Superfund Research Program
- Suk Visits the LSU Superfund Research Center
- Smith Presents Exposome Concept in China
- SRP Well Represented at the SETAC Meeting
- Dewey-Humboldt Residents Learn Next Steps for Superfund Clean Up
- EPA Adds Nine Hazardous Waste Sites to National Priorities List
- UK SRP Grantees Awarded Prestigious Fellowship
- Rice Represents Brown SRP at Rhode Island Meeting of Environmental Leaders
- Duke SRP Trainee Engages Students with Environmental Research at Career Day
- Environmental Justice Discussion Features SRP Grantees
- Gymnasts highly exposed to flame retardants
- Dartmouth SRP Presents at New Hampshire Health Officers Annual Meeting
- Suk Honored for Contribution to Global Environmental Health
- Scientists Present UC Davis SRP Research on Detecting Harmful Chemicals
- 2013 Annual Meeting Celebrates Research Trainees
- Brown SRP Collaborates with Narragansett Tribe
- UC Davis SRP Releases Research Updates
- Stefano Monti Discusses Computational Toxicology Work with NIEHS Staff
- Altered Airway Cells Seen in Rhesus Macaques after Third-trimester Exposure to BPA
- Collaborative Work Receives SRP Supplement Award
- Live at 9 Seminar Series Returns
- Researchers Discuss Environmental Mixtures at SRP-Funded Workshop
- Duke SRP Uses Blog to Explain Research Projects
- Senate and House Appropriations Committees Make Recommendations for 2014 SRP Budget
- SRP Welcomes New Grantees
- Bringing Water Quality and Superfund Education to NC Classrooms
- Jagged Graphene can Slice into Cell Membranes
- UW SRP Hosts Agency Seminar on Impact of Metal Smelting Operations
- Dartmouth SRP Researcher Selected as a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences
- Custom Automation Improves Research in Zebrafish Lab
- OSU and MSU SRP Awarded Multiproject Center Grants
- Promising SRP Researchers Receive KC Donnelly Externship Award
- Strengthening UA SRP Ties with Other Agencies
- BU SRP Students and Staff Offer Free Soil Testing at Community Festival
- PROTECT Offers Introductory Seminar Series on Superfund Research Topics
- Brown SRP Celebrates Community Partners
- UA SRP Trainees Receive Foundation Support
- UA SRP Shows Impact of Arsenic on Fundamental Cell Metabolism
- Superfund Site Visit Informs Dartmouth SRP Grantees
- LSU SRP Attends Inaugural Workshop on Nanotechnology for Remediation
- Dartmouth SRP Video Selected for Film Festival
- Iowa SRP Hosts Field Trip for Seventh Graders
- EPA Adds Nine New Sites to National Priorities List
- Barium Distributions in Teeth Reveal Early Life Dietary Transitions
- Shine Reaches Out to Superfund Community, Explains SRP Research
- Audio Recording of Superfund Research Program Partnership Call Now Online
- UW SRP Co-Hosts Workshop on the Duwamish River Superfund Cleanup Proposal
- Dartmouth SRP Participates in Water Festival
- Maier Recognized as Leading Edge Researcher
- Superfund Research Highlighted in Nature Paper
- OSU Hosts Oregon Congressional Representative
- UK Research Award Recognizes Bhattacharyya
- Folt named chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill
- Potential Therapy for Stopping Cardiac Fibrosis Discovered
- Indiana Harbor and Canal Dredging Project Begins, Iowa SRP Collecting Data
- UNC SRP trainee receives the Syngenta Fellowship Award at 2013 Society of Toxicology Meeting
- Using Plants as Tools for Environmental Clean-Up
- Superfund Pollutants and Reproductive Health Discussion Features SRP Grantees
- Brown SRP Scientists Partner with ATSDR to Discuss Nanomaterial Design
- Suk Honored for Leadership by Society of Toxicology
- Midwest Legislators Convene at NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Summit
- NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum Visits Northeastern SRP Partner in Puerto Rico
- LSU and OSU Co-host Workshop to Improve Post-Disaster Communication
- Obama names Christiani to National Cancer Advisory Board
- Chen Attends International Global Mercury Meeting
- Iowa SRP Research Featured in News Story
- Rusyn Chairs WHO Subgroup to Assess Mechanistic Evidence of TCE Carcinogenicity
- SRP Trainee Wins ACS 2013 Graduate Student Award in Environmental Chemistry
- Duke Researcher Uncovers Widespread Use of Flame Retardants in U.S. Couches
Suk Visits the LSU Superfund Research Center
Bill Suk, Ph.D., Director of the Superfund Research Program (SRP), visited the Louisiana State University (LSU) SRP Center on November 22. At LSU, he discussed the state of the SRP and his vision for the Program moving forward, and met with trainees.
In his presentation to LSU SRP grantees, Suk emphasized the importance of studying the effects of hazardous substances on human health, particularly in vulnerable populations. He provided an overview of SRP publications and activities from the previous year, including high-impact research advances, trainee success stories, and research translation and community engagement highlights.
Suk described the major issues and needs regarding the global burden of environmentally induced diseases. He explained how the SRP serves as an excellent model for transdisciplinary collaboration to translate research and develop new technologies to improve global public health.
Suk met with LSU SRP trainees to discuss their research and stressed the importance of collaboration among trainees. He also conveyed how thankful NIEHS SRP staff is for the LSU meeting organizers who stepped up and put on a successful 2013 SRP Annual Meeting in October, despite the government shutdown.
Smith Presents Exposome Concept in China
University of California (UC) Berkely Superfund Research Program (SRP) investigators Martyn Smith, Ph.D., and Luoping Zhang, Ph.D., traveled to China in November to discuss and explain the concept of the exposome to students and professionals.
The exposome represents the totality of environmental exposures received by a person from conception onward. Smith stressed that the exposome includes all toxic chemicals present in a person's internal chemical environment where disease processes originate. Evaluating the exposome is important because the internal chemical environment reflects the combined effects of contaminants from air, water, and food, as well as chemicals produced in the body during metabolic processes.
Smith and Zhang taught a week-long course on advanced toxicology and the exposome at China Central Normal University in Wuhan China, Nov 5-11. The engaging course also provided students with award opportunities, and three students received awards for their efforts in the class.
While there, Smith also presented at the annual meeting of the Chinese Society of Toxicology in Guangzhou, China. He gave a plenary lecture on the exposome paradigm on Nov. 13. More than 1,000 Chinese scientists attended the talk. During his trip in China, Smith also gave lectures on the exposome in Beijing and Wuhan, China.
SRP Well Represented at the SETAC Meeting
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America Annual Meeting November 22-23.
Several grantees from SRP Centers gave oral presentations during the SRP-coordinated session, “Communities, Ecology, and Health: Making the Connection,” led by University of Kentucky (UK) SRP grantee Anna Hoover, Ph.D., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund and Technology Liaison Felicia Barnett, and SRP staff Heather Henry, Beth Anderson, and Michelle Heacock. The talks provided an opportunity for SRP researchers to reach out to stakeholders and foster collaborations between SRP scientists.
SRP grantees also received several awards during the meeting. John Geisy, Ph.D., former Michigan State University Principal Investigator, won the Global Partners Capacity Building Award, which recognizes individuals or groups for their contribution to enhancing the use of science in environmental policy and decision making in countries where there is a need for capacity building.
Mark Borsuk, Ph.D., leader of the Dartmouth SRP Community Engagement Core, received the Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management Best Paper Award, which recognizes innovative analysis and problem-solving research published in the previous journal volume year. Borsuk's paper, " A Bayesian Network Model for Integrative River Rehabilitation Planning and Management ," integrates state-of-the-science mathematical analysis into decision making critical to solving river ecosystem impairment problems around the world.
Peter J. Cadmus from Colorado State University, a trainee for the Colorado School of Mines SRP Individual Research Grant (R01), received the SETAC North America Endowment Fund Award. In addition, a number of SRP trainees also received travel awards to attend the meeting and gave oral or poster presentations. Visit the SETAC website for more information about the organization and its annual meeting.
Dewey-Humboldt Residents Learn Next Steps for Superfund Clean Up
At a community meeting held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP), residents of Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz., learned about remediation efforts for the area's Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site.
The Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter area adjacent to the Dewey-Humboldt community was declared a Superfund site in 2008.
