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Your Environment. Your Health.

Justification of Budget Request

Fiscal Year 2016 Superfund Budget

Authorizing Legislation

Section 311(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, and Section 126(g) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986.

Budget Authority (BA)

FY 2014 Actual FY 2015 Enacted FY 2016 President's Budget FY 2015
+/-
FY 2014
$77,349,000 $77,349,000 $77,349,000 0

 

FTEs are included with the regular NIEHS appropriation.

Program funds are allocated as follows: Competitive Grants/Cooperative Agreements and Other.

Director's Overview

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the NIEHS Superfund Worker Training Program (WTP) were created under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 to meet the need for innovative strategies and technologies to provide solutions to the magnitude and complexity of Superfund assessment and remediation. SRP fosters multidisciplinary research, fundamental creative discoveries, and innovative research strategies focused on solving problems related to Superfund sites. WTP provides health and safety training to hazardous waste cleanup workers and emergency responders. SRP and WTP address challenges posed by environmental contamination such as health risks, prevention and intervention strategies, emergency response efforts, and cost-effective remediation related to hazardous waste found throughout the United States.

The NIEHS SRP’s goal is to gain a better understanding of how toxicants affect human health in order to help environmental managers and risk assessors protect the public from exposures to hazardous substances. SRP works to accomplish its goal through research conducted at universities across the country, including research to develop cost-effective approaches to detect, remove, and/or reduce the amount of toxic substances found in the environment. SRP conducts research on remediation, detection, and monitoring tools or strategies and also funds studies that relate to multiple disease endpoints such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological disorders. For example, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a pervasive environmental health problem through contamination of soil and groundwater aquifers by toxic chlorinated organic compounds at Superfund sites. PCBs have been associated with various adverse health outcomes including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. SRP-supported researchers have found that green tea decreases the negative health effects of PCBs in mice, providing additional evidence that nutrition may be able to bolster and buffer us against various environmental pollutants.

The primary objective of the NIEHS WTP is to fund non-profit organizations with a demonstrated track record of providing occupational safety and health education in developing and delivering high quality training to workers who are involved in handling hazardous waste or in responding to emergency releases of hazardous materials. Since 1987, NIEHS WTP has developed a strong network of non-profit organizations that are committed to protecting workers and their communities by delivering high-quality, peer-reviewed safety and health curricula to target populations of hazardous waste workers and emergency responders. Over the period between August 2013 and July 2014, NIEHS WTP awardees conducted over 9,500 courses for over 161,000 workers and since the inception of NIEHS WTP, over 2,660,000 workers have been trained.

The NIEHS Superfund Program successfully applies current science to resolve and prevent harmful health effects from environmental hazards. SRP research has resulted in improved techniques for the remediation of contaminated sites, greater knowledge concerning the fate and transport of hazardous materials in the environment, and interventions that have improved the health of those exposed. WTP utilizes knowledge gained from SRP research to update and tailor safety and health training so that it addresses the actual hazards faced by workers today.

Overall Budget Policy: 
The FY 2016 President’s Budget request for NIEHS Superfund is $77.349 million, the same as the FY 2015 Enacted level.

Program Descriptions and Accomplishments

The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP)

SRP researchers identify critical issues and work to develop solutions, improving the Nation’s health and the environment. SRP research mitigates exposures through innovative clean-up strategies; develops new biomarkers of exposure for public health interventions; identifies clues of early onset of disease due to exposure to environmental hazards; and improves NIEHS’s ability to predict whether a person might come in contact with a contaminant. Furthermore, SRP-supported research and its outcomes are generalizable, addressing issues throughout the United States. In keeping with the NIEHS mission, teams of diverse professionals develop, test, and implement unique, solution-oriented approaches to address complex environmental health problems. They are improving the understanding of environmental contaminants, which may lead to lower environmental cleanup costs, reduced risk of exposure, and improvements in human health.

