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Superfund Research Program

April 16, 2014 New

SRP Well Represented at the SOT Meeting

Christopher Barnhart at SOT
University of California, Davis SRP trainee Christopher Barnhart (center) won an award for the Pacific Northwest section of SOT.  Barnhardt discussed his poster with SRP Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., (left) and his advisor SRP grantee Pamela Lein, Ph.D. (right) during the poster session.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in Phoenix, Ariz., for the 2014 Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting. Several grantees gave talks and presented posters during the meeting March 23-27

SRP Program Administrator Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., chaired two workshops during SOT: “New Concerns and New Science Addressing Environmental Asbestos Exposures” and “Developmental Toxicity from Chemical Mixtures: Research to Application in Susceptible Populations.”

Michigan State University (MSU) SRP Center Director Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D., chaired a special symposium on the first full day of the SOT meeting featuring NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. The format of the session was conversational and welcoming, with Birnbaum and Kaminski seated on stage and about 200 people in attendance. Queries ranged from predictive toxicity efforts, arsenic, and droughts, to peer review of grants and the new collaboration between NIEHS and the World Health Organization.

Jay Goodman, Ph.D. and Joe Graziano, Ph.D., were among the many SRP grantees that received awards during the meeting, including several others, from poster awards to career achievement awards. MSU SRP grantee Goodman was awarded the SOT Merit Award, which recognized his career of distinguished contributions to toxicology. Columbia University SRP Director Graziano was chosen as the recipient of the 2014 Career Achievement Award from the Metal Specialty Section of the SOT and was honored with a special reception. A paper by OSU SRP grantees was also chosen by a committee of the Risk Assessment Specialty Section of the SOT as one of the Best Papers Published in 2013.

Sloane Miller at SOT
Sloane Miller, an undergraduate with UNC SRP grantee Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., discusses her work on toxic metals with Birnbaum.
Natasha Catlin at SOT
Brown University SRP trainee Natasha Catlin, Ph.D., won two awards for her poster on mixtures.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

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April 16, 2014 New

Folt Delivers 2014 NIEHS Spirit Lecture Encouraging Women in Science and Leadership

Carol Folt address the audience
Folt noted how coming from a science background poised her for a leadership position. Decision making tactics acquired through the practice of science become helpful when complex problems require critical thinking and leadership.

(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS welcomed University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Chancellor Carol Folt, Ph.D., March 20 to present the 2014 Spirit Lecture in Rodbell Auditorium. Folt, formerly a Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded researcher at Dartmouth College, described her journey from school girl to woman scientist and leader, encouraging her listeners to embrace challenge, diversity, and change in their lives.

Folt discussed how the SRP was a major factor in her development as a scientist. When the Dartmouth SRP began in 1995, Folt led a project in which she studied how metals, such as mercury and arsenic, move through aquatic environments and into the food chain, ultimately influencing the potential for human exposure to metals by eating fish.

According to Folt, the SRP helped pave the way for a new kind of leader that supports cross-disciplinary research and training and emphasizes application of science. As a female in science at a time when few women were on the faculty, she appreciated that the SRP fostered diversity and required teams to be built around trust. Being part of a new program is both challenging and extremely rewarding in terms of learning limitations, constructing teams, and overcoming challenges, said Folt.

“The future rests on big ideas,” Folt said as she introduced an impressive catalogue of heroes, role models, and Carolina Firsts, both male and female. They ranged from Dartmouth chemist Karen Wetterhahn, Ph.D., who died of accidental methyl mercury poisoning in the course of her Superfund research, to current compelling thinkers Daphne Koller  , Ph.D., Muhammed Yunus  , Ph.D., and Bill and Melinda Gates  .

Folt also touched on the importance of balancing family with work. As a mother, Folt learned that she couldn’t do it all. When forced to make choices, she was able to discern the projects at work that were most important, which helped her prioritize and become more efficient at work and at home. She encouraged women in science to ask questions and take opportunities. Folt emphasized the importance of not being afraid to like something different and, when given the opportunity, to be a part of a project, or even a field, that is just beginning.

For more on the talk, see the NIEHS Environmental Factor .

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April 16, 2014 New

Discover the Chemicals in your Sofa with New Duke SRP Study

child playing on floor wiht sofa in background

Scientists at the Duke University Superfund Research Program (Duke SRP) are testing for flame retardant chemicals in furniture and can help you find out what may be in your furniture at home. Duke SRP is asking the general public be part of a study by submitting foam samples.

Over the past 10-15 years, scientific evidence has shown that some of the flame retardants used in furniture are released and accumulate in indoor environments. People can be exposed to these chemicals through inhalation and unintentional ingestion of dust particles. The use of one flame retardant known as PentaBDE was phased out in 2004 due to concerns about the chemical’s persistence, its tendency to concentrate in human tissues, and potential human health effects.