EPA Remedial Project Manager Jeff Dhont presented an overview of the area's historical mining and smelter activities that created large amounts of uncontrolled mine waste, called tailings, with elevated levels of several metals, including arsenic. Older mine tailings are prone to wind dispersion and water erosion, potentially elevating heavy metal concentrations in the soil in neighboring communities.
"We can't make it all go away, but looking at the health impacts, we need to select a remedial action to clean up the site," Dhont said, referring to the contaminants. He further explained that the investigative team must determine the health and exposure risks of the site’s contamination and pick a remediation option with the public's input. The team is still in the remedial investigation stage, he said.
UA SRP researchers are working in the Dewey-Humboldt community and nearby Superfund site to assess whether wind-borne dust in the area carries metals, the Dewey-Humboldt residents exposures to metals, and whether certain plants can stabilize metal contaminants in mine tailings. They have also collaborated with residents to determine levels of metals in homegrown vegetables and provided additional information about environmental health issues in the region.
To learn more about the meeting, jointly held by the EPA and UA SRP, see the Prescott Valley Tribune news story .
EPA Adds Nine Hazardous Waste Sites to National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding nine hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country to protect people’s health and the environment.
The nine new sites include a hazardous waste dump, a former fabric mill, a former automotive rubber manufacturer, a former oil refinery, a former uranium mine, and groundwater plumes. The sites are in Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Washington.
The EPA is also proposing to add an additional eight sites to the list.
Since 1983, EPA has listed 1,694 sites on the NPL. At 68 percent of NPL sites, all cleanup remedies are in place. Approximately 38 percent of NPL sites have all necessary long-term protections in place, which means EPA considers the sites protective for redevelopment or reuse. More information about the new and proposed sites is available in the EPA press release .
UK SRP Grantees Awarded Prestigious Fellowship
Andrew Morris, Ph.D., Bernhard Hennig, Ph.D., and Kevin Pearson, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Program (UK SRP), won the 2014 University of Kentucky John P. Wyatt, M.D. Traveling Fellowship. The award provides institutional support to organize a one-day symposium on hazardous pollutants and associated environmental stress throughout the human life cycle. The symposium will feature prominent speakers and trainees.
The Wyatt award also provides funds that the UK SRP will use to initiate research collaborations with one of the invited symposium speakers, Tomas Trnovec, M.D., D.Sc., of the Department of Environmental Medicine at Slovak Medical University in Bratislava, Slovakia. The UK SRP Research Support Core, led by Morris, plans to analyze precious clinical specimens that Trnovec and colleagues collected from longitudinal cohorts of mothers and their children who were exposed to polychlorinated bipheyls (PCBs). The team hopes to uncover correlations between toxicological, inflammatory, and nutrition-related biomarkers.
“The information from the analysis is an important step towards understanding nutritional modulation of human exposure to persistent organic pollutants, such as PCBs, and associated public health issues,” said Henning. “These data will eventually enable the group to expand their research in this area by initiating clinical studies with human cohorts residing near Superfund sites within Kentucky.”
Rice Represents Brown SRP at Rhode Island Meeting of Environmental Leaders
Environmental leaders gathered in Rhode Island on Oct. 25, to discuss President Obama's climate change plan as well as environmental priorities, issues, and organizations in Rhode Island. James Rice, Ph.D., represented the Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) at the private meeting, which was hosted by the Environment Council of Rhode Island.
Participants included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, J.D., EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, J.D.
Senator Reed spoke about the link between environmental health and economic progress, and the need to foster a new generation of environmental stewards. McCarthy emphasized that environmental issues are economic issues, stressing the importance of working and partnering with scientists and advocates that work hard and know the facts, issues and priorities at the state and community level.
Because it was a small and intimate group, the participants were given a chance to speak and participate in a discussion related to environmental issues affecting Rhode Island. Rice took the opportunity to inform the group about the SRP. He explained how the Brown SRP Center is a very visible and active environmental program in Rhode Island, which is strongly supported by regional leaders such as Spalding, Reed, and Coit. He discussed the SRP in general, explaining its role as an NIEHS-funded grant mechanism and its ties with stakeholder groups whose work complements the program, such as the EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Rice also stressed and reiterated the role of Brown SRP, the importance of their work in Rhode Island, and NIEHS support.
See the Providence Journal for more information about McCarthy’s visit the Rhode Island and the meeting.
Duke SRP Trainee Engages Students with Environmental Research at Career Day
Duke University Superfund Research Program post-doctoral trainee Alexis Wells Carpenter, Ph.D., spoke with approximately 75 Durham Public School students in October during Burton Magnet Elementary’s career day. Burton Magnet Elementary focuses on developing its students’ global perspective and inquiry skills. Carpenter discussed with third through fifth grade students what research is and what it means to do research as a career. She told them about doing research as a chemist and led an activity about nanomaterials in consumer products.
Over the course of a morning, Carpenter spoke with small groups of students about environmental health research and why scientists do research in the field of environmental health. Based on her own research exploring exposures to nanomaterials in consumer products, she then had students guess which everyday consumer products contain nanomaterials. The students remained engaged throughout the activity and enjoyed learning about the science.
“My contact at Burton Magnet Elementarywrote inquiring about whether someone could join them for the career day,” said Eileen Thorsos, Duke SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) Coordinator. “Because I knew Alexis Wells Carpenter was interested in elementary outreach, I immediately invited her to present.”
The Duke RTC reaches out to students and educators to enhance interest in careers in science and to amplify the impact of outreach to the educators' classrooms, especially in the environmental health field.
The Duke SRP RTC staff also recently worked with the Elizabeth River Project , near the Superfund site in Virginia, to develop content and materials for the Elizabeth River Project's Learning Barge and for fourth grade classrooms. Hundreds of elementary school students visit the learning barge each year on a field trip, and the materials supplement their activities once they return to the classroom.
The goal of the Duke RTC is to communicate research results from the Duke SRP to multiple audiences in a timely fashion using tailored formats appropriate to the audience.
Environmental Justice Discussion Features SRP Grantees
During a conference call organized by the Boston University Superfund Research Program (SRP) and their Research Translation Core Partner, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), on Oct. 24, speakers from SRP Centers at Brown University, University of Arizona (UA), and Louisiana State University (LSU) explained their innovative work engaging communities to promote environmental justice.
The NIEHS SRP via its Community Engagement Cores (CEC), has a strong history of working with communities to support environmental justice goals. Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment for people of all races, cultures, and incomes, regarding the development and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Phil Brown, Ph.D., a distinguished professor at Northeastern University and CEC leader at Brown, addressed Brown SRP’s environmental health and justice outreach and education across Rhode Island. Activities include working closely on environmental health and justice education and outreach with their community-based partner organizations, especially the Environmental Justice L eague of Rhode Island, expanding after-school health education for students, and developing science cafés to inform citizens of environmental health research and local issues. He also described Brown SRP’s work with multiple levels of government to develop comprehensive environmental legislation on remediation and reuse.
Denise Moreno Ramírez, the CEC coordinator at UA SRP, discussed how the UA SRP is working in the U.S.-Mexico border region that is plagued by a growing environmental health crisis resulting from inadequate environmental infrastructure, uncontrolled disposal of hazardous waste, and widespread exposures to heavy metals from mining and metal processing. She talked about UA’s work to empower underrepresented community members of the border region to become active participants in recognizing and resolving hazardous environmental contamination risks. She described one of their activities in collaboration with promotoras, which consists of a series of training modules for these Latina community health workers, which helps them translate environmental health science in their communities.
Margaret Reams, Ph.D., CEC director and co-principal investigator of the LSU SRP, discussed work with residents and local environmental leaders facing potential exposure to contaminants from Superfund sites. LSU SRP collaborates with Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), a public interest organization with more than 100 affiliated groups, to reach leaders and members of grassroots environmental organizations. LSU SRP emphasizes the need to foster more resilient communities and to enhance the capacity of communities facing cumulative environmental exposures to take steps to make themselves safer.
Comments at the end of the call were made by Staci Rubin, a staff attorney with Alternatives for Community & Environment, an environmental justice organization in Massachusetts and a community engagement core partner of the BU SRP. To listen to a recording of the call and for background information and resources, visit the CHE website .