There is a need for instruments that provide frequent, long-term monitoring of hazardous sites to assess exposure from chemicals, identify contamination sources, and monitor remediation progress. Through an NIEHS Small Business Innovation Research grant, SRP-funded scientists from the chemical sensor company Seacoast Science in California have developed an inexpensive vapor intrusion monitoring system. The newly developed Seacoast Science vapor intrusion monitor can operate safely and repeatedly without user intervention and detect typical vapor intrusion chemicals at low detection limits, allowing many more sites to be monitored over longer periods, and at a lower cost than other monitor systems.

SRP researchers at the University of Washington have found that a mitochondrial enzyme, Paraoxonase 2 (PON2), located in many tissues including the brain is found in higher amounts in female mice than in male mice. These gender differences in PON2 expression suggest that brain cells from male mice are intrinsically more susceptible to oxidative stress because of a lower expression of PON2. As many adverse health outcomes involve oxidative stress, this finding may explain gender differences in the incidence of various diseases, including neurodevelopmental, neurological, and neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, the researchers found that PON2 may be modulated through dietary or pharmacological intervention, thereby possibly providing a novel strategy for neuroprotection.

PCBs are a class of compounds used for decades in many industrial applications, such as electrical equipment. Although commercial production of PCBs was banned in most countries including the United States in 1979, PCBs persist throughout the environment because of their stable chemical structure. PCBs easily enter the food chain, and human exposure is caused by eating contaminated foods, primarily fish, meats, and dairy. Studies conducted by SRP researchers at the University of Kentucky have found that PCBs may cause diabetes but their research also shows that healthy nutrition lessens the toxic effects of PCBs. According to the researchers, this is the first study to investigate associations between serum carotenoids, serum concentrations of PCBs, and the probability of developing type 2 diabetes in a representative sample of U.S. adults. The results of this study indicate that regularly eating fruits and vegetables not only helps to protect against disease but also may reduce exposure to PCBs.

SRP-supported researchers from the University of California (UC), Riverside, found that the addition of black carbon reduces the bioavailability, or the fraction of chemicals that can be taken up by organisms, of the flame retardants polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in sediment. PBDEs are a group of brominated flame retardants widely used in a variety of consumer products that can migrate into the environment and accumulate in living organisms. Studies show that they can disrupt endocrine activity, and affect thyroid regulation and brain development. Early exposure to penta-BDEs has been linked to low birth weight, lowered IQ, and impaired motor and behavioral development in children. Researchers developed a method to measure PBDE bioavailability in sediment and found that reduction in bioavailability varied greatly depending on the type of black carbon; activated carbon showed the best efficiency compared to biochar or charcoal. Findings from this study may be used to optimize the selection of black carbon materials in mitigating PBDE contamination in sediments.

Budget Policy: The FY 2016 President’s Budget estimate for SRP is $49.168 million, the same as the FY 2015 level.

Program Portrait: Cancer Prevention

FY 2015 Level: $23.0 million
FY 2016 Level: $23.0 million
Change: $0.0 million

 

A variety of hazardous environmental exposures cause cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States. Preventing cancer is considered a primary means to help people live longer and have more productive lives while reducing healthcare costs. An important part of SRP-funded research – through the use of basic research, remediation, and detection – is cancer prevention.

SRP grantees at U.C., San Diego, are studying hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. In the United States its incidence has doubled in the past two decades. Given that there is no effective treatment for HCC and, upon diagnosis, most patients with advanced disease have a remaining lifespan of only four to six months, it is important to detect HCC early or to prevent it. SRP investigators have shown that liver cells can progress into cancer cells when exposed to hazardous substances, but by disrupting autoregulatory/epigenetic switches, HCC may be prevented. These SRP researchers have identified potential biomarkers to screen for HCC progenitor cells (pre-liver cancer cells) that may lead to intervention or prevention strategies that are of particular importance for HCC.