Other chemicals are currently used to meet flammability standards, but little information is available on how people are exposed to these new flame retardants, or if there are potential health effects. Because manufacturers are not required to label products with the flame retardant applications used, consumers cannot determine without laboratory testing if flame retardants are in their products.

Data collected from this testing will help the research team understand which flame retardant chemicals are currently being used in furniture. Once they have a sense of what chemicals are being used, they will be able to investigate how people are exposed to these chemicals in the home and understand if the chemicals may impact human health.

If you are interested in sending Duke SRP a sample of your foam for analysis, please complete the sample submission  process. Visit the Duke SRP Analytical Chemistry Core website  for more information about the project.

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March 28, 2014 New

Superfund Researchers Featured in Environmental Health News

Two stories on Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees were published late February in Environmental Health News (EHN), an independent news organization that reports and distributes stories on environmental topics. The articles report on innovative SRP research related to contaminants in commonly used products, including paint pigments and tents.

Investigating PCBs in yellow pigments

paint roller wiht yellow paint on it

One EHN article  featured work on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), led by Iowa University SRP grantee Keri Hornbuckle, Ph.D. Last year, Iowa researchers reported that PCB-11, a certain form of the chemical, can disrupt cell signaling  . While there has been no evidence of fish or wildlife contamination, Iowa SRP studies suggest that people are widely exposed. Sixty percent of 85 women from East Chicago, Ind., and Columbus Junction, Iowa, had traces of PCB-11  in their blood.

All PCBs were banned in the United States in the late 1970s because they were building up in the environment and in the bodies of people and wildlife. However, certain forms of PCBs that are by-products of manufacturing are allowed as unintentional contaminants.

The EHN article describes new research that found that PCB-11, an unintentional by-product of pigment manufacturing, is also leaching out of clothing and print materials, which builds on previous findings from Hornbuckle. Iowa SRP researchers discovered inadvertent PCBs in commercial pigments  commonly used in paint but also in inks, textiles, paper, cosmetics, leather, plastics, and food.

Flame Retardants in Tents May Rub Off on Hands

camping tent

Another EHN article  features recent findings  findings from a study, led by Duke University SRP grantee Heather Stapleton and BU SRP researcher Thomas Webster, conducted at a North Carolina campground. According to the article, researchers have identified flame retardants used in manufacture of tents and found that they are likely rubbing off on campers’ hands.

Ten of 11 tents tested contained flame retardants. Four had the brominated flame retardant known as DecaBDE, making it the most commonly detected additive in the study. DecaBDE was used in some electronics and textiles. But in 2009, industry began phasing out DecaBDE because it persists in the environment, potentially causes cancer, and may impact brain function, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Three tents contained tris (1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate, known as TDCPP, which has been used widely as a substitute for phased-out brominated flame retardants. Studies have suggested that TDCPP also may harm the developing brain and alter hormones.

To test whether the chemicals were coming off on campers’ hands, the researchers compared wipe samples from campers’ hands after they assembled their tents to wipe samples taken from the tent walls. According to the authors, the results suggest that individuals are exposed to flame retardant chemicals following contact with treated textiles and further studies are needed to better understand this route of exposure.

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March 27, 2014 New

Addressing Health Risks and Regulation of 1,4-Dioxane in Massachusetts

Boston University (BU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees Madeleine Scammell, Sc.D, and Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Ph.D. were featured as part of an update on the Eastham landfill at the Eastham Town Hall in Eastham, Mass., on Feb. 11. The update covered topics from the landfill’s opening in the 1930s to a recent discovery of 1,4-dioxane in a monitoring well that led the town to start inspecting private wells in the area. Scammell and Heiger-Bernays presented to the standing room only crowd of townspeople and town officials on the health risks and regulation of the contaminant 1,4-dioxane.

1,4-dioxane, a widely used solvent affecting groundwater supplies across the U.S., comes into water resources primarily from industrial use as a solvent stabilizer. It is also found in many common products, paints paint strippers, varnishes, detergents, shampoos, and deodorants. Chronic exposure may result in dermatitis, eczema, and liver and kidney damage.

Scammell and Heiger-Bernays were invited to present at the Landfill Community Update Forum by the Town Health Agent as part of BU SRP’s ongoing community engagement and risk communication related to the Eastham landfill. The Eastham Board of Health coordinated an extensive monitoring program when 1,4-dioxane was recently identified in private drinking wells. A major source of 1,4-dioxane is the municipal landfill, followed by potential contamination by septic systems.

Scammell and Heiger-Bernays addressed requests to understand the health risks of 1,4-dioxane and its regulation. Scammell also provided an overview of the safe drinking water act, how water standards are set, and the current guidelines for 1,4-dioxane. Heiger-Bernays, a toxicologist by training, talked about health outcomes associated with the contaminant and provided additional information on levels of risk related to 1,4-dioxane. Heiger-Bernays then fielded questions from the audience.

For more on the community forum, visit the BU SRP website  . Courtesy of the Town of Eastham, a video recording of the forum  is also available online.

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