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Superfund Research Program

August 15, 2014

Applying SRP Tools to Detect Environmental Contaminants in California

A Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee presentation has shown how biochemical tests can be shared. University of California, Davis (UC Davis) SRP project leader Shirley Gee explained how the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) can apply UC Davis immunoassay technologies to detect environmental chemicals. The presentation was part of the DTSC Environmental Chemistry Lab Seminar Series in July.

An immunoassay is a rapid and cost effective biochemical test that uses antibodies to bind to a molecule of interest, and a variety of labels are used to detect this binding. Gee leads a project with Senior Investigator and UC Davis SRP Center Director Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., to develop immunoassay tools that can monitor exposure to environmental contaminants. Over the years, Hammock and colleagues have developed more than 40 immunoassays  to detect pesticides, pesticide metabolites, environmental degradation products, and other environmental contaminants.

As a result of the presentation, partners at UC Davis SRP and DTSC are working to identify studies where they can utilize immunoassay technologies to improve environmental detection as part of DTSC’s work in California.

“We are keeping in mind the opportunities where our immunoassay technologies might be useful for the needs of DTSC to measure a specific contaminant,” said Candace Bever, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Hammock’s lab and the UC Davis SRP Research Translation Core leader. “We discussed with DTSC the advantages and disadvantages of immunoassays and how the immunoassays can be used for analytical screening purposes.”

Shirley Gee
Gee discussed how immunoassays work and how they can be used to detect environmental chemicals. The presentation was broadcast over the Web and presented to a live audience.
(Photo courtesy of Candace Bever)

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August 14, 2014

SRP Staff Discuss Innovation, Engagement, and Partnerships with EPA Administrators

Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff traveled to Washington, D.C., on July 16 to meet with Mathy Stanislaus, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), and other EPA administrators to discuss bridging the gap between SRP research and EPA cleanup programs.

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SRP staff also discussed some of the work that SRP grantees are doing, pointing out that they have activity going on in each EPA region, denoted by the numbers above.
(Photo courtesy of Meredith Golden, Columbia University SRP)

In his introductory remarks, SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., stressed the importance of partnerships between the EPA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) programs such as the SRP, to better understand environmental risk, clean up environmental contaminants, and protect human health.

SRP staff highlighted the Program’s research and discussed ways for the EPA OSWER and the SRP to work together to bring innovative SRP discoveries from the bench to the field. Stanislaus was particularly interested in the transfer of SRP-funded technology to use on EPA cleanup sites, and the group discussed ways to facilitate getting innovative tools into the hands of EPA Remedial Project Managers and others who assess and clean up hazardous waste sites.

Much of the discussion focused on SRP efforts to promote community engagement and to work with partners to communicate risk effectively and improve risk assessments. Stanislaus was particularly enthusiastic about the progress that has been made in the SRP-EPA Partnerships in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) and is looking forward to its expansion.

PTAP’s overall objective is to expand opportunities for cooperation among EPA and colleges, universities, or nonprofits with the shared goal of assessing and addressing the technical assistance needs of communities impacted by hazardous waste sites. Through PTAP, SRP grantees cooperate with EPA and voluntarily commit to assist communities with technical assistance needs.

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June 27, 2014

Elizabeth River Gets Clean-up Help from VIMS SRP

Mike Unger, Ph.D
Unger measures PAH concentrations in water, sediment, and oysters in the Elizabeth River.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Unger)

Data from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Superfund Research Program (VIMS SRP) will help guide the detailed design of a remediation project for a portion of the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, Virginia. In early June, VIMS SRP grantees met with some of the leading U.S. remediation design engineers to review field data. During the meeting, the VIMS SRP grantees led by Mike Unger, Ph.D., provided the design engineers with data from SRP research on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in the Elizabeth River.

The VIMS SRP project is developing a sensor that measures PAH concentrations in water to predict how PAHs accumulate in oysters from contaminated sediments. During field studies, they documented PAH concentrations in sediment, water, and oysters at various sites in the Elizabeth River.

Data from the project is proving useful for evaluating the success of previous remediation efforts in the Elizabeth River, and is now being used to target specific areas for future remediation work. The researchers plan to continue discussions with the remediation designers over the next few weeks to finalize summer sampling sites that best fit their research objectives and to also provide additional data to help guide the future remediation plans.

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June 27, 2014

Duke SRP Scientists Attend Furniture Flammability and Human Health Summit

Duke SRP Scientists
Thorsos (left) and Stapleton (right) at the summit.
(Photo courtesy of Duke SRP)

Duke University Superfund Research Program (Duke SRP) grantees Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., and Eileen Thorsos attended the 2014 Furniture Flammability and Human Health Summit in Atlanta, the second such conference about flame retardants, furniture, and human safety.

The use of one flame-retardant mixture, known as PentaBDE (PBDE), was phased out in 2004, due to concerns about its tendency to build up in human tissues and lead to potential human health effects, including thyroid disruption and memory and learning problems. Many other chemicals, including mixtures such as Firemaster 550 , are currently used to meet flammability requirements, but relatively little information is available on how they affect people’s health.”

To help fill some information gaps, conference organizers brought together environmental chemists and toxicologists, flame retardant manufacturers, fire safety researchers, environmental health advocates, firefighters, flammability standards developers, and leaders from along the furniture manufacturing supply chain.

Stapleton is a researcher seeking answers. She’s conducting a variety of studies on exposure to flame retardant mixtures, which are released from furniture and other household items. (For more on Stapleton’s research, see the April Issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor).

“There is a lot of misinformation out there about flammability standards and chemicals used in household products,” said Stapleton. “Some furniture manufacturers don’t even know what is in their foam, because the mixtures are proprietary. We are continuing to measure foam samples from household products to track human exposure and inform about health risk.”

For more about the summit, visit the Duke SRP Blog .

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