Gymnasts highly exposed to flame retardants
Young gymnasts may be exposed to hormone-disrupting flame retardant chemicals from ingesting or inhaling dust created by foam blocks, according to a study from the Boston University (BU) School of Public Health.
“Our results suggest that the study gymnasts are highly exposed, but it’s unclear what health risks, if any, they would face as a result of this exposure,” said Courtney Carignan, lead author of the study published online last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology .
Researchers affiliated with the BU and Duke University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Centers collected blood and hand-wipe samples from 11 female college-age gymnasts training at one gym in the Northeastern U.S. All participants reported practicing gymnastics for at least 12 years and, at the time of the study, averaged 19 hours a week at the gym.
The gymnasts’ blood contained levels of a compound called bromodiphenyl ether (BDE)-153 that were comparable to U.S. foam recyclers and carpet installers, groups with high occupational exposure. BDE-153 is a component of the flame retardant PentaBDE, commonly used in furniture foam, which was banned in 2004.
Samples of dust and foam taken from the participants’ gym and two other U.S. gyms suggest that the foam blocks – some of which were up to 20 years old – were the likely source. Most gyms contain a large pit filled with thousands of foam polyurethane blocks, a soft landing for gymnasts learning new acrobatic moves. Hand-wipe samples from the gymnasts contained two to three times more of the banned polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and newer flame retardants after practice than before practice.
Previous studies have linked PBDEs, which may persist in the body for years after exposure, to neurological effects in children exposed in the womb.
Carignan recommends washing hands after touching gym equipment and showering after leaving the gym to reduce exposure. For more information, see the Gymnast Flame Retardant Collaborative website , a resource about flame retardants and gymnastics founded by Carignan.
Dartmouth SRP Presents at New Hampshire Health Officers Annual Meeting
Michael Paul, Community Engagement Core Coordinator at the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP), presented to a standing-room-only group of 75 New Hampshire health officers at their annual meeting Oct. 24. With Department of Environmental Services partner Pierce Rigrod, Paul discussed the state’s water quality and described research and community engagement efforts by Dartmouth SRP.
Approximately 40 percent of New Hampshire residents obtain water from a well. Paul provided an overview of some local contaminants of concern commonly found in well water, including arsenic, and the potential health effects. He also discussed the importance of testing well water for arsenic, highlighting a report from the U.S. Geological Survey on arsenic in groundwater.
The presentation provided health officers with the material they need to inform their local boards and constituents about testing well water. The mission of the state-level Health Officers Association is to assist local health officials in providing technical assistance, representation, and educational and informational programs to the general public on environmental and public health topics.
Paul’s partnership with Rigrod and community outreach efforts is facilitated by Dartmouth SRP’s New Hampshire Arsenic Consortium . The consortium was established to help the public, primarily private well users, become aware of the presence and health implications of arsenic in the food and water supply. The consortium stresses the importance of testing private wells for arsenic and other common contaminants. They also provide information to private well users on how to take the appropriate next steps to reduce exposure to arsenic in well water.
Suk Honored for Contribution to Global Environmental Health
The Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health (PBC) selected NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Director William Suk, Ph.D., to receive its inaugural Chairman’s Award. The award, presented at the 15th International Conference of the PBC, recognized his enormous contribution to reshaping the PBC to focus more on global environmental health, with particular emphasis on children’s health.
Originally established in 1986 and called the Pacific Basin Consortium on Hazardous Wastes, the PBC provides a forum for scientists and engineers to facilitate dialogue and cooperation among industry, governments, and academia to tackle problems associated with hazardous waste production, management, and remediation in the Pacific Basin.
Suk played a special role in the development of the PBC, helping to transform the organization’s mission over time from focusing just on remediation to also include consideration of health effects. Suk served as a member of the Board of Directors from 1996-2004 and the Chair of the Board of Directors from 2000-2004. In 1996, Suk was instrumental in organizing the PBC meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which began the shift within the PBC to become more health-driven. Over the years, the PBC further evolved in its consideration of environmental health issues.
The PBC as it is today reflects Suk’s vision for the organization, which, along with the SRP, addresses toxic substances in an interdisciplinary fashion ranging from methods of remediation to studies of health effects.
For more information on the consortium, visit the PBC website .
Scientists Present UC Davis SRP Research on Detecting Harmful Chemicals
A variety of chemicals are used in everything from textiles to cosmetics and personal care products to food packaging, and exposure to some chemicals could have unintended health consequences, according to University of California (UC) Davis Superfund Research Program (SRP) scientists. In talks at a public seminar Oct. 24, UC Davis SRP trainees described how people are exposed to these harmful chemicals and how to measure exposure. The seminar was part of a regular series hosted by the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, an internationally recognized center that conducts multidisciplinary, collaborative research on lakes and surrounding watersheds.
Candace Bever, Ph.D., Jennifer Brennan, and Amy Rand, Ph.D., discussed how everyday chemicals interact within our bodies to disrupt normal functions. They also explained how UC Davis SRP is developing new tools, such as cells lines to measure hormone specific activity and antibodies to assess exposure to harmful chemicals.
“There often isn’t the chance to talk about science to such a broad audience of interested participants, but this seminar provided the platform for our research to be communicated and widely distributed,” said Rand, a UC Davis SRP postdoctoral fellow investigating how metabolic processes affect biological systems.
About 50 people attended the seminar, ranging from finance managers and business professionals to toxicology professors from the University of Nevada, Reno. Some audience members who came from Reno noted that they made the drive because they were intrigued by the topic and have always enjoyed this seminar series.
“Although the talks were scientifically driven, the questions provoked meaningful discussion about the relevance of environmental contaminants and our exposure to them,” said Rand. “I found the seminar to be a fantastic opportunity to bring current and ongoing environmental research to the public.”
2013 Annual Meeting Celebrates Research Trainees
The annual meeting of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Oct. 15-17 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was an occasion to highlight trainee accomplishments. The meeting, which attracted researchers and trainees from across the nation, was hosted by SRP grantees at Louisiana State University.
Along with the traditional presentations and plenary sessions, the meeting set aside time for celebrating award-winning students.
The 2013 winner of the coveted Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, Corin Hammond, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona, travelled back to her undergraduate alma mater of LSU to accept the award. During her talk, she explained her research on phytoremediation of mine wastes in semi-arid environments. Hammond is the sixteenth SRP trainee to receive this award.
As part of the meeting, five trainees were presented with the 2013 KC Donnelly Externship Award, an honorary award in memory of KC Donnelly, Ph.D. The award winners, Audrey Bone (Duke University), Leah Chibwe (Oregon State University), Shohreh Farzan (Dartmouth College), Erin Madeen (Oregon State University), and James Rice (Brown University), will have the opportunity to enrich their research in environmental health science at another institution for up to three months. For more information about the awardees, visit the KC Donnelly 2013 winners website.
Six trainees received awards for their poster presented in the trainee poster session Wednesday evening. The session featured 79 posters from SRP trainees. There were three winners in both the biomedical and non-biomedical categories.
Non-Biomedical poster session:
1st place: Jing Sun, Columbia University
“Arsenic In-Situ Immobilization by Magnetite Formation within Contaminated Aquifer Sediments”
2nd place: Leslie Knecht, University of Miami
“Sensing Environmental Contaminants with Paper-Based Platforms”
3rd place: Minghui Gui, University of Kentucky
“Chloro-Organic Detoxification by Membrane Supported Iron-Iron Oxide System”
Biomedical poster session:
1st place: Daniel Gusenleitner, Boston University
“Rodent-based Toxicogenomic Models of Hepatocarcinogenicity”
2nd place: Fabian Grimm, University of Iowa
“High Affinity Interactions between Human Transerythin and Polychlorinated Bipheny Sulfates – Implications for Thyroid Hormone Disruption and the Inhibition of Transerythin Amyloidosis”
3rd place: Peter Wagner, Harvard University
“New Insights into the Molecular Mechanisms of Lead Neurotoxicity”
Brown SRP Collaborates with Narragansett Tribe
To improve disaster preparedness within the Narragansett Tribe, the Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core distributed emergency planning information to Narragansett Tribal members at the Tribe's annual powwow.
The Narragansett Tribe is the only federally recognized tribe in Rhode Island. As a sovereign Nation, the Narragansett Tribe has its own governing body comprised of Chief Sachem, Medicine Man, Tribal Secretary, Tribal Treasurer, a nine-member Council, and a Tribal Elders’ Council.
