Superfund Research Program

This SRP Progress in Research webinar series highlighted promising research from SRP Centers awarded grants in 2020. These awards were made as part of the Multiproject Center Grant (P42) solicitation - RFA-ES-18-002. In each session, awardees described their research projects, accomplishments, and next steps.

Session I – Metals
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EDT
To view the archive, visit EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events webpage 

  • Harvard School of Public Health
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of Arizona

The Harvard School of Public Health Center, "Metals and Metal Mixtures: Cognitive Aging, Remediation, and Exposure Sources (MEMCARE)," focused on understanding the effects of exposure to heavy metals (Pb, As, Mn, Cd, Cr, and Se) and metal mixtures on late-life cognitive health. Center scientists also conducted research on remediation strategies for these exposures to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and memory loss in older populations.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill SRP Center worked to address public health challenges related to inorganic arsenic (iAs) contamination of private drinking water wells. Their research explored the biological mechanisms and susceptibility factors underlying diseases associated with iAs exposure, with a focus on diabetes. They also investigated methods for predicting well water contamination by arsenic and other toxic metals, along with removal strategies. Center scientists hoped to develop interventions to reduce the prevalence of iAs-associated diabetes and other diseases.

The University of Arizona SRP Center, "Exposures, Health Impacts, and Risk for Mine Waste Contamination," addressed the unique human health risks encountered in the U.S. Southwest, where distinct geologic and climatic attributes affect human health and exposures to a variety of toxicants, especially arsenic. Arsenic exposure has been linked to the development of diabetes which is especially prevalent in vulnerable populations residing near metal-mining sites. Center scientists investigated how chronic exposure to arsenic-containing mine waste contributes to the development of diabetes and how exposure can be prevented through a combination of innovations related to the characterization of legacy mine sites and remediation strategies, data science interoperability, and community-engaged health promotion.

Session II - Legacy and Emerging Contaminants (PAHs, PCBs, PFAS)
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. EDT
To view the archive, visit EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events webpage  

  • University of Kentucky
  • Oregon State University
  • Baylor College of Medicine

The University of Kentucky SRP Center, "Nutrition and Superfund Chemical Toxicity," explored human health challenges arising from exposure to halogenated organic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethene, and per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS). They conducted research on lifestyle changes such as nutrition and exercise and the relationship with pollutant exposure and disease risk. Center scientists also studied remediation systems and engineering solutions for toxicant removal. The goal was to develop prevention strategies for diseases associated with chlorinated organic contaminants through a combination of enhanced remediation and healthy lifestyle components.

The Oregon State University SRP Center, "PAHs: New Technologies and Emerging Health Risks," investigated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) mixtures before and after remediation. Center scientists worked to track PAH movement through the environment, measure PAH exposure in individuals located near contaminated sites, predict the products of PAH transformation during remediation, determine the toxicity of complex PAH mixtures, and link PAH exposure to health outcomes.

The Baylor College of Medicine SRP Center, "PAHs: Ultrasensitive Detection, Early-Life Exposures - Clinical Outcomes (Preterm Births, Chronic Lung Disease, and Neurocognitive Deficits), Prevention and Remediation," worked in Harris County, Texas to explore maternal exposure to PAHs and the increased risk of preterm birth. They investigated the molecular mechanisms behind the increased preterm birth risk after maternal exposure to PAH mixtures. Center scientists also worked to develop methods for detecting PAH-based compounds in air, water, and soil, remediation technologies to treat contaminated sediment, and strategies to prevent and reduce the health burden associated with PAH exposure.

Session III: Vulnerable Populations
Monday, November 9, 2020
2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST
To view the archive, visit EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events webpage 

  • Northeastern University
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham

The Northeastern University SRP Center, "Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT)," conducted research on pregnant mothers in Puerto Rico and the relationship between contaminant exposures in drinking water, socioeconomic factors, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. They studied a variety of toxicants such as chlorinated volatile organic compounds, phthalates, metals, pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and the mechanisms by which these chemicals can contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Center scientists also investigated how extreme weather events can exacerbate exposures and work to develop methods to reduce exposure risk.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham SRP Center, "Impact of Airborne Heavy Metals on Lung Disease and the Environment," studied airborne heavy metal pollution and its impact on respiratory health in the area surrounding the 35th Avenue Superfund site in downtown Birmingham. This community is predominantly African American and has higher levels of chronic lung diseases compared to neighboring control areas irrespective of smoking, socioeconomic status, or demographics. Center scientists were developing tools to measure toxicants in the field, studying the efficacy of materials for contaminant removal, and working to understand the connections between environmental degradation and lung health.

Session IV - Emerging Exposures
Thursday, November 19, 2020
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST
To view the archive, visit EPA's CLU-IN Training & Events webpage  

  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Iowa
  • Louisiana State University

The North Carolina State University SRP Center, "Center for Environmental and Health Effects of PFAS," focused on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are ubiquitous in the environment and have been associated with health effects such as cancer and thyroid, liver, and immune system toxicity. Despite this, these compounds have not been well-studied. Center scientists were investigating human exposure levels to PFAS in impacted areas, PFAS toxicity and the underlying mechanisms behind reduced thyroid and immune function, the potential for PFAS bioaccumulation, and effective remediation approaches for PFAS contamination.

The University of Iowa SRP (ISRP) Center, "Airborne PCBs: Sources, Exposures, Toxicities, Remediation," explored polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the health impacts stemming from inhalation of these toxic chemicals. Center scientists focused on neurodevelopmental and metabolic effects, particularly in adolescents, and the relationship to novel PCB exposure pathways in buildings such as schools. They aimed to identify the mechanisms behind PCB interference with lipid metabolism, define the specific environments that contribute to inhalation exposure and its importance compared to dietary exposure, and develop cost-effective strategies to remove or reduce emissions.

The Louisiana State University SRP Center, "Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals (EPFRs)," studied an emerging class of contaminants which are produced during thermal treatment of hazardous wastes and have been shown to induce cardiac and pulmonary dysfunction in exposed populations. They were investigating mechanisms of EPFR-induced health impacts, determining how EPFRs form, stabilize, and decay, and demonstrating a link between EPFR exposure and poor respiratory health in children. The research goal was to understand how to attenuate EPFR formation, facilitate EPFR decay, and limit exposure to EPFRs.