Superfund Research Program
- Dartmouth-Sponsored Food Collaborative Convenes in Hanover
- Pezzoli Receives UC System President's Award
- SRP Grantees Develop Occupational Health and Safety Modules on Nanotechnology
- Commercializing Passive Sampling Technology to Enhance the Risk Analysis Process
- NIEHS SRP Staff Member Attends EPA’s International Environmental Youth Symposium
- SRP Grantee Moderates Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists Workshop
- SRP Grantees Share Cutting Edge Research at EMGS
- Kelly Pennell Receives NSF CAREER Award
- Fry Welcomed as New UNC SRP Center Director
- Oregon State SRP Center Receives University Awards
- Crossing Geographic and Discipline Borders at the PBC Meeting
- Enhancing Community Involvement through University-Federal Agency Collaboration
- UA SRP Responds Quickly to Inform Communities near Colorado Mine Spill
- SRP Staff and Stakeholders Identify Research Needs for Lead in Soils
- SRP Researchers Come Together to Review Early-life Exposure to Arsenic and Health Effects
- NIEHS Workshop Addresses Challenges for Determining Health Effects of Mixtures
- SRP Representation at the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable
- LSU SRP Co-Hosts Successful Combustion By-Products Conference
- UC Davis Researchers Find Key Mechanism That Causes Neuropathic Pain
- SRP Small Business Shines at Biotech Innovation Convention
- SRP Grantees Present Sustainable Solutions for PCB-Contaminated Sediments
- Reflections on the Superfund Research Program
- SRP Researchers Contribute To VA Clinical Guidance for Camp Lejeune Veterans
- Northeastern SRP Center Holds Successful Social Science-Environmental Health Conference
- Henry Discusses Innovative SRP Small Business Research at Water Clusters Meeting
- Schlenk Presents in Duke University Seminar Series
- SRP Investigator Elected to National Academy of Sciences
- Duke SRP Center Visits ATSDR
- Northeastern SRP Center Trainee Engages Stakeholders
- Ghosh Awarded Prestigious Environmental Engineering and Science Awards
- A Community Garden as a Living Laboratory
- Henry and Ranville Visit EPA Region 8, Meet Government Stakeholders
- SRP Well Represented at 2015 SOT Meeting
- UA SRP Forms Collaboration with Bolivian Mining Group
- Former SRP Grantee Named Provost of Rice University
- SRP Alumnus Awarded Prestigious NIEHS Grant
- Dartmouth SRP Citizen Science Project Receives Local Attention
- SRP Research Shines at Battelle Conference
- SRP-Funded Technology Converts Waste into a Resource
- The SOT Recognizes Slotkin for Excellence in Teaching
- Chemical Leveraging Resources to Better Understand Chemical Exposures
Dartmouth-Sponsored Food Collaborative Convenes in Hanover
The Collaborative on Food with Arsenic and associated Risk and Regulation (C-FARR) gathered in Hanover, New Hampshire, November 2 to address issues related to sources of arsenic and exposure in people through the food they eat. C-FARR, which includes a team of arsenic scientists and stakeholders from around the country, is sponsored by the Dartmouth College Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center and the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth.
To date, arsenic regulation has focused on levels in drinking water due to the prevalence of arsenic in groundwater in certain regions of the world. However, recent studies have shown that food is also a considerable source of arsenic exposure for people. Recent research has revealed that arsenic is taken up in food crops, particularly rice, and has resulted in significant exposure in humans. Arsenic also has been found in foods sweetened with rice products and apple and grape juices.
The C-FARR workshop in November brought together researchers studying arsenic in soils, uptake into biota, dietary exposures to arsenic via rice and other foods, and risk associated with exposure to organic and inorganic arsenicals that occur in food. They focused on six topics, which will form the basis for six synthesis papers: sources of arsenic in soil and groundwater, food diet and exposure, exposure to organic arsenic species from seafood, arsenic uptake and metabolism in rice, human arsenic exposure through rice and potential health consequences, and moving from arsenic epidemiology to practical recommendations. Dartmouth SRP Center members provided the welcome, overview, and goals of the workshop and are leading many of the synthesis paper working groups.
Over the next two years, the C-FARR team will gather and analyze data and publish a series of papers. Salient findings from this initiative also will be translated and distributed to public health and policy stakeholders.
Pezzoli Receives UC System President's Award
Keith Pezzoli, Ph.D., from the University of California (UC) San Diego, received an Award for Outstanding Faculty Leadership in Presidential Initiatives from Janet Napolitano, J.D., president of the UC system. From across the UC campuses, 10 faculty members were honored for demonstrating outstanding leadership on system-wide initiatives.
The award honors Pezzoli's leadership on the UC Global Food Initiative (GFI), where he leads a subcommittee on urban agriculture and food disparities. He is actively involved with community youth development workshops focused on urban agriculture and health. He also leads the Communication, Literacy and Education for Agricultural Research (CLEAR) project, a partnership with UC Davis that is helping prepare the next generation of science communicators in food and agriculture.
Pezzoli leads the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core of UC San Diego's Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. The Center works closely with the UC GFI by helping address issues of toxicity and risk assessment in areas, such as brownfield sites, where people living in low-income communities grow food on contaminated land. This year, Napolitano visited a field site in southeast San Diego where local residents and their SRP and GFI partners are building a community garden, food forest, neighborhood food security network, and environmental health learning center.
For more information about the winners, see the UC news page.
SRP Grantees Develop Occupational Health and Safety Modules on Nanotechnology
A series of six modules related to nanotechnology health and safety are now available on Nano-Link, thanks to the Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded Midwest Emerging Technologies Public Health and Safety Training (METPHAST) Program. Led by Peter Raynor, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota, the program develops and disseminates Web-based modules to educate and train a variety of learners about health and safety issues associated with emerging technologies.
