National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adding nine new sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. The sites are located across 7 states and Puerto Rico, and bring the number of sites on the list up to 1,661. Contaminants found at the sites include heavy metals, organic solvents, and uranium. The EPA will work to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at the sites, and will require them to conduct or pay for the remediation.
The NPL is a list of the most complex, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites across the country. More than three hundred sites on the list have been cleaned up, and 1,302 are still being remediated. The new sites are listed on the EPA Web page .
Columbia SRP Researchers Link Genetics, Arsenic Toxicity
A team of researchers from the Columbia University Superfund Research Program, led by Habibul Ahsan, M.D., have discovered genetic variants that elevate the risk of developing skin lesions in people chronically exposed to arsenic. The study, published online in the Public Library of Science (PLoS), could lead to screening and intervention options for those exposed to groundwater containing high levels of arsenic.
Due to the widespread use of hand-pumped wells to tap groundwater sources in Bangladesh, as many as 77 million people - about half the country’s population - have been accidentally exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic. Based on this exposure, a genome-wide association study was conducted in 3,000 individuals exposed to arsenic over many years. This study is one of the first large-scale genomic studies conducted on a population living in a developing country.
The researchers sought to learn why some individuals appeared to be at a higher risk for developing disease after arsenic exposure. Their findings provide genetic–based evidence that people who efficiently metabolize arsenic in their bodies are protected against some of the effects of the toxin.
The publication is available online from PLoS Genetics
Organic Brown Rice Syrup: a Source of Arsenic Exposure
According to an investigation led by Brian Jackson, Ph.D., of the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program, organic brown rice syrup may be a source of hidden arsenic in many foods, including toddler formula, cereal bars, and energy foods. Brown rice syrup is commonly used as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup.
Jackson tested toddler formulas, cereal bars, and energy shots from online and brick-and-mortar retailers. He found that arsenic concentrations in these foods ranged from 23-171 parts per billion (ppb). While there are no regulations for food, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in bottled and public drinking water is 10 ppb. Given these findings, the investigators conclude that there is an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food.
The study was published online February 16 in Environmental Health Perspectives .
Correction: 24 February, 2012 - In the manuscript originally published online, the two OBRS formulas were incorrectly identified as infant formula when they are in fact toddler formula. Toddler formula is not intended for infants under 1 year of age unless specified by a healthcare professional.
SRP Remediation Research Nominated for Eni Award
A new way to remove tar from contaminated soils at former manufactured gas plants was discovered by Superfund Research Program (SRP) investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Based on this work, the researchers, led by Cass Miller, Ph.D., have been nominated for an Eni Award. Described by some as the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in the field of environmental science, the Eni Award recognizes outstanding contributions in the fields of energy and environmental science.
Until the 1950s, manufactured gas plants in the United States and Europe made flammable gas for heating and lighting. The tar waste produced by the plants contains many known or suspected carcinogens. It persists in the environment and can become trapped in porous material as it migrates deeper underground. The researchers experimented with using inexpensive alkaline agents to reduce the forces trapping the tar in pores. They found that sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solutions significantly reduced the tension between the tar and the soil, and flushing solutions containing NaOH and xanthan gum removed 81 to 93 percent of the tar in column experiments. The UNC research was published in the January 2012 edition of Environmental Science & Technology .
SRP Researchers Map Cord Blood
New research from the Superfund Research Program (SRP) may provide a novel way to assess the health of an infant and determine prenatal environmental exposures as soon as it is born. In a study led by Rolf Halden, Ph.D., from Arizona State University SRP, a team of investigators have made the most complete mapping of human cord blood serum to date. The results are available ahead of print from Environmental Health Perspectives.
The research team identified over 1,200 proteins, a 6-fold increase over previous studies, using samples drawn from 12 newborns. These proteins are associated with 138 known disease pathways and provide a benchmark for the identification of biomarkers-cellular changes that can be early indicators of disease or exposure to toxic substances. Some of the proteins identified in the cord blood correspond to biomarkers that are already approved for disease diagnosis in adult blood by the Food and Drug Administration. Umbilical cord blood represents a valuable resource, and this study showcases its potential use as a diagnostic tool to assess health in the earliest stages of life.
The study is available from Environmental Health Perspectives .
University of Arizona Researcher Named Distinguished Professor
Eduardo Sáez, Ph.D., a University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program investigator, was named the 2011 UA University Distinguished Professor. This prestigious award is given to one faculty member per year who was nominated by his peers and selected by a university-wide committee. Sáez was selected because of his commitment to undergraduate education, a distinguished record of research, and the incorporation of research scholarship into classroom learning.
The award was presented by the Arizona Board of Regents in a special ceremony in December. During the ceremony, a video was played highlighting Sáez’s career, which is available on YouTube . Sáez works on two research projects for the UA SRP. He collaborates with Eric Betterton, Ph.D., on the characterization of wind-blown dust from mining operations, and he works with Wendell Ela, Ph.D., to study arsenic speciation behavior and control at contaminated waste sites.
SRP Researcher Links Contaminants in Drinking Water to Mental Illness
Researchers from the Boston University Superfund Research Program have published a study linking early childhood exposure to water contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) to mental health problems later in life. Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D., was the lead author of the study, which was published in the January 20, 2012, online edition of Environmental Health.
Aschengrau and her co-authors report that people with prenatal and early-childhood exposure to PCE were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder compared to an unexposed group. However, there was no association between PCE exposure and depression.
PCE is a solvent used in dry cleaning and other industries. It is a neurotoxin that is known to cause mood changes, anxiety, and depressive disorders in people who are exposed through their occupations.
For more information, visit the Environmental Health journal website .
University of Arizona Signs Agreement Between Binational Center and UACT
University of Arizona SRP researchers Jay Gandolfi, Ph.D., and Clark Lantz, Ph.D., from the Dean Carter Binational Center for Environmental Health Sciences, signed a collaborative research agreement with officials from the Universidad Autonoma de Coahuila (UACT) College of Medicine in Torreon, Mexico. The agreement outlines medium- and long-term action plans for increasing student education and professional development for faculty through the use of student exchanges and fellowships.
The Binational Center has collaborated with the UACT since 2005. During that time, the Center has hosted seven students and professionals from the UACT. Research fellows study arsenic in air and water and receive technical training to quantify and analyze data collected from the field. The Center also promotes and supports collaborative research efforts between the two institutions.
University of Arizona to Host "Live in Region 9" Webinar
SRP staff would like to invite grantees and colleagues to participate in the next "Live in Region 9" Webinar, which will be held January 11, 2012, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. EST. The seminar will feature University of Arizona SRP Center researchers Eric Betterton, Ph.D., and Raina Maier, Ph.D., discussing their research on the characterization of mine tailing dusts and phytoremediation efforts in Hayden and Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz.
To register for the event, visit the CLU-IN Website .