As part of the powwow, the Brown SRP information tent displayed photographs of recent local disasters: mishita'shin (wind), mishittommo'ckon (water), no'te (fire), aukeesaei'u (earth), woskehuwaaonk (terror). Information for each family was tailored to their community's evacuation plan and emergency shelters.
The Community Engagement Core continues to collaborate with the Tribal Government to assist the Tribe with planning for all kinds of emergencies and natural disasters. The Community Engagement Core promotes environmental health and justice outreach and education across Rhode Island, a small, densely populated state with a long history of industrial activity. Its program complements the SRP's focus on a state-based approach by working on multiple levels with a variety of constituencies, including community-based organizations, state and federal government agencies, and other universities. For more information about the Brown SRP Community Engagement Core, visit the Brown SRP website .
UC Davis SRP Releases Research Updates
Check out the University of California (UC), Davis Superfund Research Program (SRP) Research Update No. 6 , which highlights their recent accomplishments and findings related to soil amendments, health and diet, and hydraulic fracturing.
While the research update is aimed at California and Federal Government staff involved in legislation and regulation of toxic environmental substances, others involved in those environmental issues may also find value in the update.
Topics in the current edition include:
- A Biochar Database , newly developed by the UC Davis SRP, for collecting detailed information about the new soil amendment material biochar.
- An explanation of how pollutants might play a role in the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids.
- A showcase for researcher Thomas M. Young, Ph.D., whose work on controlling the fate and transport of contaminants in the environment led to his current participation on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency panel to review current knowledge on the potential health effects of hydraulic fracturing.
Previous versions of the updates can be found on the UC Davis website .
Stefano Monti Discusses Computational Toxicology Work with NIEHS Staff
Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP) grantee Stefano Monti, Ph.D., described his latest work – to develop a platform for predicting xenobiotic toxicity and carcinogenicity – to SRP staff September 17 at NIEHS. Monti, along with his colleague David Sherr, Ph.D., who joined the discussion via conference call, will launch a new collaborative research initiative with the NIEHS National Toxicology Program (NTP). This collaboration, builds on current genomic analysis technologies to develop affordable approaches to predict carcinogenicity, toxicity, and signaling mechanisms of thousands of environmental chemicals and mixtures.
Monti emphasized the need for carcinogenicity screening, noting that not enough attention is given to prevention, namely understanding chemicals before they are used by industry and released into the environment. According to his talk, more than 80,000 chemicals are in use in the Unites States, while only a small portion of them have been tested for safety.
With this project, Monti and Sherr are developing ways to predict the carcinogenicity or toxicity of chemicals based on messenger RNA expression. They will create models from chemicals with known effects so they can then use these profiles to predict the potential of new or untested chemicals to be a carcinogen or toxicant.
The talk sparked thoughtful discussion between SRP staff and BU SRP scientists. For more information about the collaborative work and SRP projects at Boston University, visit the BU SRP website .
Altered Airway Cells Seen in Rhesus Macaques after Third-trimester Exposure to BPA
New evidence shows that bisphenol A (BPA) may affect lung health. Exposure to BPA has been shown to alter the development of reproductive organs, but little is known about its effect on the development of other organ systems. Now researchers from the Superfund Research Program at the University of California, Davis report that BPA exposure in gestation alters airway cell development in rhesus macaques.
Pregnant rhesus macaques were exposed to BPA during gestational periods roughly comparable to the second and third trimesters in humans.
The investigators found that BPA exposure in late pregnancy was associated with increased expression of secretory proteins in fetal tissue. The cells that produce these proteins mature late in gestation. The proteins themselves, Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) and the mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B, are key components of airway mucous secretions.
Increases in mucous cell abundance are a hallmark of asthma. Recent epidemiology studies show a link between neonatal BPA exposure and asthma. While this study is not conclusive in linking BPA to asthma or airways hyper-responsiveness as there was no long-term follow up on the exposed fetuses, it provides an important clue about how BPA may alter lung development, which in turn could predispose humans or animals to airway disease.
BPA exposure is widespread. One report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about 92% of urine samples collected from U.S. males and females more than 6 years old contained detectable levels of the chemical.
To read more about the study, visit the Environmental Health Perspectives news page .
Collaborative Work Receives SRP Supplement Award
Boston University Superfund Research Program (SRP) investigators David Sherr, Ph.D., and Stefano Monti, Ph.D., were recently awarded an SRP supplement to develop a platform for predicting xenobiotic toxicity and carcinogenicity. As part of the project, researchers will apply an economically feasible genomic analysis platform to predict the carcinogenicity, toxicity, and signaling mechanisms of thousands of individual environmental chemicals and complex mixtures. Boston University SRP, along with other national programs, would then be able to use the platform to test Superfund chemicals for toxicity and carcinogenicity. This predictive platform would also provide insight to the molecular mechanisms of chemicals being studied in BU SRP projects.
Boston University SRP scientists Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D., Jennifer Schlezinger, Ph.D., Mark Hahn, Ph.D., and John Stegeman, Ph.D. will collaborate with Sherr and Monti on this project.They will also work with investigators at the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and with colleagues at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
As part of the project, scientists will (a) generate an exposure database using their high throughput gene analysis platform, (b) build and evaluate a computational model using results to define carcinogen/toxicant and non-carcinogen/non-toxicant profiles, and (c) analyze expression profiles of response to chemicals for exposure risk assessment and understanding of the mechanisms of action.
For more information about the collaborative work and Boston University SRP projects, visit the BU SRP website .
Live at 9 Seminar Series Returns
The long-running Live at 9 Superfund Research Program Seminar Series returned for the 2013-2014 year with presentations by the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (SRP) about mining-site metals and metal exposures in Arizona homes. The series was developed by SRP in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Pacific Southwest (Region 9) Superfund and Technology Liaison Michael Gill.
SRP grantees Miranda Loh, Ph.D., and Robert Root, Ph.D., travelled to EPA Region 9 headquarters in San Francisco to present "Mining Site Metals: Exposure Pathways and Bio-Assays" on July 30, 2013. Both investigators are involved at the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site in Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz. Loh discussed her Metal Exposure Study in Homes (MESH), which is investigating whether there is a relationship between living near a former mine and smelter site and exposure to metals, particularly arsenic and lead, via soil, dust, and water. Root described his work to better understand the bio-accessibility of arsenic in mine waste.
Seminar attendees included the EPA as well as Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) personnel.
Gill was pleased with the discussion that followed the presentations, telling the presenters, "We appreciated your time, and I’m glad it stimulated some interesting conversation. Mines are an obvious challenge and priority here in the West, so your research is appreciated."
The SRP-EPA Seminar Series is designed to bring together the scientific strengths of SRP researchers with the research needs of EPA Remedial Project Managers in the Pacific Southwest. Each topic is presented as a Live at 9 seminar at Region 9 headquarters in San Francisco, followed by an international web seminar sponsored by NIEHS and broadcast via the EPA Clean-Up Information (CLU-IN) website.
Loh and Root reprised their live seminar over CLU-IN on Tuesday, Sept 3, 2013, 1-3pm EST. Archived Webinar .
Researchers Discuss Environmental Mixtures at SRP-Funded Workshop
Cancer experts from around the world convened August 8-9 at an international meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to focus attention on how environmental mixtures contribute to cancer development and progression. Sponsored by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), Assessing the Carcinogenic Potential of Low Dose Exposures to Chemical Mixtures in the Environment brought researchers together to identify key issues that present challenges in assessing the carcinogenic potential of low doses of chemical mixtures in the environment.
"The purpose of the meeting was to get cancer biologists to talk about the specific hallmarks of cancer that they research and what environmental exposures contribute to those hallmarks," said SRP Administrator Danielle Carlin, Ph.D. "The researchers focused on chemicals that don’t get a lot of attention in cancer research because we don’t normally consider them carcinogens by themselves. However, mixtures of many of these chemicals may contribute to cancer."
Eleven groups of expert participants were formed before the meeting, each focusing on a specific mechanistic contributor to cancer. Each team also identified environmental exposures that are known to disrupt the assigned mechanism. The teams presented a summary of their review of the specific topics at the meeting and responded to comments and questions from other experts and the audience.