With funding from an SRP Occupational and Safety Training Education Programs on Emerging Technologies (R25) grant, this multi-institutional collaboration among the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and Dakota County Technical College is developing 20 modules related to nanotechnology health and safety. Each of the six modules includes a one-hour presentation video and a hands-on activity. The first five modules assume no prior background in occupational hygiene as they cover important occupational health and safety concepts, including environmental exposure risks. The sixth module provides an introduction to nanotechnology. Upcoming modules will focus on the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards presented by working with nanomaterials.
Commercializing Passive Sampling Technology to Enhance the Risk Analysis Process
Damian Shea, Ph.D., and his team at North Carolina State University have developed a new passive sampling technology that provides more accurate estimates of chronic exposure to hundreds of bioavailable chemicals in water. Shea also created a new start-up company, Statera LLC, to manufacture, market, and distribute this new technology globally.
The technology, a type of non-selective passive sampling device (PSD), enables risk assessors involved with hazardous waste sites to gain critical information related to bioavailability, or the ability of a chemical to be taken up into animals and the human body, as well as time-weighted averages of contaminant concentrations in surface waters.
According to Shea, the non-selective feature allows the PSD to detect the full range of organic (and presumably bioavailable) chemicals, like polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, at sub nanogram-per-liter concentrations. The PSD also provides accurate time-weighted average exposure for at least 14 days in the field. The PSD has been calibrated in the laboratory for over 400 chemicals and has been used to measure chronic exposure to over 250 chemicals at various field sites around the world.
The cost to manufacture the device is about $75 each, and each PSD is potentially reusable, reducing its cost per use over time. The extraction process is simple and uses small volumes of solvent compared to extracting water samples. It also may be considered a more environmentally friendly way to measure exposure to chemicals.
Statera initially is focusing on the commercialization and practical application of the PSD for use in chemical exposure assessment. The first order for 1,000 of Statera's PSDs was placed by the Kunming Chao Tai Trade Co., Ltd., which will import and distribute the product in China. Researchers will use the devices to monitor chemical exposure in major rivers used for drinking, bathing, washing of food, and agricultural irrigation in Yunnan Province, China.
"This initial order moves our research concept to the 'real world,' an important milestone in the acceptance of the PSD technology to help solve real-world problems," remarks Shea. "We are currently working on an improved version of this PSD in an effort that is just the beginning of a major advance in implementing PSD technology globally."
Shea's research project and product development was conducted as part of the University of North Carolina Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center.
To read more, visit the UNC SRP Center website.
NIEHS SRP Staff Member Attends EPA’s International Environmental Youth Symposium
Alicia Lawson, NIEHS Superfund Research Program Health Specialist, participated in the first International Environmental Youth Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. It was hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 and global partners in early October 2015.
The two-day symposium, “One World, One Environment,” facilitated networking among students, academia, administrators, and environmental and sustainability stakeholders at the domestic and international level. Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, provided the keynote address.
The symposium featured invited presentations, workshops, and plenary sessions for networking, panels, and posters. Lawson also served as a judge during the collegiate scientific poster session. Participants discussed several pressing environmental challenges and potential solutions. Some of the main topics included climate change, sustainability, and adaptation.
SRP Grantee Moderates Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists Workshop
Smartphones are revolutionizing the collection and sharing of environmental data, but their potential as tools for citizen science is vastly under-utilized. To help promote and optimize use of mobile applications, the Earth Institute at Columbia University is hosting a series of workshops, which began October 13, looking at Smartphone Apps for Citizen Scientists.
The associate director of the Columbia SRP, Alexander van Geen, Ph.D., and the co-director of Columbia University's Urban Design Lab, Patricia Culligan, Ph.D., are moderating the workshops.
The series examines a range of topics, including the underlying science and technical development, the legal and privacy concerns of data collection and dissemination, and the implications for environmental justice and regulations enforcement. Workshops successively explore airborne, water, and soil contaminants. Featured speakers range from the researchers behind the science to the users in communities.
The first workshop focused on airborne contaminants and featured presentations by five panelists: Michael Heimbinder, Executive Director of HabitatMap; Darby Jack, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health; Lindsay Mollineaux, Deputy Chief Analytics Officer for New York City; Nicholas Masson, an independent engineering contractor; and Richard Witten, Special Advisor to the President of Columbia University.
The next two workshops, scheduled for December 1, 2015 and February 16, 2016, will address water and soil contaminants. For more information, please visit the Earth Institute Web page. For further information, please e-mail Pamela Vreeland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SRP Grantees Share Cutting Edge Research at EMGS
At the 46th Annual Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS) meeting September 26-30, Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees and staff gathered to discuss research aimed at understanding and mitigating environmental threats to the genome and to the epigenome.
The theme of the meeting focused on integrating research, education, and policy. The scientific program consisted of symposia, platform and poster sessions, Saturday workshops, and internationally recognized speakers. There was also a focus on cutting-edge technologies, including a Plenary Symposium on sequencing, genome editing, and what they promise as we look ahead.
SRP grantees from the University of California (UC) Berkeley and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) gave presentations on their innovative SRP research related to environmental mutagenesis. SRP Health Scientist Administrator Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., also attended the meeting.
UNC SRP Center Director Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., gave two presentations. She discussed oral exposure to arsenic and health risks for children during the Health Risk Assessment of Oral Exposure to Arsenic session. She presented “Toxic Metals and the Epigenome” during the Environmental Epigenomics and Disease Susceptibility session.
UC Berkeley SRP Center researcher Luoping Zhang, Ph.D., also spoke during the Environmental Epigenomics and Disease Susceptibility session, presenting on, “Applying Biomarkers, Systems Biology, and Exposome Approaches to Study Environmental and Occupational Exposures to Toxic Chemicals.” A UC Berkeley SRP Center trainee Sarah Daniels gave a presentation, “Toward Exposomics,” at the Emerging Technologies workshop on the first day of the meeting.
