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Your Environment. Your Health.

Community Impact

The Recovery Act is impacting communities across the U.S.

B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D.

B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D.

B. Paige Lawrence

Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology
University of Rochester School of Medicine
Developmental toxicity of bisphenol A and immune-mediated diseases

A vibrant network of scientists is committed to providing answers about how [BPA] may affect our health - and the health of our children.. 
Stephen Bauer, Ph.D., Jill Gresen, and Anirban Roy, Ph.D.

The BPA team (left to right): Stephen Bauer, Ph.D., Jill Gresen, Anirban Roy, Ph.D.

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With the support of Recovery Act funds we have an exciting new opportunity to directly and comprehensively fill in some fundamental gaps in our knowledge of how the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) inhibits our ability to fight infection and intensifies chronic diseases caused by a deregulated immune system. Along with the new directions of research came new jobs! The Recovery Act funds we received created three new full-time positions in my laboratory. But the impact of the Recovery Act extends beyond new experiments and employees in a single research lab. The thoughtful way the NIEHS set up this "Grand Opportunity" funding mechanism fostered development of a vibrant network of scientists committed to working together to provide the public with the best answers to pressing questions about how this ubiquitous chemical may or may not affect our health-and the health of our children. Thus, not only have these funds created new opportunities within my research laboratory, the NIEHS/ARRA program provides a foundation for building interdisciplinary investigative teams and networks. For example, we are interacting locally with colleagues here at the University of Rochester collaborating with scientists at other universities, to weave together research on how maternal BPA exposures affect the development and function of the reproductive, endocrine, nervous and immune systems. Hopefully, the success of this program will reaffirm that given ample resources, we in the academic science community will productively drive major new advances in knowledge that directly improve health and reduce the burden of illness.


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John Morawetz

The ICWUC will train and place 135 workers in the remediation and green jobs sectors. 
The BPA team (left to right): Stephen Bauer, Ph.D., Jill Gresen, Anirban Roy, Ph.D.

Trainees in Oakland, Calif., get training in hazardous materials remediation.

Anniston, AL class, Spring 2010

Anniston, AL class, Spring 2010.

The International Chemicals Workers Union Council Center's (ICWUC) ARRA efforts focused on working with our partner, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, to deliver 24 weeks of training to 9 groups of unemployed or underemployed people in three disadvantaged communities (Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA and Anniston, AL) and to place them in environmental remediation and green jobs. Upon completion, we will place 135 workers in the remediation and green jobs sectors. Because of the Recovery Act, seven site coordinators/trainers have part-time work and one full-time position was added at the ICWUC center.

 

 So far we have successfully launched job training programs in all three communities. The anchor program for each group is a 40-hour HAZWOPER programs followed by a 30-hour OSHA Construction class and CPR/First aid/AED. Various 3-week programs are also offered in mold remediation, weatherization awareness and other existing Center curriculum.

 


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Tom Webster, D.Sc.

Research team conducting flame retardant exposure assessments

Research team conducting flame retardant exposure assessments.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants commonly used in consumer products such as foam furniture and electronics. Chemically related to PCBs, these compounds are endocrine disruptors and are toxic to developing animals. Our project is investigating how PBDEs enter the indoor environment from household products, how people are exposed, and the extent to which they may be associated with human hormones levels, one of the potential health-related outcomes. With the support of Recovery Act funding, we have created two new jobs in our group as well as 50% of a technician at our collaborating laboratory. This has allowed us to expand the number of hormones we are examining. We are also investigating exposure to alternative flame retardants that are increasingly being used as replacements for PBDEs. Of particular interest is tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, also known as TDCPP or "chlorinated tris." We and our colleagues recently found this chemical in furniture, indoor air and dust samples. TDCPP is a suspected carcinogen and reproductive toxicant that was removed from children’s sleepwear 30 years ago, but has largely been ignored since then. The Recovery Act funds are allowing us to advance our understanding of exposure and health outcomes of this chemical. It will also help us better understand the potential trade-offs between toxicity and fire safety.


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Beverly Wright, Ph.D.

Our work centers on tackling issues of environmental racism. 
Working on the construction job

Workers receive hands-on training at the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

"Our work centers on tackling issues of environmental racism and working to raise the profile of environmental issues in poor and minority communities nationwide." Using Recovery Act funds, the Dillard University Program provided hands-on training to 22 area men in construction, deconstruction, demolition, weatherization, hazardous material cleanup and asbestos abatement through the Minority Worker Training Program in Hattiesburg, Miss. In addition to training, the program works diligently to assist them with obtaining jobs upon graduation. As a result, these men will be given a chance to make an honest living and have a positive impact on their communities.

 


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Upal Ghosh, Ph.D.

ARRA funds are accelerating new remediation technology. 

Recovery Act funds are accelerating our understanding of how new remediation technology performs in the field by tracking the fate of the process of Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) absorption and biodegradation simultaneously. The ARRA award also provided two new opportunities for a research associate and graduate student to get hands-on experience working on an applied research project at an USEPA Superfund site. The supplement also allowed us to purchase new equipment that speeds up sample processing for this research and helps equipment manufacturers that have been impacted by the economic downturn.


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David Ozonoff, M.D., M.P.H.

We are transforming [this software] for use in solving problems of concern to local health departments. 

We are collaborating with the Cambridge (Mass.) Health Department to alter a piece of sophisticated software to solve problems in local communities. The software is based on a data mining technique that we are transforming, with ARRA support, for use in solving problems of concern to local health departments, like tracking and analyzing disease progression or exposure routes. In communities like Cambridge, statistical power is a problem for conventional analysis because of small data sets, but there is still a great deal of information that can be extracted that can ultimately benefit residents. The ARRA funds enabled us to increase the pace of development of this model by teaming a data analyst from the Cambridge Health Department with a graduate student in computer science and a senior computer science researcher.