Carlin attended the meeting and gave a presentation describing how NIEHS-funded researchers are working to unravel the health effects of environmental mixtures. Rick Woychik, Ph.D., the Deputy Director in the NIEHS Office of the Director, and National Toxicology Program toxicologist Cynthia Rider, Ph.D., also gave presentations about experimental designs and approaches to studying mixtures, and the importance of studying environmental chemicals as contributors to cancer etiology.
"SRP is interested in the NIEHS Strategic Plan goal to understand how combined environmental exposures affect disease pathogenesis," said Carlin. "This meeting was funded by SRP to foster collaboration and better understand how the joint action of multiple chemical exposures contributes to cancer."
Duke SRP Uses Blog to Explain Research Projects
Check out the Duke University Superfund Research Program (SRP) blog for a great way to get more information about Duke SRP research and its trainees. Duke SRP began the blog in March and has amped up postings over the summer to explain grantees work related to early life exposures and later life consequences, as well as accomplishments and insights from trainees.
Blog posts like Exposing Nemo , What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. True for fish, too? , Are there flame retardants in health care settings? , and Country Roads , were written with a personal touch by Duke SRP interns and graduate students to explain their time at Duke and their research projects.
In an effort to familiarize readers with organisms studied in Duke SRP labs, the blog also began a Friend Request Accepted series. Just as Facebook provides an opportunity to expand networks, stay in contact with people and get to know them better, these Facebook-inspired posts introduce some of the model organisms used in research projects at Duke SRP.
Part I of the “Friend Request Accepted” series features the mummichog , a model organism used to research mechanisms of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) toxicity at Duke. Part II highlights C. Elegans , another model organism used to research mechanisms and consequences of mitochondrial toxicity.
The blog posts provide insights into intern experiences, trainee projects, and clearly explain difficult concepts related to Duke SRP research. To read the blog posts, visit the Duke SRP website blog, ToxInsider .
Senate and House Appropriations Committees Make Recommendations for 2014 SRP Budget
The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, recommends funding for the NIEHS Superfund Hazardous Substance Research and Training Program, which funds both the Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Worker Education and Training Program, at $79,411,000, a level that matches the President’s request.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies presented a reduced budget. This committee’s recommendation for the NIEHS Program follows:
|Appropriation enacted, 2013 *||$78,928,000|
|Budget estimate, 2014||$79,411,000|
* FY13 enacted level does not include the 251A sequester or Sec. 3004 OMB ATB.
SRP Welcomes New Grantees
The Superfund Research Program is pleased to welcome the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Washington as newly funded Occupational and Safety Training Education Programs on Emerging Technologies (R25) grantees.
R25 grants are awarded to institutes of higher education to develop continuing education and academic curricula on occupational health and safety management practices in the areas of emerging technologies (e.g., emerging hazardous waste products, green chemistry, and sustainable remediation). These curricula will be available to industrial hygienists and graduate students, and other personnel involved in the evaluation, management, and handling of hazardous substances. Applicants were encouraged to collaborate with at least two other Higher Education Institutions to establish curricula in emerging technologies. Such partnerships will involve the establishment of a consortium to enhance the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience for the participants.
The Harvard School of Public Health (https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=R25ES23635) (PI: Robert Herrick, Ph.D.) will create a three-tiered program of education and training in the management of hazards associated with emerging technologies, including nanotechnology, drug delivery in healthcare, and sustainable remediation. The program will prepare professional practitioners and researchers to address the evaluation, handling, and management of hazardous substances and conditions associated with these emerging technologies.
The University of Minnesota (https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=R25ES23595) (PI: Peter Raynor, Ph.D.) will develop a comprehensive array of focused, web-based modules that can be used by instructors to tailor education and training initiatives on the health and safety of nanotechnology to serve the unique needs of different learners.
The University of Washington (https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/Program_detail.cfm?Project_ID=R25ES23632) (PI: Michael Yost, Ph.D.) will focus on developing sustainable solutions to potential workplace health and safety risks associated with biotechnology, nanotechnology, alternative (green) chemistry, and green landscaping. The program focuses training efforts on identification and evaluation of potential health risks and environmental impacts and on developing appropriate controls and substitution strategies to provide long-term sustainable technology solutions to minimize potential harmful waste streams, reduce process hazards, and lower energy costs.
For more information on these new R25 grantees, please visit the Occupational and Safety Training Education Programs on Emerging Technologies (https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/srp/programs/r25current.cfm) webpage.
Bringing Water Quality and Superfund Education to NC Classrooms
Continuing a long-running collaboration, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Research Translation Core, UNC Institute for the Environment, and Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) partnered to conduct professional training for science teachers on making connections between local water quality and environmental health.
During this three-day training, 20 North Carolina middle and high school science teachers learned about diverse environmental science, health, and civics issues related to water quality by exploring the watersheds and aquatic ecosystems of the North Carolina piedmont.
Teachers took home ideas for new lesson plans to address important water quality issues with their students both in the classroom and in outdoor environments, including the effects of contaminated water sources on wildlife, ecosystems, and human health. They also developed skills in watershed monitoring and learned about methods for addressing hazardous chemicals that threaten water quality.
SRP researchers, Mike Aitken, Ph.D., Damian Shea, Ph.D., and Alison Sanders, explained bioremediation as a strategy for cleaning up Superfund sites, the use of passive sampling devices to measure chemicals, and health effects of toxic contaminants.
The institute was also an opportunity for teachers interact with experts from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
To read more, visit the APNEP website .
Jagged Graphene can Slice into Cell Membranes
Researchers from Brown University, including Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees Robert Hurt, Ph.D., and Agnes Kane, Ph.D, have shown how tiny graphene microsheets could be big trouble for human cells.
The research shows that sharp corners and jagged protrusions along the edges of graphene sheets can easily pierce cell membranes. After the membrane is pierced, an entire graphene sheet can be pulled inside the cell where it may disrupt normal function. The new insight may be helpful in finding ways to minimize the potential toxicity of graphene, said Kane.
Discovered about a decade ago, graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick. It is incredibly strong despite being so thin and has remarkable electronic, mechanical, and photonic properties. Commercial applications in small electronic devices, solar cells, batteries, and even medical devices are in development. However, not much is known about what effect these materials might have if they get inside the body either during the manufacturing process or during a product’s lifecycle.
“At a fundamental level, we want understand the features of these materials that are responsible for how they interact with cells,” Kane said. “If there’s some feature that is responsible for its toxicity, then maybe the engineers can engineer it out.”
UW SRP Hosts Agency Seminar on Impact of Metal Smelting Operations
In case you missed it, an audio recording of the University of Washington (UW), Superfund Research Program (SRP) Agency Seminar held June 26 is now online . Jim Gawel, Ph.D., associate professor at UW Tacoma, presented the seminar, "The Long-Term Impact of Metal Smelting Operations on Arsenic Availability in Urban Lakes of the South-Central Puget Sound Region.” His presentation drew a diverse group of scientists from academia, federal government, and state government agencies.
Gawel’s research is focused on the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) smelter in Ruston, Washington. During the seminar, Gawel explained that ASARCO contaminated the south-central Pugent Sound region with heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. Although the smelter closed in 1986, heavy metals remain in urban lakes surrounding the previous smelting site. Gawel explained the chemical, physical, and biological factors affecting arsenic mobility in the lakes near the ASARCO smelter site and discussed initial data on effects of plants and animals in the lakes.
Since 2007, the UW SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) has sponsored the Agency Seminar Series at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offices in Seattle. Seminars are directed toward an audience of agency staff involved with risk assessment and communication at Superfund sites, such as EPA Region 10 and the Washington State Departments of Health and Ecology. The speaker series supports topic experts who can help agency staff address local hazardous waste and contamination issues.
“Our Research Translation team meets with an advisory committee from EPA and state agencies to identify relevant topics and at times even specific speakers,” said Katie Frevert, UW RTC Program Manager. “In the last year the EPA requested that we draw from UW resources and focus on specific regional issues they'd suggested. This brought us Joel Baker's talk on the Puget Sound last October and to Jim Gawel on arsenic availability in freshwater lake systems.”
To watch the June 26 seminar, as well as past presentations, including the fall 2012 talk on emerging technologies to revolutionize modeling of chemical contaminants by Joel Baker, Ph.D., visit the UW SRP Agency Seminar website .