Kelly Pennell Receives NSF CAREER Award
Kelly Pennell, Ph.D., an University of Kentucky assistant professor and Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee, was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award for her project “Vapor Intrusion, Knowledge Brokers, and Environmental Health—A Three Dimensional Perspective.” The CAREER Award, one of the NSF’s highest awards, supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Pennell, a former Brown University SRP member, credits her experience with two SRP centers in helping her achieve this major accomplishment. Her work is focusing on how to predict vapor intrusion, the transport of below-surface vapors into indoor air spaces, which is an important but often overlooked source of indoor air contamination. An SRP supplement at Brown was her first involvement with vapor intrusion, and her new NSF project will build on these early SRP experiences.
“The research I am conducting through my NSF CAREER grant will extend my previous research to investigate how natural and mechanical building ventilation systems, as well as utility infrastructure and atmospheric effects can influence inhalation exposures at vapor intrusion sites,” Pennell said.
This research project will bridge the gap between air transport modeling of above ground spaces and below-surface spaces. The research introduces a novel approach—a volatile organic chemical (VOC) vapor intrusion model—that incorporates atmospheric, indoor, and below-surface domains in an effort to address preliminary field data and field observations in the literature that has previously been unexplained. Pennell is currently collecting field data at the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman Superfund site in Mountain View, California for vapor intrusion related sewer gas exposures. She is also leading community engagement and consultation activities at a contaminated site in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
As part of the award, Pennell will also train undergraduate and graduate students as knowledge brokers to build bridges between academic researchers and key stakeholders, such as regulators, professionals, legislators and community members. Pennell and her students will organize and host a training workshop to provide professional stakeholders (e.g. regulators and practitioners) access to cutting edge research related to vapor intrusion.
Fry Welcomed as New UNC SRP Center Director
Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill's (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been named director of the UNC Superfund Research Program (SRP).
"In North Carolina and nationally, we are faced with serious environmental issues that need to be tackled with diverse interdisciplinary teams," Fry said. "I am excited to lead our group, with a mission to employ advanced risk analysis to protect populations at risk from these environmental harms."
Fry, a biomedical researcher, joined the Gillings faculty in 2008. She is recognized internationally for her research in systems toxicology and environmental epigenetics, focusing on the molecular mechanisms underlying environmentally-induced disease. She has extensive experience overseeing complex research programs and previously served as deputy director for the UNC SRP.
Prior to being selected for this position, Fry served as co-principal investigator for an NIEHS-funded training grant that provides pre- and postdoctoral support for more than 25 graduate and postdoctoral trainees across three different departments within Gillings.
A current focus in Fry's lab is studying prenatal exposure to various types of metals, including arsenic, cadmium, and lead, which are often found at Superfund sites. In particular, she looks at the epigenetic effects of exposure to such metals.
For instance, Fry and her team are studying the gene-environment interactions of cadmium-induced effects on newborn birthweight in a pregnancy cohort from North Carolina. Results from this work will help identify genetic bases for cadmium-induced changes and determine reasons for susceptibility.
To advance further the use of epigenetics, Fry seeks to work with other researchers to create a database repository to gather and organize research findings. According to Fry, such a repository would enable researchers to answer more effectively questions on – and identify research gaps in – risk assessment.
Fry also recently published a book that provides a comprehensive introduction to the use of systems biology, a way of modeling complex biological systems, in assessing environmental exposures to contaminants and their human health impacts.
Fry succeeds James Swenberg, D.V.M., Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at UNC, who led the SRP from 1992 to 2015.
"Dr. Fry is well-positioned to lead the UNC Superfund Research Program, continuing our longstanding emphasis on improving risk assessment and also leading us in new directions," Swenberg said.
Oregon State SRP Center Receives University Awards
The Oregon State University (OSU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center was recognized for its outstanding contributions to the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences through two departmental awards in August. The awards highlight the interdisciplinary success of the Center as well as exceptional leadership by one of its project leaders.
The OSU SRP Center was awarded the James and Mildred Oldfield/E.R. Jackman Team Award that recognizes superior and distinguished interdisciplinary team achievements through teaching, research, international, or extended education activities of faculty and staff. This award highlights the importance of interdisciplinary team efforts in achieving the goals of the College of Agricultural Sciences.
OSU SRP Center project leader David Williams, Ph.D., received the Arnold Leadership award, which recognizes an administrator for outstanding contributions to the research mission of the OSU College of Agricultural Science. The award is intended to honor the noteworthy leadership in advancing the research mission of the College of Agricultural Sciences.
The OSU SRP Center brings together a multidisciplinary team with years of experience in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and environmental health issues. The Center currently has five research projects working together with support cores from both Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Investigators emphasize basic and applied research using state-of-the-art techniques to better understand PAHs and their impacts on human and ecological health.
Crossing Geographic and Discipline Borders at the PBC Meeting
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.
Enhancing Community Involvement through University-Federal Agency Collaboration
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees and staff took part in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Community Involvement Training Conference August 4-6, which brings together more than 450 people from EPA and the Agency’s partners and stakeholders who plan and implement environmental community involvement, partnership, stew ardship, outreach, and education programs.
During a 90-minute information session, presenters from EPA and SRP described the Partners in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP), initiated by the EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation in 2013 to help communities affected by Superfund sites understand technical information and to enable meaningful community involvement in the Superfund decision-making process. SRP grantees were invited to join the PTAP pilot as partners.
Led by Melissa Dreyfus, EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, and Alicia Lawson, NIEHS SRP Health Specialist, the 90 minute session explored the ways in which university-agency partnerships can enhance community involvement. Lawson provided an overview of SRP’s funding mechanisms, research areas, and benefits of the PTAP collaboration. Through PTAP, colleges and universities cooperate with EPA and voluntarily commit to assist communities with their unaddressed technical assistance needs.
The first PTAP pilot project, described in the session by EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Alanna Conley, brought together stakeholders at EPA, a local school, and the Oregon State University SRP to develop K-8 educational materials about mercury in the environment and its effects on human health. The project was launched with the London School, located near the Black Butte Mine Superfund site to help the nearby community understand technical information regarding site cleanup and to provide opportunities for communities to meaningfully engage in EPA actions.