Inorganic arsenic exposure is a worldwide health problem; more than 100 million people are exposed to arsenic levels that exceed recommended drinking water limits. Long-term exposure to arsenic can result in a variety of adverse health conditions including cancer. Children are particularly at-risk. For the first time, findings by SRP researchers at U.C., Berkeley provide strong evidence in humans that ingested arsenic causes cancer in specific kidney and ureter cells, called transitional cells. Other recent findings from the group suggest that people exposed to both arsenic and other known or suspected carcinogens have a very high risk of lung or bladder cancer. Another group of SRP researchers at the University of North Carolina have identified proteins that may serve as novel targets for understanding arsenic-associated effects on fetal growth and disease later in life. The results provide an important foundation to continue efforts to link prenatal arsenic exposure, protein response, and disease susceptibility that will ultimately lead to prevention strategies.

SRP-funded scientists from Brown University developed process models to predict the concentrations of vapors that enter indoor environments from sources such as groundwater that may contain trichloroethylene (TCE), which is associated with cancer. The importance of measuring vapor intrusion is that even in low concentrations, long-term exposure to these volatile chemicals may pose an unacceptable risk of chronic health effects. Although these analytical tools are a great first step, SRP researchers continue to recommend advanced modeling techniques to analyze more complicated scenarios and better understand variability in vapor intrusion concentrations that come from large changes in indoor air contaminants over time or differences based on soil properties.

NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP)

The major objectives of the NIEHS WTP are to prevent work-related harm by training workers in how best to protect themselves and their communities from exposure to hazardous materials encountered during hazardous waste operations, hazardous materials transportation, environmental restoration, or chemical emergency response, and to undertake brownfields and minority workforce development. A variety of hazardous sites, such as those involved with chemical waste cleanup, remedial action, and transportation-related chemical emergency response, may pose severe health and safety concerns. These are often characterized by a multiplicity of substances present, the presence of unknown substances, and the general uncontrolled condition of the site. A major goal of the WTP is to assist organizations with development of institutional competency to provide appropriate model training and education programs to hazardous materials and waste workers.

WTP-trained workers engage in all areas of transportation industries and the training provided to them so that they recognize hazards and emergency situations while responding effectively is a benefit to workers, industry, and communities. For example, a WTP-trained rail worker told us, “…While working in the yard in Augusta, Georgia, we observed a leaking tank car in the middle of a two yard track. As foreman on the job, I advised the yardmaster of the possible dangers associated with this move and asked for another course of action. The yardmaster changed his mind and we did not expose ourselves to this hazard.”

Refresher and retraining of hazmat workers ensures that individuals retain and practice the skills needed to be safe whether it is at the worksite or in response to an emergency. As a result of WTP refresher training, a journey level operator noticed that the soil at his worksite had changed in color and smell so he brought it to the health and safety officer’s attention. After several samples were taken, the health and safety officer determined there were chemicals on site that rendered the site hazardous. As a result of WTP retraining that taught these important skills, the journey level operator was able to protect not only himself but also his co-workers from potential hazardous exposure and adverse health effects.

NIEHS WTP not only saves lives; it builds livelihoods and creates a strong basis for continuous employment for years to come. Communities across the country have struggled to redevelop neighborhoods to make them healthy, safe, livable, and most importantly sustainable. The NIEHS WTP Minority Worker Training Program (MWTP) addresses one of the most important and significant problems with unemployment: workers lacking crucial technical and marketable job skills and experience on the job. Approximately 10,000 workers have trained under this program with nearly 70 percent of those workers obtaining employment in environmental remediation and construction fields. The report “Minority Worker Training Program: Guidance on How to Achieve Successes and Best Practices” provides guidance and model strategies on innovative techniques to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these types of programs. As a result of MWTP training, individuals are now gainfully employed and earning wages averaging $12-$18 per hour, and reaching more than $30 per hour for union jobs. As a result of Economic Impact Analysis, it has been determined that an investment of approximately $3.5 million annually generates a $100 million return on investment each year1. Benefits are derived from the program’s effects on earnings, reduction in workplace injury costs, reduction in hiring costs, reduction in crime-related costs, reduction in transfers, and the additional tax revenue gained as a result of the program. The program also generated $2.3 million for the previous year in matching funds and in-kind contributions from firms and non-profit organizations that understand the enormous benefits of the program.

