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Your Environment. Your Health.

Reducing Exposure to Mercury, Arsenic, and Asbestos

Superfund Research Program

This Superfund Research Program (SRP) Progress in Research webinar highlighted exciting research from two SRP Centers. Scientists at the Dartmouth College SRP Center are working to reduce exposures to arsenic and mercury and to understand better how exposure to these contaminants leads to disease. Audience members also heard from scientists at the University of Pennsylvania SRP Center, who are conducting research on asbestos waste and how that waste affects human health.

July 9, 2015, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EDT
An archive of this webinar is available on EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events Webpage.

Sources and Protracted Effects of Early Life Exposure to Arsenic and Mercury (Dartmouth College SRP Center, P42ES007373)

Despite growing concern and increasing research on arsenic and mercury, there are significant knowledge gaps, especially with regard to the very low levels of exposure found in the U.S. The Dartmouth College Toxic Metals SRP Center conducts multidisciplinary research to identify major sources of arsenic and mercury exposure and to understand better how early-life exposure to these contaminants affects health. One project is studying a group of pregnant women who use private wells in New Hampshire, where arsenic is a known contaminant, to determine whether arsenic influences glucose and blood pressure control during pregnancy and to identify potential genetic susceptibility for these effects. Center members also are researching arsenic exposure from drinking water, rice, and other foods and the effects of arsenic on the immune response to bacterial infections of the lungs. Their work also includes evaluation of the uptake, transport, and storage of arsenic in rice that could inform the development of new types of rice that accumulate less arsenic. Another area of study is methylmercury accumulation in fish and how environmental factors affect mercury in estuarine food webs, which are important pathways of exposure to humans. The Dartmouth SRP Center conducts research at three Superfund sites: the Androscoggin River in Berlin, New Hampshire; the Callahan Mine in Brooksville, Maine; and the Berry's Creek mercury site in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Asbestos Fate, Exposure, Remediation, and Adverse Health Effects (University of Pennsylvania SRP Center, P42ES023720)

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) SRP Center is conducting research to solve problems and find solutions related to chrysotile asbestos fate, exposure, remediation, and adverse health effects, such as mesothelioma. The Center is driven by community-based concerns from people in Pennsylvania who live close to one of the largest asbestos Superfund sites in the country – the Ambler BoRit site. Each project in the Penn SRP is driven by six community-based questions. Thus, Center researchers are working to identify biomarkers that indicate a person's risk to asbestos exposure and could potentially improve human health in the community. Researchers also are examining how social, lifestyle, and economic factors influence asbestos exposure and incidence of mesothelioma, as well as developing safe, non-toxic agents, such as flaxseed, that might offer protection against asbestos-induced lung diseases. A tumor suppressor gene knockout mouse model, which is susceptible to mesothelioma, is being used to study the pathogenesis of disease. Finally, researchers are investigating the remediation of asbestos-contaminated sites using fungi (Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium leptobactrum) and the mobility and fate of asbestos particles through soil and groundwater. The Penn SRP is focused on the BoRit EPA Region 3 Superfund site in the Ambler Borough, Upper Dublin, and Whitpain townships. Findings will be generally applicable to the other asbestos Superfund sites in the nation.


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