The second project more broadly targeted impacted communities at Superfund sites across the country and brought together EPA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and University of Arizona (UA) SRPs to develop informational materials and interactive activities to convey the relevance of bioavailability/relative bioavailability to site cleanups and human health. SRP grantees Kathleen Gray (UNC SRP) and Sarah Wilkinson (UA SRP) shared interactive exercises developed for community audiences and described their implementation to date.
According to the presenters, SRP grantees provide the EPA with assistance and expertise to meet technical assistance needs of a community. PTAP also opens the lines of communication between the SRP grantee, impacted communities, and nonprofit organizations, and encourages SRP engagement in a community at the earliest stage possible.
Northeastern SRP Center Wins Award
As part of the conference, the Northeastern SRP Center, Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT), won the People’s Choice Award. The Award was the result of successful interactions between conference participants and PROTECT researchers Liza Anzalota, Ph.D., and Carmen Velez, Ph.D., and trainee Colleen Murphy during the Eco Café session. The Eco Café was held to give the participants a hands-on opportunity to learn about different community involvement tools and resources. The team presented PROTECT community engagement activities and communicated with the audience about the influence of contaminants on preterm birth and adverse pregnancy outcomes. See the news story for more on PROTECT.
UA SRP Responds Quickly to Inform Communities near Colorado Mine Spill
Because of their expertise in human and environmental risks associated with mining of metals, University of Arizona (UA) Superfund Research Program (SRP) researchers weighed in on the recent Gold King Mine Spill, which spilled approximately three million gallons of polluted mine waste water into a tributary of the Animas Rive in Colorado.
UA SRP researchers also put together a brief, Understanding the Gold King Mine Spill, to explain the extent of the accident, the effects of the spill, and what is being done to control it.
In an Arizona Public Media story, UA SRP Center Director Raina Maier, Ph.D., and researcher Karletta Chief, Ph.D., explained how the spill occurred and the potential health and environmental risks. According to a statement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an agency cleanup team accidentally caused the spill while excavating the entrance to the Gold King Mine, an abandoned mine in southwestern Colorado that had been leaking pollution.
“The spill has caused a large amount of metals in a highly acidic waste stream to move into the environment,” said Maier. Maier explained that metals cannot degrade into less toxic compounds like oil can after a spill. Metals stay in the environment and settle into the river sediment. Maier also discussed her SRP work on and around an abandoned mining site in Arizona called the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter.
Chief spoke about the implications of the spill for nearby Navajo communities.“The water is very sacred to the Navajo people. Not only to sustain their livelihood, but also culturally and spiritually,” said Chief. As part of the SRP, Chief works with tribes and tribal colleges developing educational learning modules focusing on mining, mining impacts, and environmental impacts for tribal members.
UA SRP Center project leader Jim Field, Ph.D., was also interviewed for a story in a local Arizona publication about the potential for the Colorado mine spill to pollute drinking water in Arizona. According the Field, most of the metals will have likely settled or have been diluted to safe levels by the time the water flows into Lake Powell, a water storage facility for several states including Arizona.
“By the time you get all the way to Lake Powell I don’t think the chance that the metals are exceeding drinking water standards is very high,” Field said.
SRP Staff and Stakeholders Identify Research Needs for Lead in Soils
As lead standards are lowered, a number of challenges in remediation and bioavailability assessments of lead in urban soils need to be addressed, according to a new review published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The review was a result of a collaboration between a team of federal and academic researchers, risk assessors, and Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff.
Over the last 10 years, evidence has been accumulating that lead exposure-related health effects occur at lower blood lead levels (BLLs) than previously thought. Based on these data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that there is no identified BLL without deleterious health effects in children and also lowered the blood lead reference value, which is used to identify children with levels much higher than those of most U.S. children. The new value, 5 micrograms per deciliter, is half the previous value.
Because of the lowered blood lead reference value, regulatory decision makers could also lower residential soil screening levels (SSLs), which are used to set lead cleanup levels, to those that might be difficult to achieve in urban areas. The review discusses these challenges and identifies research needed to address them better.
The authors describe phosphate amendments as an option for removing lead from soil because the amendments bind to lead and immobilize it. However, more information is needed about other variables, such as differences in soil composition, that may alter the effectiveness of this method. The authors suggest that SSLs may need to be based on bioavailability — or the amount of hazardous substances that can be absorbed or used by living organisms — rather than total lead concentrations. According to the authors, more data are urgently needed to understand this variability better and to increase confidence in using these approaches in risk-based decision making, particularly in urban areas.
The concept for the review stemmed from needs to articulate the connection between lower SSLs and an anticipated increase in demand for soil lead remediation, as identified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Risk Assessor Mark Maddaloni, Ph.D., a member of the SRP Research to Risk Assessment Interagency Working Group. Together with SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., Maddaloni developed a focused session on lead and urban soils for the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Indianapolis that featured work by other review authors: Chammi Attanayake, Ph.D., Nicholas T. Basta, Ph.D., Zhongqi Cheng, Ph.D., Ganga M. Hettiarachchi, Ph.D., Mark Maddaloni, Ph.D., Marisa Naujokas, Ph.D., Christopher Schadt , Ph.D., and Kirk G. Scheckel, Ph.D.
SRP Researchers Come Together to Review Early-life Exposure to Arsenic and Health Effects
Evidence is mounting that relates early-life arsenic exposure with development of cancer later in life, according to a recent review from a collaborative group of Superfund Research Program (SRP) scientists. The authors, led by University of North Carolina (UNC) SRP Center researcher Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., also call for future research to address potential mechanisms that underlie increased risk as well as human studies that integrate early-life exposure, molecular alterations, and later disease outcomes.
Contributing to the review, scientists from the NIEHS as well as from other SRP Centers including the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University worked with UNC SRP Center researchers and partners. For more than 25 years, SRP grantees have been researching arsenic, a human carcinogen found at more than 47 percent of Superfund sites. Arsenic occurs naturally and as a result of mining and industrial use. People are most likely to be exposed to arsenic through drinking water supplies. SRP-funded research has focused on measuring arsenic's impacts on human populations, improving understanding of the mechanisms of arsenic toxicity, and developing improved remediation techniques.