Dartmouth SRP Researcher Selected as a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences
Jason H. Moore, Ph.D., of the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) has been selected as a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for 2013. The Kavli program honors young scientists who are considered leaders in their fields and have made significant contributions to science. Moore was selected this year for his expertise in translational bioinformatics and personalized medicine.
Fellows are invited to attend, present and network at U.S. and international Kavli Frontiers of Science symposia where some of the world’s brightest young scientists convene to share the exciting research taking place in their fields.
Moore presented his work, “Exploiting interestingness in a computational evolution system for the genome-wide genetic analysis of Alzheimer’s disease,” at the Third Indonesian-American Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium in Bali, Indonesia in June 2013. Unlike many scientific conferences that have a narrow technical focus in a single field, the Frontiers symposia aim to bring together the world’s thought leaders in a broad range of disciplines to communicate, share ideas, and foster future collaborative research.
“It was a real honor to be selected as a Kavli Fellow and to have the opportunity to interact with so many talented Indonesian and American scientists from diverse backgrounds,” says Moore. “This was by far one of the most inspirational scientific conferences I have ever been to.”
For more information, visit the Dartmouth News Page .
Custom Automation Improves Research in Zebrafish Lab
A new video from the Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) explains how SRP grantee Robert Tanguay, Ph.D., and members of his lab use custom automation to screen environmental chemicals.
Tanguay’s research group investigates the health effects of pesticides and other environmental chemicals using zebrafish embryos. The researchers expose the zebrafish embryos to various chemicals and look for malformations. Understanding these effects on zebrafish embryos contributes to the knowledge of the chemicals’ potential to affect human health, particularly with regard to developmental pathways.
To improve the screening of tens of thousands of chemicals, the researchers have designed robots to speed up the testing of chemicals.
“We would manually draw an embryo and place it in a well,” said Chappell Miller, a Research Assistant in Tanguay’s screening group and video contributor. “With the robots, we can do it all day. They don’t get tired, their hands don’t cramp up, and they are pretty consistent.”
“These robots are only here at Oregon State, nowhere else, which makes them pretty special,” said Miller.
To view the video, visit the OSU YouTube Page .
OSU and MSU SRP Awarded Multiproject Center Grants
Congratulations to the Superfund Research Programs at Michigan State University (MSU) and Oregon State University (OSU), who have received Multiproject Center Grant (P42) awards. These competitive renewal awards provide an additional five years of funding.
Michigan State University
The MSU SRP has been funded since 1989 and focuses on environmental, microbial, and mammalian biomolecular responses to AhR ligands. MSU will use the new grant award to better understand how dioxins affect human health and to identify new ways of removing them from the environment. The MSU grant will support multiple studies on dioxins, environmental contaminants that work their way up the food chain to humans, potentially raising the risk of certain cancers and other diseases.
“Our research findings can provide scientific information to assist regulatory agencies in decisions about how to best address sites contaminated with dioxins,” said Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D., director of the MSU SRP. For more information about the new MSU SRP grant, visit the MSU news site .
Oregon State University
The OSU SRP has been funded since 2009, and focuses on improving technologies and identifying emerging health risks related to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). OSU SRP aims to test new technologies for measuring the toxicity of environmental chemicals to determine their health risk and see if cleaning up hazardous waste sites generates even worse chemicals. PAHs, found at Superfund sites and urban settings, are formed in the burning of carbon-based energy sources, such as diesel, gasoline, coal, petroleum, and in cooking or tobacco smoke.
“The research could help local, state, and federal agencies, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, better understand the risk posed by PAHs,” said Dave Williams, Ph.D., director of the OSU SRP. Visit the OSU news site for more information about the new OSU SRP grant.
Promising SRP Researchers Receive KC Donnelly Externship Award
Five exceptional NIEHS-funded Superfund Research Program (SRP) trainees each received a 2013 KC Donnelly Externship Award Supplement to enrich their research in environmental health science. Now in its third year, the annual award was established to honor and celebrate environmental health researcher and Superfund grantee Kirby Cornwall (K.C.) Donnelly, Ph.D. The award supports SRP graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are pursuing transdisciplinary research, and emphasizes the importance of research application and collaboration. The awardees perform their externship an institution different from the one they attend.
Audrey Bone is a graduate student at the Duke University SRP under the guidance of Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D. She will conduct a six-week externship at Oregon State University (OSU) where she will learn to use the zebrafish developmental toxicity bioassay.
Leah Chibwe is a graduate student at the OSU SRP under the guidance of Staci Simonich, Ph.D. She will complete a three month externship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill , where she will identify potentially genotoxic compounds in bioremediated soil, originally contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Shohreh Farzan, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher working with the Dartmouth Toxic Metals SRP under the guidance of Margaret Karagas, Ph.D. She will carry out a three-month externship with the Columbia University SRP to examine the role of arsenic exposure on blood pressure over time and in relation to cardiovascular disease related mortality.
Erin Madeen is a graduate student in the OSU SRP under the mentorship of David Williams, Ph.D. A three-week externship at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will allow her to conduct analysis of high molecular weight PAHs in blood and urine from human volunteers.
James Rice, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research associate with Brown SRP investigator Eric Suuberg, Ph.D. Rice will lead a passive sampler study to monitor site contamination at the Fisherville Mill Brownfield site in Grafton, Mass. under his three-month externship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Donnelly, who died in 2009, had a distinguished career at the Texas A&M University and was a dedicated mentor to his students and post-doctoral researchers, instilling in them the importance of applying their knowledge and findings to improve the health of communities exposed to environmental contaminants. For more information about the winners, visit the 2013 KC Donnelly Winners page.
Strengthening UA SRP Ties with Other Agencies
Cross-agency collaboration coupled with research translation and community engagement has become a working model for the University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program (SRP). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), along with several state agencies are actively engaging with UA SRP researchers on projects related to the metal exposure in homes , phytoremediation, and wind-blown dust studies, as well as community outreach related to those topics.
The Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site, the location of UA SRP’s phytoremediation field trial, holds particular interest for the EPA and its cleanup methods at Superfund sites polluted with mine waste. As part of the field trial, UA SRP is testing ways to stabilize mine waste and keep metals from spreading to adjacent communities. It is also testing ways to make mine waste a suitable plant growth substrate so plants will extract mine waste from the soil.
Additionally, the UA SRP project to determine arsenic uptake in homegrown vegetables, Gardenroots , recently wrapped up, spurring local citizens to contact the EPA with questions related to the findings.
To ensure a coordinated response from interested parties related to findings from its projects, principal investigators at UA SRP have held conference calls with regional EPA staff to discuss all four projects. UA SRP has also held a series of conference calls to stay up-to-date on current and future local events with agencies such as ATSDR, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).
UA SRP is working with EPA to prepare another chapter in their “Live in Region 9,” aimed at informing local EPA Region 9 staff of relevant UA SRP research. It is also preparing a joint meeting for the Dewey-Humboldt community, the community adjacent to the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site, which will include presentations and break-out sessions by EPA Region 9, ATSDR, ADHS, ADEQ, and the UA SRP.
Look out for future UA SRP collaborative events and read about recent news on the UA SRP website .
BU SRP Students and Staff Offer Free Soil Testing at Community Festival
The Boston University (BU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Community Engagement Core partnered with The Food Project , a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture and access to healthy food, to offer free soil testing at City Farm Fest. The event, on May 11, was open to the public and took place at the Dudley Greenhouse, a community greenhouse sited on a rehabilitated brownfield in Roxbury.
A team of several BU staff and students were on site to analyze garden soil samples for lead (Pb) with an X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer (XRF) and help interpret and answer questions about the results for attendees. The BU SRP analyzed more than 100 samples and offered soil health consultations to 55 community and backyard gardeners.
City Farm Fest is an annual celebration held at the beginning of spring and the start of the growing season. In addition to free soil analyses and consultation, attendees could also purchase seedlings, compost, and garden materials, and engage in other educational activities.
To see more photos from the event, visit the BU SRP website. .
PROTECT Offers Introductory Seminar Series on Superfund Research Topics
The Northeastern University Superfund Research program (NE SRP) Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Environmental Contaminants (PROTECT) held an introductory seminar series focused on environmental health disciplines. The purpose of the seminars was to provide an introduction to the primary concepts, basic terminology, and applicability of NE SRP fields of research to the understanding of environmental health problems. Attendees included students, researchers, and faculty who want a better understanding of environmental health areas that they may interface with in the course of their research.