NIEHS WTP-funded trainers also assist residents, volunteers, and businesses during natural disasters by providing the latest information on best practices for the protection of volunteers, homeowners, and cleanup workers. WTP, in collaboration with local and state partners, specifically in New York and New Jersey following the devastation left by Super Storm Sandy, identified health and safety-related needs that could be addressed through training and education. The initial population that was identified as having the greatest need was the returning small business owners and residents who were faced with potential exposures to lead, asbestos, chemicals, mold, and structural hazards as they began to remove and rebuild their residences and businesses. Additional vulnerable populations were identified as the recovery continued. Thousands of volunteers and day laborers entered the states and began to do much of the cleanup and rebuilding with limited knowledge of the potential hazards that they were being exposed to. Training was provided using adult learning methods and cultural sensitivities.

NIEHS WTP strengthened disaster response efforts by working to increase worker and community mental health resiliency through collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Based on recommendations from stakeholders following NIEHS’s response to disasters, it was determined that the additional burden placed on workers and their communities in the form of traumatic stress added to the multifactorial list of post disaster recovery issues. WTP utilized its experience with adult learning techniques and cultural sensitivity in developing awareness level courses focused on improving mental health resiliency of workers, supervisors, clinician personnel, and their communities.

In addition, WTP has increased NIEHS’s involvement in the NIH Disaster Research Response Project (DR2P) in response to recent disasters and research conducted in their wake by working to integrate hazardous materials awareness and training of research responders. WTP staff worked on a collaborative project with their NIEHS Intramural and Extramural colleagues, and the National Library of Medicine to explore involving researchers in disaster response. This project consisted of a simulated tsunami preparedness exercise that involved 150 Federal, State, and environmental health personnel at the Port of Los Angeles to test the NIH DR2P. The goals of the exercise were met, which included identification, assessment, and discussion of the activation of disaster research response teams and how those teams can support local and state responders and public health departments. WTP also created safety and health training curricula which were presented through a national webinar to prepare all the research response participants.

Budget Policy: The FY 2016 President’s Budget estimate for WTP is $28.181 million, the same as the comparable FY 2015 level.

 1 The Economic Impact of of Minority Worker Training Program, draft, July 2014, Bryan Engelhardt, Robert Baumann and Kathy Kiel.

Program Portrait: Native American Training

FY 2015 Level: $0.25 million
FY 2016 Level: $0.30 million
Change: +$0.05 million

 

NIEHS WTP is an asset for outreach and training of underserved and rural communities, especially among Native American first responders, including tribal employees in law enforcement, emergency medical, fire service, public works agencies, natural resource, and other hazardous materials and transportation workers. WTP trained nearly 1,200 Native Americans during the past year.  This training is especially important for Native Americans due to the high unemployment rates and correspondingly high levels of impoverishment.  WTP training helps provide opportunities and advantages for the individual and the larger community.  Specifically, the Alabama Fire College (AFC) trained nearly 700 Native Americans from 14 Tribes to protect themselves and their communities from hazardous materials encountered in workplaces and during emergency response operations through their partnership with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS).  Key training occurred at Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla), in Oregon, and at three tribes in Albuquerque, New Mexico (the Jicarilla Apache tribe, Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council, and the Pueblo of Sandia Tribe).  AFC also provided two eight-hour hazardous awareness training classes at the NAFWS National Conference and the Pacific Northwest Regional Conference in Pendleton, Oregon.  

Additionally, WTP assisted Native Americans through the Western Region Universities Consortium, led by U.C., Los Angeles, which provided key training in hazardous waste/emergency response, hazard communication, and construction safety training in California, Arizona, and Washington for seven tribes and organizations that mainly included the Navajo and Hopi Nations, White Mountain Apache Tribe (through the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council.   

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters/National Railway Training Program, through WTP funding, identified environmental justice and occupational health disparity issues among Native American workers for Navajo/Diné in Arizona and New Mexico, conducted targeted outreach, and provided essential Chemical Transportation/Emergency Response training using a blended learning approach for production and railway workers.  Training Native Americans will continue to be an important part of the NIEHS WTP.