The review summarizes research on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the increased risk of cancer development in adulthood that is associated with early-life arsenic exposure. The authors discuss epigenetic reprogramming, or changes gene expression that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence, as a potential mechanism for adverse health effects associated with early-life arsenic exposure and a major research focus area. They also describe studies that point to the development of cancer stem cells and alterations to the immune system as plausible pathways for arsenic’s carcinogenic effects.
To read more, see the review article, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
NIEHS Workshop Addresses Challenges for Determining Health Effects of Mixtures
An NIEHS workshop in July, Statistical Approaches for Assessing Health Effects of Environmental Chemical Mixtures in Epidemiology Studies, brought together experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, and toxicology to identify, develop, refine, and disseminate methods for quantifying the health effects of environmental chemical mixtures. The goals of this workshop are also critical to the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), which provides support for research that must address risk from the multiple contaminants found at hazardous waste sites.
Prior to the workshop, participants were asked to work in multidisciplinary teams to develop simulated mixtures databases to test statistical approaches. They were then provided data sets containing human health data and relevant mixtures and asked to analyze the data sets using their specific approach. The different approaches for assessing health effects of mixtures were then presented at the workshop.
The SRP became involved in the workshop because of the need to develop the data sets sent to participants for analysis before the meeting. Boston University SRP Center grantee Tom Webster, D.Sc., and Chris Gennings, Ph.D., professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, were both on the workshop planning committee and took up to the challenge. With supplemental SRP funding, they developed the data sets for the workshop and made them publically available for future users.
This interactive workshop led to discussions about the benefits and drawback of each of the statistical approaches brought to the meeting. Researchers put their expertise to the test to help determine the best approaches to disentangle the combined biological effects of exposure to mixtures from epidemiology, statistics, and toxicology points of view.
SRP Representation at the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable
Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded researcher Michelle Lorah, Ph.D., and SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., were featured at the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (FRTR) meeting on June 25. The FRTR meeting brings together federal agencies involved in hazardous waste site cleanup to share information, learn about new technologies, and discuss future directions.
Lorah, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as a co-leader on an SRP-funded individual project based out of Johns Hopkins University, gave a presentation about technologies for biogeochemical and hydrogeologic characterization and their integration for site remediation. She touched on the SRP research investigating chlorinated benzene-contaminated groundwater at the Standard Chlorine Superfund site in Delaware. Henry also provided a brief introduction to the SRP individual research project grants on biogeochemical interactions, as well as small business grants related to hazardous waste site monitoring.
At the meeting, program managers shared information and learned about technology efforts of mutual interest related to hazardous waste site cleanup. The meeting also facilitated partnerships to pursue subjects of mutual interest from different agencies. FRTR members include the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
LSU SRP Co-Hosts Successful Combustion By-Products Conference
The Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) Center co-hosted the 14th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and their Health Effects in Umeå, Sweden in June. The conference brought together experts from around the world to discuss topics on the origins, fate, and health effects of combustion-related air pollutants.
Combustion is defined in a wide sense to include all forms of thermal treatment of fuel materials and hazardous substances. The meeting covered basic and applied engineering research related to combustion by-products to develop remediation and detection technologies and to better understand pollutant formation. The meeting also focused on research tied to the health effects of these pollutants, with sessions focusing on legacy pollutants as well as new and emerging contaminants
NIEHS SRP Health Scientist Administrator Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., attended the meeting and gave a presentation on NIEHS scientific highlights related to combustion by-products. She discussed NIEHS research on household air pollution from cookstoves, NIEHS Gulf Oil Spill response efforts, the NIEHS National Toxicology Program, and health effects research and cleanup strategies from the SRP.
In the opening ceremony, Carlin provided a brief history of the Congress, which began with an emphasis on the fate of toxic by-products of incineration before expanding to include health effects research activities, as well as other topics related to combustion. She highlighted the importance of bringing together scientists from different disciplines, such as engineering, chemistry, remediation, and biomedical research. She also discussed NIEHS priorities moving forward, with an emphasis on data science and global environmental health.
The Adel Sarofim Award was presented at the meeting to Kees Olie, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Amsterdam. The award is presented to a scientist for outstanding advancements in understanding combustion processes, formation of combustion by-products, and mechanisms of their health effects.
UC Davis Researchers Find Key Mechanism That Causes Neuropathic Pain
Scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have identified a key mechanism in neuropathic pain. The discovery could eventually benefit millions of patients with chronic pain from trauma, diabetes, shingles, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions that cause nerve damage.
A biological process called endoplasmic reticulum stress, or ER stress, is the significant driver of neuropathic pain, said lead researchers Bora Inceoglu, Ph.D., of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ahmed Bettaieb, Ph.D., of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. The research article is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research is supported by the Superfund Research Program, as well as other National Institutes of Health grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
"This is a fundamental discovery that opens new ways to control chronic pain," said UC Davis SRP Center Director and co-author Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., distinguished professor at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Inceoglu, working in Hammock's laboratory, showed that neuropathic pain could be initiated by compounds that cause ER stress and reversed by agents that block it.
The work sheds new light on at least one biological process that mediates neuropathic pain, Inceoglu said. With this knowledge, researchers can now test ER-stress blocking drugs in the clinic and carry out fundamental research on how different types of pain grouped under the name "neuropathic" differ from each other and respond to new drugs.
To learn more about the research findings, see the UC Davis News Page.
SRP Small Business Shines at Biotech Innovation Convention
Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business grantee Microvi Biotechnologies, Inc., showcased its innovative remediation technology at the recent Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention in Philadelphia, June 15 - 18.
As the world's largest biotechnology conference and exhibition, this annual event attracts 15,000 biotech leaders from 65 countries and covers a wide spectrum of life science innovations and application areas. Microvi was one of only 35 NIH grantees selected to exhibit at the "BIO Innovation Zone," a special exhibit space dedicated to showcasing National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grantees.
