Superfund Research Program
SRP Well-Represented at National ISES-ISEE Meeting
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in Ottawa, Canada August 26 – 30 for the joint annual meeting of the International Society of Exposure Science and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISES-ISEE). Current and former SRP grantees and trainees presented their innovative research in epidemiology and exposure science during oral and poster sessions.
Veronica Vieira, Sc.D., an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, and former Boston University SRP project leader, co-chaired and organized the meeting. She also gave a talk about the relationship between chemical and non-chemical exposures and risk-taking behavior among adolescents living near a Superfund site.
SRP grantees were prominent in a variety of scientific sessions, including those related to gene-environment interactions, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), endocrine disrupting chemicals, children’s health, and more. Some of the many SRP grantee activities and presentations are described below.
Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., from Duke University, and John Meeker, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan and Northeastern University SRP Center presented during a session on children’s exposure to volatile organic compounds. University of California, Berkeley researcher Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D., discussed exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and biomarkers of stress response during pregnancy.
Kathleen Vandiver, Ph.D., from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Esther Erdei, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico chaired a session focused on contaminants near indigenous communities, including potential exposures, health effects, and avenues for tribal research.
Laurel Schaider, Ph.D., of the Silent Spring Institute and the University of Rhode Island SRP Center, discussed drinking water quality and environmental justice in the United States. Matt Cave, M.D., from the University of Louisville, discussed his work related to the health effects of polychlorinated biphenyls. Columbia University researcher Stephen Chillrud, Ph.D., shared his work related to monitoring air pollutants.
ISES-ISEE included a session on electronic waste chaired by SRP Health Scientist Administrator Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., and Health Specialist Brittany Trottier. It also included a special session on the epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origin, co-chaired by NIEHS Health Scientist Administrator Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D., and SRP grantee Madeleine Scammell, Ph.D., from Boston University. The session built off a June 2018 workshop on kidney disease, and earlier workshops supported by the SRP.
Michigan State University SRP Center Founding Director Lawrence Fischer Dies
Lawrence Fischer, Ph.D., former Michigan State University (MSU) professor and founding director of the MSU Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, died on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. He was 80.
Fischer became the director of the MSU Institute of Environmental Toxicology in 1985. There he brought together researchers with diverse scientific backgrounds to form the MSU SRP Center in 1988, which is presently the longest standing program grant at MSU.
"He will be remembered for his open and relaxed demeanor, which was a hallmark of his effectiveness in building campus-wide relationships," said current MSU SRP Center Director Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D. "During his nineteen-year tenure at MSU and under his leadership, our toxicology research and graduate training became nationally and internationally recognized for excellence.
Fischer was instrumental in shaping undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, and professional student training in toxicology at MSU. In addition to teaching and training numerous doctoral and postdoctoral students in his own laboratory, he served as the director of the graduate training program in environmental toxicology for 15 years.
Fischer also served on many scientific advisory committees throughout his career, including the Governor's Michigan Environmental Science Board, the Michigan Air Toxics Policy Committee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board on Mercury, the Science Advisory Group on Electromagnetic Fields and Childhood Leukemia Study for the National Cancer Institute, and the National Academy of Science Committee on Drinking Water Contaminants.
"Larry was a brilliant scientist and a driving force behind the SRP Center at MSU," said NIEHS SRP Director William Suk, Ph.D. "He was an amazing human being who had a profound impact on his colleagues, students, friends, and family."
SRP Visits University of New Mexico METALS Superfund Research Program Center
Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., and Brittany Trottier of the NIEHS’s Superfund Research Program (SRP) learned how the University of New Mexico Metal Exposure and Toxicity Assessment on Tribal Lands in the Southwest (UNM METALS) SRP Center is working to improve the health of Native Americans in the southwestern United States who are living near abandoned uranium mine waste.
During a site visit on August 7 – 10, 2018, Carlin and Trottier joined UNM METALS SRP Center director Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., co-director Matthew Campen, Ph.D., and members of the UNM METALS External Advisory Board to visit tribal communities living near abandoned mine sites. Researchers at the sites are studying mobility of metals in soils and particulates like dust and developing new methods to immobilize metals to reduce human exposures. They also are developing new methods to predict how contaminated dust might travel under different weather conditions so tribal communities can protect themselves from exposure.
During their visit, Carlin, Trottier, Lewis, and other Board members attended community meetings at Red Water Pond Road and the Laguna Pueblo. The Laguna Pueblo community is near an abandoned 8,000+ acre site that encompasses the 3,000-acre open pit Jackpile Mine Superfund site. Drawing on multi-directional communication and partnerships with tribal members and federal agencies, the UNM METALS Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores are implementing new approaches to risk communication and education for risk avoidance that integrate indigenous learning models.
The tribal/university partnership was initiated after members of the Navajo Nation expressed concerns about the high frequency of kidney disease in their community, including cases of teens requiring dialysis. The partnership has grown to include studies of other mine-related concerns. For example, UNM METALS SRP Center researchers are looking closely at how metals affect the immune system and whether zinc supplements reduce immunotoxicity.