Superfund Research Program
- 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
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 .