"SRP was pleased to learn Microvi was chosen to showcase an environmental remediation application. Their technology -- a biological-based remediation approach -- shows great promise to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water," said SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D. 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, is difficult to remove with conventional water treatment technologies.
"It was encouraging to find many organization representatives with not just knowledge of, but also interest in, bioremediation," said Microvi Director of Innovation Research Ameen Razavi, who represented the company at the convention. "We highlighted our 1,4-dioxane technology and our co-metabolic remediation technology, and also discussed how our overall approach to water treatment is unique and novel."
Because Microvi was one of the few environmental biotech companies in a space filled with a number of biomedical and pharmaceutical-oriented organizations, Razavi was able to take advantage of more targeted one-on-one meetings, which resulted in useful and productive discussions.
"An interesting fact that resonated in our discussions was how closely the research and development in biomedical sciences can be integrated for bioremediation technologies," said Razavi. "Many of the novel assays, metagenomics tools, real-time metabolite analyzers, etc., were directly applicable to our work in ways that could only come through in such detailed, in-person discussions."
SRP Grantees Present Sustainable Solutions for PCB-Contaminated Sediments
A workshop in Danville, Virginia, brought together Superfund Research Program (SRP) researchers and partners to highlight lab and field work aimed at degrading polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments. Researchers also highlighted results from three years of PCB degradation and containment research in a six-acre wastewater overflow pond in Altavista, Virginia.
Researchers from the University of Iowa SRP Center (ISRP), as well as SRP grantees from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), participated in the workshop. The workshop also included representatives from the Altavista Town Council, as well as partners from the Institute for Advanced Learning in Danville, Virginia, and Ecolotree, a small business focusing on phytoremediation.
Talks included state-of-the-art research for phytoremediation and microbial bioremediation of PCBs in general, as well as the latest data from each group's experiments at the Altavista site. This was followed by a discussion of possible approaches to cleanup and goals the town hopes to achieve at the pond.
"Altavista is keen to work with all of us to transfer the technologies to a full-scale remediation," said Jerry Schnoor, Ph.D., a University of Iowa SRP researcher and workshop participant.
Kevin Sowers, Ph.D., a professor at UMBC and a previous SRP individual research project grantee, presented preliminary data that show evidence of progress using microbes in already-established enclosures at the Altavista site. UMBC professor and SRP grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., is also working on this project at the Altavista site.
ISRP scientist Timothy Mattes, Ph.D., provided context for PCB degradation in the field. He is developing a biological solution for PCB contamination that uses plants and their associated microbes in the root zone. His research is showing promise as an economical, green solution to clean up Altavista's wastewater lagoon.
"The workshop was a success and probably the first time we had this large an assembly of investigators working specifically on PCBs," Sowers said.
Reflections on the Superfund Research Program
A recent paper, authored by former and current NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded scientists, describes the success of the SRP in its first 25 years in addressing complex health and environmental problems associated with hazardous waste sites. According to the authors, what appears at first to be a typical multi-project research structure is really not conventional. The program requires integrated biomedical and environmental science or engineering projects that are organized around a common theme, bringing various disciplines together to solve complex problems.
Since its inception in 1987, the SRP has worked to answer important scientific questions such as how contaminants on waste sites affect our health, and how to cleanup a site sustainably at a reduced cost. The authors discuss scientific achievements made by the program that include discovery of biological mechanisms through which environmental chemicals may contribute to health problems such as obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. It has also fostered development of novel biological and engineering techniques for efficient and low-cost remediation of hazardous waste sites. The SRP’s robust training program emphasizes cross-disciplinary training for the next generation of leaders in environmental health science. Over the years, the program has emphasized the translation of research into public health improvements.
As part of the 25th Anniversary of the SRP, a series of videos were produced to reflect on the innovative program. Posted on the NIEHS YouTube channel, the videos feature SRP staff, current and former project leaders and trainees, and program partners who discuss their motivations, experiences, and hopes for the future of the SRP.
SRP Researchers Contribute To VA Clinical Guidance for Camp Lejeune Veterans
Between 1957 and 1987, the drinking water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with industrial chemicals, including the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). It is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million people may have used the contaminated water. Acting largely on the basis of Superfund Research Program (SRP) studies from Boston University (BU), an Institute of Medicine committee has recommended that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expand the range of conditions covered by legislation, providing health benefits to veterans and their families who were exposed to the contaminated drinking water.
To make their recommendations, the committee drew from studies conducted at BU by Patricia Janulewicz, Sc.D., assistant professor of environmental health and former SRP-trainee, and SRP project leader, Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D. The committee, which also includes Janulewicz, recommended that the VA consider adding several neurobehavioral effects to the clinical guidance, including those due to neural tube birth defects, adolescent and adult illicit drug use, bipolar disorder, and problems with contrast sensitivity and color discrimination.
See the BU website for more information.
Northeastern SRP Center Holds Successful Social Science-Environmental Health Conference
Co-sponsored by the Northeastern University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, the 2015 Social Science-Environmental Health Interdisciplinary Collaborations Conference brought together people from academia, government, and community-based organizations who work at the intersection of social science and environmental health. Held in Boston May 21-22, the conference included reviews of the field and discussion of best practices for future research and training in transdisciplinary environmental health research.
Conceptualizing, studying, and addressing environmental health problems such as toxic chemicals, climate change, air pollution, biodiversity, and environmental justice requires creative collaborations across disciplines. Conference participants integrated basic science, health science, sociology, science studies, and community organizations, as they discussed novel approaches to studying environmental health questions, communicating environmental health data, and conceptualizing environmental health socially, politically, and scientifically.
Researchers from the Northeastern SRP Center held a session on lessons from their work with participants in the Puerto Rico Testsite for the Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) study to investigate environmental contaminants and preterm birth in Puerto Rico.
