The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) and the Center for Global Health at the National Cancer Institute were among the cosponsors of the 16th International Conference of the Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health (PBC), held August 10-13 at the University of Indonesia. SRP staff and grantees were involved throughout the conference, which focused on the most pressing environment and health issues of our time, cooperative research, and innovative strategies for addressing these issues.
“The PBC parallels the goals of the SRP — environmental science and engineering, human health, and community engagement — but on a global scale,” said Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., SRP health science administrator.
In the first plenary session, SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., discussed changing exposures in a changing world and laid out models for reducing the burden of disease. Heacock chaired a symposium on prevention and intervention strategies to reduce exposure to electronic waste (e-waste).
Presentations of research supported by the NIEHS SRP included:
- Bernhard Henning, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, nutrition interventions against environmental insults
- Celia Chen, Ph.D., Dartmouth College, connecting mercury science to policy
- Keith Pezzoli, Ph.D., University of California at San Diego, creating just and healthy bioregions
Jeffrey Crosby, Ph.D., chief technical officer of Picoyune, an SRP-funded small business, spoke about a mercury sensor/monitor that offers more robust and less expensive mercury measurements than current methods used with liquid or aqueous samples. SRP supported the sensor’s initial development as part of the University of California, Berkeley program, which highlights a great example of SRP research leading to a small business innovation.
Delving into E-Waste
The PBC meeting was followed by an in-depth workshop on prevention and intervention strategies to reduce exposure to e-waste, which was convened by NIEHS in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Chulabhorn Research Institute in Thailand, Children’s Health and Environment Program at the University of Queensland, and the U.S.-based nonprofit Pure Earth. The workshop brought together public health, engineering, and other experts. Case studies from Ghana, Uruguay, China, and the Philippines examined successes and lessons learned toward reducing exposure to e-waste. Building on the case studies, breakout groups centered on reducing exposures, monitoring, and communications.
“We organized the workshop with the goal of providing practical recommendations,” Heacock said. “It was also unique because we incorporated engineering techniques with discussion of strategies such as how to communicate risk and increase use of personal protective equipment.”
The e-waste workshop kicked off with a short video, where Suk explains how burning or dismantling e-waste results in contaminants, including PCBs and other chlorinated organics, entering the water supply and air.