Four PROTECT grantees gave presentations during two weeks in June related to contaminant transport in groundwater, environmental epidemiology, toxicology, and remediation.
Ingrid Padilla, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, explained basic concepts about contaminants, how contaminants enter groundwater, and how they are transported in groundwater. She then used her PROTECT work in the Karst Aquifer of Northern Puerto Rico as a case study to explain how she is working to better understand how contaminants move through groundwater.
John Meeker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, focused on basic concepts of environmental epidemiology. He explained the types of epidemiological studies and clarified basic terminology. He also helped the participants understand causality and study validity in epidemiology, and how epidemiological studies inform exposure assessments by explaining his work in the PROTECT Program.
Rita Loch-Caruso, PhD., Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, provided detailed information about what happens to chemical contaminants after they enter the body by explaining the processes of adsorption, distributions, metabolism, and elimination and how chemical properties can affect the effectiveness of each process. She also described her own research to understand the mechanisms by which certain Superfund pollutants increase women’s risk of preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes.
Akram Alshawabkeh, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, gave the final seminar on soil and groundwater remediation. He explained the types of contaminants in soil and groundwater, the importance of site parameters and contaminant properties on remediation, and the types of remediation methods used to recycle, destroy, remove, stabilize, or immobilize contaminants. Alshawabkeh’s PROTECT research aims to develop green remediation approaches based on conversion of solar energy into iron electrolysis in groundwater.
For more information and to listen to the seminars, visit the PROTECT Academy website .
Brown SRP Celebrates Community Partners
The Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) held an event June 3, 2013 in appreciation of its community partners. The event included presentations by scientists and posters by students that described Brown SRP research and outreach and its benefits to Rhode Island communities.
Brown SRP scientists, faculty, staff, and students also heard first hand of the many proud accomplishments and daunting challenges facing community and Tribal partners.
“At this event, it was clear that the Brown SRP is invested in supporting an amazing number of community partners and providing a unique forum for these partners to network,” said Beth Anderson, SRP program analyst and event attendee.
Community presenters included representatives from Miriam Hospital, Hospitals for a Healthy Environment in Rhode Island Coalition, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, Urban Pond Procession, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Blackstone River Watershed Council, Rhode Island Indian Council, and Environmental Protection and Natural Resources for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.
Brown SRP works with community-based organizations on environmental health and justice issues, education, regulation, and cleanup. It is dedicated to increasing environmental health and environmental justice education.
UA SRP Trainees Receive Foundation Support
Congratulations to University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program (SRP) graduate students Linnea Herbertson and Corin Hammond on receiving prestigious awards this year. Both Herbertson and Hammond are working on doctoral degrees in the UA Superfund Research Program (SRP). Both of their research projects focus on phytostabilization of mine tailings at the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site in Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz., and are part of the UA SRP project, Phytostablization of Mine Tailings in the Southwestern United States: Plant-Soil-Microbe Interactions and Metal Speciation Dynamics .
NSF fellowship support for Herbertson
Herbertson received a 2013 Graduate Research Fellowship Program award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) . As an NSF fellow, she will receive three years of funding support, including stipend, travel, and tuition, and have access to a variety of professional development activities.
Herbetson is part of the environmental microbiology laboratory of Raina Maier, Ph.D., Director of the UA SRP. Her research explores whether the bacterial community on the roots of plants grown in mine tailings can aid in the sequestration of toxic metals. He is also investigating how these bacterial communities can as act as an indicator of plant health and phytostabilization vitality.
ARCS scholarship support for Hammond
Hammond received a scholarship from the Phoenix chapter of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation for the 2013-2014 academic year. Her award will provide tuition, travel funds, and a stipend. Hammond is a doctoral student training in the environmental chemistry lab headed by UA SRP lead researcher Jon Chorover, Ph.D.
Hammond’s graduate work is focused on characterizing the biogeochemical transformation of metal(loid)s during phytostabilization of mine tailings. High acidity, high heavy metal content, and low organic matter content are among the factors that complicate the phytostabilization process. To assess the changes in biogeochemistry associated with the phytostabilization strategy, members of Chorover’s lab analyze soil cores, by laboratory and synchrotron X-ray techniques, to investigate contaminant transport and soil genesis as a function of time and depth.
UA SRP Shows Impact of Arsenic on Fundamental Cell Metabolism
When University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) trainees Fei Zhao and Paul Severson were discussing their doctoral projects, they realized that they had both seen media acidification in different cell types exposed to arsenic. This realization brought the research groups of their mentors, Bernie Futscher, Ph.D. , and Walt Klimecki, Ph.D. , into a collaboration to investigate the phenomenon. The result is a joint publication, in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology , where they demonstrate that arsenic induces a perturbation of cellular energetics in cultured human cells.
“We always emphasize to our trainees that it is the casual interactions that sometimes result in an unexpected “Aha!” moment,” said Klimecki. “Fei and Paul experienced a great example of that.”
Starting with the initial observation that cultured cells exposed to arsenic acidified their media more rapidly than control cells, the team set out to find out why. They demonstrated increased lactate levels in response to arsenic in a variety of human cell types, and showed that this was due to glycolysis. They found that a number of genes in the glycolytic pathway were up-regulated in response to arsenic, possibly through the induction of master regulator HIF-1. The alteration of energy production from oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis, also known as the Warburg effect, represents a fundamental perturbation caused by arsenic that could underlie some of its other adverse effects.
Klimecki sees the value of a reductionist approach to arsenic toxicology, and is looking for how changes in basic cellular pathways could explain how arsenic exposure causes such a diversity of diseases, from cancer, to atherosclerosis, to diabetes. Impacting a fundamental process such as energy metabolism might just be the mechanism that sets the stage for a variety of diseases.
“It turns out that high school biochemistry is still important,” Klimecki says. “Metabolism is a hot topic in science right now, and we see a clear link between its disruption and arsenic exposure.”
Superfund Site Visit Informs Dartmouth SRP Grantees
Grantees at the Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) got a taste of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site remediation process with a presentation and tour by Ed Hathaway, an EPA Region 1 Remedial Project Manager (RPM). Hathaway led a tour of the Elizabeth Mine Superfund Site in Strafford, Vermont, attended by Dartmouth SRP researchers and research translation and community engagement coordinators.
“This particular site was very complex and required long-term commitment from the EPA and the community,” said Michael Paul, Dartmouth SRP Community Engagement Core coordinator. “In addition to the natural and cultural history of the site, I learned a lot about how Hathaway involved the local community in the risk assessment, remediation process and the final decision.”
The Elizabeth Mine Superfund site is an abandoned copper and copperas (ferrous sulfate) mine that covers approximately 850 acres. Mining activities began at Elizabeth Mine in the early 1800s and continued for nearly 150 years. Historic tailing piles and waste piles have become a substantial source of acid mine drainage, resulting in extensive plant and organism die-off in the nearby Copperas Brook. High metal concentrations in the Ompompanoosuc River, more than a mile downstream from the tailing piles, were also noted in the description of the Superfund Site on the EPA Website .
“The site is full of mining tunnels and the waste is such that it is not obviously a problem,” said Laurie Rardin, Dartmouth SRP Research Translation Core Coordinator. “Hathway explained how the EPA had to work hard to educate the local community as to why they were declaring it a Superfund site.”
“Hathaway also used this site to tell us about the bigger story of hazardous waste disposal and remediation in the U.S.,” said Paul. “Unfortunately, like many abandoned sites, the responsible party was not available to provide funding or assist with cleanup efforts; therefore, the burden falls on the federal government to provide funding to protect human health and the environment.”
LSU SRP Attends Inaugural Workshop on Nanotechnology for Remediation
Louisiana State University (LSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees discussed applications of nanotechnology for safe and sustainable environmental remediation at a workshop June 5-6 with others from the environmental remediation community, industry, academia, and government.
Participants of the inaugural workshop, Nano-4-Rem , in Hammond, La., shared thoughts and ideas on work practices that support nanotechnology-enabled environmental remediation. The workshop also gave participants from diverse groups and organizations an opportunity to become acquainted with other nanotechnology stakeholders and give presentations within the nanotechnology field.