Conference topics included case studies of social science, environmental health science collaborations, applying these collaborations in biomonitoring, and developing and evaluating training materials. For more information on the conference, visit the Northeastern University website.
Henry Discusses Innovative SRP Small Business Research at Water Clusters Meeting
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., traveled to Pittsburgh to speak at a technology transfer-focused meeting of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Technology Innovation Cluster leaders on April 27. The full-day meeting focused on how water clusters can support early-stage water companies’ efforts to find funding.
The EPA Environmental Technology Clusters Program supports regional groupings of businesses, government, research institutions, and other organizations focused on innovative technologies for clean water. Led by Sally Gutierrez and Maggie Theroux of the EPA Office of Research and Development, these dense networks can help solve the nation's environmental challenges by spurring technology innovation.
At the meeting, about 60 people, primarily the heads of local and regional Water Clusters, focused on federal funding in water. Henry, as well as other program staff for top Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, attended the meeting to highlight their federal grant programs and accomplishments. Henry highlighted innovative water, drinking water remediation and detection technologies coming out of the NIEHS SRP SBIR/STTR program.
The meeting also featured a panel discussion for SBIR/STTR Program Managers, including Henry, April Richards (EPA); Ali Mohamed, Ph.D., (National Institute of Food and Agriculture); Prakash Balan, Ph.D., (National Science Foundation); and Manny Oliver, PhD (U.S. Department of Energy). Each of the program staff described their SBIR and STTR programs that promote commercialization of water technology, the process of applying for SBIR/STTR grants, and provided information on keys to a successful proposal.
Schlenk Presents in Duke University Seminar Series
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Daniel Schlenk, Ph.D, presented work related to aquatic ecotoxicology as part of the Duke University SRP seminar series on May 7. A professor at the University of California, Riverside, Schlenk’s research focuses on understanding the biochemical factors that influence susceptibility to environmental and natural chemicals. During his presentation, he discussed his work on the critical windows of susceptibility and mechanisms of selenium toxicity in fish.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient that can cause embryo toxicity at levels 7 to 30 times above essential concentrations. Schlenk and his research team are working to better understand the effects of selenium during critical windows of development and how other factor, such as salinity, affect developmental toxicity of selenium.
Schlenk also co-leads Exploring the Importance of Aging in Contaminant Bioavailability and Remediation, an SRP-funded individual research project. An often-neglected fact is that contamination at most Superfund sites is a result of historical events, and that contaminants at these sites have resided in the same media for many years or decades, a biogeochemical process loosely termed aging. As part of his SRP-funded grant, Schlenk and Jay Gan are developing a simple method for measuring and accounting for contaminant aging in risk assessments and remediation. They will apply the method to sediment samples collected from the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site off the Los Angeles coast. Sediments at this site contain high levels (up to 200 mg/kg) of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) deposited from as far back as 60 years ago.
SRP Investigator Elected to National Academy of Sciences
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to research, Julian Schroeder, Ph.D., was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in April 2015. The NAS is a private, nonprofit organization comprising prominent scientists and engineers within the United States, and it provides the nation with unbiased scientific and technological advice.
Schroeder, a pioneer of ion channel characterization in higher plants, focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms that enable plants to respond to -- and resist -- stress originating from the surrounding environment. As an investigator in the University of California, San Diego Superfund Research Program (UCSD SRP), Schroeder's research sheds light on the potential and innovative use of genetically engineered plant models for detoxification of soils and waters contaminated with heavy metals.
Schroeder's expertise is also recognized by various faculty appointments, memberships in professional societies, and awards. He directs UCSD's Plant Systems Biology Graduate Training Program and co-directs the Center for Food and Fuel for the 21st Century. He is president of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and currently holds the Novartis Chair in Plant Sciences. Schroeder has received several commendations, including the ASPB's Charles Albert Shull Award and the National Science Foundation's Young Investigator Award.
Duke SRP Center Visits ATSDR
On April 23, Duke University Superfund Research Program (Duke SRP) Center researcher Joel Meyer, Ph.D., and Duke SRP Research Translation Core coordinator Gretchen Kroeger took a trip down to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) campus outside of Atlanta to provide information about Duke SRP Center research and foster collaborations between Duke SRP and ATSDR.
Meyer, whose research at Duke University focuses on the role of mitochondria as a target of toxicity for a variety of contaminants, gave a presentation highlighting Duke SRP Center work with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) along Virginia’s Elizabeth River. He discussed his research related to mitochondrial DNA damage and the later life effects of environmental exposures.
After the presentation, Meyer and Kroeger met with several groups of ATSDR scientists to discuss their research and community-engaged work with exposed populations. Meyer and Kroeger returned to Duke with a better understanding of the great work being done at ATSDR, as well as an assortment of research ideas, connections, and hope for future collaborations with the Agency.
Northeastern SRP Center Trainee Engages Stakeholders
Northeastern University Superfund Research Program (Northeastern SRP) Center trainee Kelly Ferguson, Ph.D., is going beyond her research by bringing her work to stakeholders and learning about environmental decision making. Ferguson, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, focuses on exposure assessment and molecular epidemiology with the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) Program.
On April 29, Ferguson gave a talk at the 8th Copenhagen Workshop on Endocrine Disrupters. Her talk, “Developmental effects of phthalates: what are the mechanisms?,” introduced the PROTECT cohort and summarized preliminary findings on the relationship between maternal phthalate exposure during pregnancy and changes in hormone, inflammation, and oxidative stress levels.
This past year, Ferguson participated in the Reach the Decision Makers Fellowship, part of the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. This fellowship trains scientists, community members, clinicians, and public health professionals to effectively promote science and health-based policies at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As the culmination of this fellowship, Ferguson and the Detroit Reproductive Advocacy Matters (DREAM) team traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with key policy makers at the EPA. Following the release of the proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards rule on ozone, the group submitted comments advocating for the inclusion of pregnant women and communities with multiple risk factors as vulnerable populations. While in D.C., the group met with Janet McCabe, J.D., acting assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, and Thomas Burke, Ph.D., deputy assistant administrator of the EPA Office of Research and Development, to discuss these comments and push for inclusion of these populations in future risk assessment processes.