 

Moving this software directly into the field has the potential to affect everyday health department practice and reflect back on basic research by raising new kinds of questions. By testing scientific theory in complex, real-world practical situations, we can make major advancements to our understanding. Our goal is to produce a non-commercial (publicly licensed) software suite that can be freely distributed to health departments along with written user manuals and tutorials. We hope this will stimulate a larger community of open source developers to create innovative solutions to benefit public health at the community level.


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Nancy French, Ph.D.

Climate change will affect the frequency and intensity of these fire events. 
Diagram of the climate change wildfire cycle

This graphic depicts the relationship between wildfires and human health outcomes.

Inhalation of particulate matter from wildland fire smoke plumes has been linked to a variety of acute human respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. We are combining physically-based models of wildland fire emissions and atmospheric transport (movement and transformation of an air mass by wind) to population health outcomes from syndromic surveillance records during and following the 2003 and 2007 San Diego County wildfires. Syndromic surveillance describes the cataloging, archiving, and aggregation of patient diagnoses following a visit to a care facility. By relating this "symptom database" to modeled smoke concentrations, the goal is to better understand how we approach forecasting and preparedness for air quality events caused by wildland fire and how climate change will affect the frequency and intensity of these fire events. Through this research, we aim to better understand our capacity to link models of interacting physical environmental processes and the eventual manifestation of those model outputs on human health.

 

Public health officials from the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency are working with researchers from the Michigan Tech Research Institute (Ann Arbor), University of Maryland (College Park), and Michigan Tech University (Houghton) on this collaborative project. ARRA funding has allowed San Diego County to further their surveillance capacity and infrastructure through the addition of several new hospitals into their syndromic surveillance efforts. The funding allowed the Michigan Tech Research Institute to hire a temporary research assistant and retain a research scientist position while expanding their fire emissions model to use custom data sets. The University of Maryland research team is now in a position to build on their capacity to run spatially explicit scenarios of future wildland fires based on climate change scenarios. We expect this activity to test and develop appropriate statistical models for problems where spatially defined data sets are available, but differ in spatial and temporal resolutions and extents. We aim to deploy the technologies this project produces to the public to further increase the response capacity of regions affected by wildland fire.


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Grace LeMasters, Ph.D.

This new research opportunity will empower the search for targeted, personalized therapies. 

 

Jocelyn Biagini Myers, Ph.D., works with a small girl

Jocelyn Biagini Myers, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral research associate at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Recovery Act funding has allowed her to continue her work researching pediatric asthma.

 The Recovery Act has enabled us to direct our research in tobacco smoke exposure and pediatric asthma. This new direction explores the associations of childhood asthma with the genetics of oxidative stress, which causes damage to cells, as well as the genetics of the metabolism of nicotine and cotinine that are chemicals related to smoking. This particular study is specifically designed to identify genetic variation that affects levels of nicotine and cotinine and our body's defense responses to oxidative stress with respect to pediatric asthma. The Recovery Act funding has enabled us to retain the position of a post-doctoral associate and created a new position for a full-time research assistant in the laboratory. Further, we contributed to the economy by purchasing genotyping services from a large US-based company. This will allow us to look at hundreds of genetic variants for each person at the same time. This new research opportunity will empower the search for targeted, personalized therapies, and identify children that are genetically at higher risk for airway disease.

 


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James Fleet, Ph.D.

I'm very grateful for the investment the American people have made in my research. 
Bernardine Frankel, Rebecca Replogle and Kristen Wilde

Bernardine Frankel (research technician), Rebecca Replogle (graduate student), and Kristen Wilde (research technician) are part of the Purdue team studying nutrition and genetic variation.

Very few people consume what the nutrition community feels is an adequate amount of calcium in their diet. My ARRA funded project is examining gene and diet interactions that affect bone health. This work is at the core of increasing our understanding of how genetic variation affects an individuals dietary requirements. We're answering the question: "What are the genetic determinants of the ability to protect bone under the stress of inadequate dietary calcium intake?"

 Because of the ARRA funding I have been able to hire two new people in my lab. In addition to helping us complete the proposed work, this has helped make my research environment more vibrant. I'm very grateful for the investment that NIEHS and the American people have made in my research. This work will lay a critical foundation for my research group for years to come and may eventually lead to personalized recommendations that target people with increased calcium needs.

 


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Christoph Vogel, Ph.D.

Kuo and Wu

Vicki Kuo, an undergraduate student, and Dalei Wu, Ph.D., a post-graduate researcher, are part of Vogel's lab studying the effects of environmental toxicants on cells of the immune system.

Vogel and Goth

Vogel (right) is principal investigator on the research project. Sam Goth, Ph.D., is co-investigator and associate specialist of Molecular Biosciences at UC Davis.

The Recovery Act funding has enabled us to explore the importance of a receptor protein, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), to cellular function in the immune system. This study will help to understand how environmental toxicants like dioxin or dioxin-like compounds, which activate the AhR, affect critical functions of the immune system and lead to disorders such as autoimmune diseases, allergy and immunodeficiency. It may also provide opportunities to develop new substances that can be used to manipulate the immune system and allow for effective preventative measures.

 

The Recovery Act funding has enabled us to support the position of a specialist, a post-graduate researcher and an associate research scientist in our laboratory. Further, we are able to train and support two undergraduate students on this project.

 


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