During his presentation, SRP Project Leader Slawo Lomnicki , Ph.D., discussed the challenges, risks, and research directions of nanotechnology for the environment, bringing in his own research related to reactivity and properties of nanoparticles. He also explained the health and environmental effects of environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs), the focus of the LSU SRP Center. Because fine particles and nanoparticles have high surface-to-volume ratios and increased reactivity, they may be particularly prone to EPFR formation. The LSU group has found that EPFRs lead to oxidative damage and may contribute to heart and lung dysfunction.
The two day workshop concluded with teams discussing case studies in which nanotechnology was used for site remediation. Participants were challenged to develop strategies for making the remediation activity more sustainable for human health and the environment.
The small group setting of the workshop provided many opportunities for informal interaction between LSU SRP grantees and other participants. Gregory Gervais, chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Technology Assessment branch within the Superfund Program, and Michael Gill, EPA Office of Research and Development Superfund and Technology Liaison to EPA Region 9 were two of the organizers of the workshop.
Dartmouth SRP Video Selected for Film Festival
The Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) video, “ Mercury: From Source to Seafood ,” screened June 8 in Santa Cruz, Calif. as part of the Beneath the Waves Film Festival . The film, created by the Dartmouth SRP, describes the health effects of mercury in seafood and simplifies the complexities surrounding seafood consumption.
According to the Dartmouth SRP , two-thirds of the mercury entering the environment comes from man-made sources including industrial plants, coal burning, and incinerators, and the additional one-third enters from natural sources. The 10-minute video follows the journey of mercury from man-made and natural sources into the seafood we eat. It discusses which species of fish contain the least and most mercury, and explains the possible adverse health effects of consuming high-mercury fish, particularly for pregnant women and young children. The film also describes the health benefits of eating low-mercury fish and the importance of reducing the amount of mercury that enters the environment.
The Dartmouth SRP’s film was chosen to be a part of the festival in March. The film festival was organized by Anne Gibbs from the U.S. Geological Survey and hosted by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. The goal of the events is to facilitate ocean conservation by bringing together marine films from around the world for open discussion, while providing hands-on educational opportunities.
Iowa SRP Hosts Field Trip for Seventh Graders
Seventh grade science students from Columbus Community Schools recently visited the University of Iowa Superfund Research Program (ISRP) science and engineering laboratories for a three-hour interactive tour.
Because the overall theme of the ISRP is the consequences of atmospheric sources and exposures to semi-volatile polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), students learned about the toxicity of PCBs, airborne sampling techniques used to measure PCBs in the air, and how ISRP scientists are removing PCBs from the environment.
The tour is hosted by the ISRP Community Outreach Core to improve scientific literacy and increase awareness of health science and engineering projects. PCB contamination from industrial sources in the area is a potential community health issue. Increasing student knowledge of the health effects and possible exposure routes of the contamination is also helping to address community concerns regarding PCBs.
The annual tour involved approximately 60 students, four teachers, and 15 ISRP faculty and staff. Janice Rutt, a Columbus Community Middle School science teacher, commented on how well her students were engaged during the tour and how students who visited years before still talk about their University of Iowa field trip. The ISRP also visits Rutt’s school every fall to teach eight grade science students about PCBs.
EPA Adds Nine New Sites to National Priorities List
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding nine new hazardous waste sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. The sites are located across seven states and include a former pulp and paper mill, former paint manufacturer, former chemical transportation business, and former zinc smelter. Some of the major contaminants of concern include metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and pesticides.
As with all NPL sites, the EPA first works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting significant cleanup at the site.
For more information, visit the EPA Website .
Barium Distributions in Teeth Reveal Early Life Dietary Transitions
A recent study in the prestigious journal Nature has shown that chemical signatures in teeth can be used to uncover aspects of early life dietary transitions. Manish Arora, Ph.D., NIEHS R00 early investigator grantee and former postdoctoral trainee at the Harvard University Superfund Research Program (SRP), and his research team developed a method to measure early life dietary transitions based on barium variations in teeth.
"Early life diet, including breastfeeding, is important in so many ways. It is crucial for infant health but can also serve as a pathway for chemical exposure,” said Arora. “Given that maternal recall of breastfeeding practice and early life diet can be biased when recorded many years later, an objective retrospective biomarker would provide a major advance to studies on children's health".
Prenatal barium transfer is restricted by the placenta, but marked enrichment occurs immediately after birth from mother’s milk or infant formulas, which contain higher barium levels than umbilical cord sera. In response to these variations in dietary barium exposure, levels in enamel and dentine increase at birth and remain elevated for the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Barium levels in teeth rise further with introduction of infant formula because most cow-milk and soy based formulas contain much higher levels of barium than human milk. Arora’s team mapped these barium variations in teeth using a laser ablation method that he has previously successfully used in studies on lead and manganese exposure.
This method has far reaching applications, according to Arora. It can be applied to epidemiologic investigations of the health consequences of breastfeeding and chemical exposures during early life as well as studies on primate evolution. It can also be used to specifically investigate the health effects of barium, and differences between breastfeeding and infant formulas.
“One of the studies we plan to undertake from this work is to investigate how exposure to barium and other elements in early life will affect children’s health,” said Arora. “Our biomarker provides a unique opportunity to study breastfeeding and infant formula use from the perspective of exposure to these elements.”
Arora’s team first analyzed teeth from macaques with known diet histories to refine the method. They later tested teeth of children enrolled in the University of California Berkeley's Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) study, where breastfeeding and infant formula use were recorded prospectively. Researchers found that they were able to predict early life dietary changes in the children based on this newly developed method.
An interesting application of this method arose when a several thousand year old Neanderthal tooth was made available. Using their method, the researchers also document the first early life dietary transition in a juvenile Neanderthal.
Shine Reaches Out to Superfund Community, Explains SRP Research
Harvard University Superfund Research Program (SRP) scientist Jim Shine, Ph.D. presented new information about lead, zinc, and cadmium in soils to community residents living around the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma on May 9-10. Tar Creek is a 40 square-mile Superfund site contaminated with remains from what was once one of the largest lead and zinc mining operations in the world.
Shine introduced the key issue of bioaccessibility of metals, a measure of the potential for human uptake of toxic metals upon exposure. His study found the bioaccessibility of lead, zinc and cadmium in yard soils in the Tar Creek community varied greatly, from about 5 percent to 100 percent.
For risk assessment and clean-up purposes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) often uses a fixed value of total amount of metals in soil to determine if a health risk exists and needs to be remediated. Shine explained that the total concentration of lead in the soil is not always the best way to think about health risks.
“The percent biologically available was not correlated with the total concentration, meaning that knowing the total concentration of metals didn’t always paint the best picture of true health risks,” said Shine. “My goal is to let them understand the assumptions that are happening underneath the risk assessments so that the community themselves can ask the right questions and understand the answers they get in return as the EPA selects clean-up options for their community.”
“I have consistently brought my SRP trainees to this community to talk about their research so they know how research actually relates to the real-world, answering real questions of concern from real citizens” said Shine. “Science is not limited to some assay in a test-tube in a laboratory with no windows.”
Shine began working in Tar Creek in 2004, studying the environmental pathways that determine how toxic metal mining wastes move through the environment and ultimately end up in people. For more information about his work and Tar Creek, visit the Harvard SRP website .
Audio Recording of Superfund Research Program Partnership Call Now Online
In case you missed it, an audio recording of the "25 Years of the Superfund Research Program (SRP): Highlights and Hopes" Partnership Call sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) is now online . Originally airing May 23, the four featured speakers were William Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H., Joseph Graziano, Ph.D., Jennifer Schlezinger, Ph.D., and David Ozonoff, M.D., M.P.H.
Suk, director of the SRP since its inception, described the overall structure of Superfund Research Centers, primary goals of the program, and key changes in the program over time.
"We provide hypothesis-driven basic research and applied, product-oriented research for informing the risk assessment process," said Suk.
Graziano, director of the Columbia University SRP, discussed his research on arsenic in drinking water in Bangladesh, which associates exposures with deficits in child intelligence. Schlezinger, a researcher at the Boston University SRP, discussed her experience as a program trainee before leading her own study focused on receptor-mediated toxicity and chemical mixtures. Ozonoff, director of the Boston University SRP, served as a discussion leader.
CHE, founded in 2002, is an international partnership committed to strengthening the scientific and public dialogue on environmental factors linked to chronic disease and disability.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.