Ghosh Awarded Prestigious Environmental Engineering and Science Awards
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., and his research team received two 2015 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science awards for the development and application of innovative remediation technologies. Ghosh, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was recognized by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists at its conference on April 23.
Ghosh received the 2015 Honor Award – University Research for developing a method for in situ remediation of contaminated sediments with activated carbon, and translating that method into practice. This work was part of Ghosh’s previous SRP Individual Research Project, which led to the technology transfer efforts. Hilda Khoei and Eli Patmont, graduate students working with Ghosh, were also recognized for their efforts as part of the project.
According to the award profile, Ghosh’s research has been successful in transitioning fundamental understanding of pollutant bioavailability into an innovative application for sediment remediation. In situ remediation with activated carbon amendment provides several advantages over traditional remediation methods, including less disruption to habitats in sensitive rivers and wetlands, amenability to shallow or constricted locations, and potential for much lower cost.
Ghosh also collaborated on a project to remediate Mirror Lake in Delaware using activated carbon, which won a 2015 Honor Award – Small Projects. Richard Greene, Ph.D., an environmental engineer with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, worked with Ghosh to use activated carbon to sequester contaminants in the lake sediments, thereby interrupting the transfer of PCBs from the sediments to the water column and fish.
A Community Garden as a Living Laboratory
On March 24, Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff members visited the Ocean View Community Garden in San Diego. SRP scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), are working with local residents to transform a vacant lot into a community garden. Since the garden is on a brownfields site, the scientists are testing the fruits and vegetables grown on the site to make sure they are safe before they are eaten, and working closely with the community to communicate the results.
A brownfields site is an abandoned or underused piece of land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution. UCSD SRP researchers, including doctoral student Andrew Cooper, are analyzing plant tissues from the community garden and monitoring any heavy metal accumulation over time that may be taking place in these plants. They are also determining how stormwater retention structures at the community garden may affect the fate and transport of toxicants, and reduce potential for contamination in the fruits and vegetables, by measuring how soil contaminants change within the context of storm water management.
SRP staff Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., Heather Henry, Ph.D., and Bill Suk, Ph.D. recently toured the site to learn more about the innovative urban garden. Keith Pezzoli, Ph.D., the UCSD SRP Center Research Translation Core leader, gave an overview of the initiatives being conducted at the site.
Formerly a food desert — a city area that lacks supermarkets or farmers markets — the Ocean View Community Garden offers a gathering place for people to grow food, socialize with their neighbors and hold events, and provides an opportunity to learn about urban agriculture.
Henry and Ranville Visit EPA Region 8, Meet Government Stakeholders
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 office in Denver, Colorado, to learn about the needs of EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in Region 8 and to showcase SRP work.
Colorado School of Mines (CSM) grantees Jim Ranville, Ph.D., the individual project leader, and Jake Williamson, Ph.D., an SRP trainee, were also at the meeting. They described their work at the North Fork of the Clear Creek, a Superfund site in Colorado.
The CSM group has established an excellent network of researchers who are working together to understand metal recovery in the stream system impacted by acid mine drainage. Ranville and Williamson discussed their SRP project to detect, characterize, and assess the risks posed by contaminant metal mixtures. The EPA visit also gave EPA and ATSDR staff the opportunity to talk about big issues in Region 8 and speak with Henry about SRP researchers who are working on these issues.
Region 8 Regional Science Liaison, Patti Tyler, coordinated the visit. Attendees also included ATSDR Region 8 Regional Director Captain Dan Strausbaugh and other regional representatives, including Kristen Keteles, Ph.D., a Region 8 toxicologist and former Dartmouth College SRP Center trainee under the guidance of Celia Chen, Ph.D.
Convening at the American Chemical Society Meeting in Denver
Henry, Ranville, and Williamson were in Denver for the American Chemical Society (ACS) session “Bioavailability and Biogeochemical Interactions Affecting Remediation of Hazardous Substances in the Environment,” which was co-chaired by Henry and Ranville. The session also features several other SRP grantees, including researchers from the University of Arizona, Michigan State University, University of Iowa, and Oregon State University (OSU). Of note, Marc Elie, a postdoctoral trainee at the OSU SRP Center who gave a presentation during the ACS meeting, received acknowledgment as Best Presentation in the Assessing the Toxicity of Environmental Contaminants symposium.
SRP Well Represented at 2015 SOT Meeting
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in San Diego, California, for the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting (SOT) March 23-27. SOT provides an opportunity to highlight advancements in the science of toxicology, and several grantees gave scientific talks and presented posters during the meeting.
SRP grantees were also recognized with awards during the meeting. Brown University SRP Center Director Kim Boekelheide, Ph.D., received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the SOT Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section. Duke University SRP Center scientist Theodore Slotkin, Ph.D., was chosen to receive the 2015 SOT Education Award.
Students were well represented from a variety of SRP Centers and received a number of awards:
- Michigan State University SRP Center graduate student Kelly Fader was presented with first place Student Research Award from the SOT Molecular & Systems Biology specialty section.
- University of California, Berkeley SRP trainee Finna Sille received an SOT Immunotoxicology Specialty Section Young Investigator Travel Award.
- University of North Carolina SRP trainee Yongquan Lai received an SOT poster award from the Risk Assessment Specialty Section.
- University of Arizona SRP Center trainee Eric Deitzel was a finalist for the SOT Mechanisms Specialty Section Carl C. Smith Award.
SRP staff members were also on hand at the meeting to talk with grantees and learn about more about SRP research being conducted in the field of toxicology.
UA SRP Forms Collaboration with Bolivian Mining Group
To establish a collaboration focused on best mining practices, a group from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine in Potosí, Bolivia, visited the University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) in March 2015. Participants in the day-and-a-half-long meeting discussed a wide range of issues at the San Cristóbal Mine as well as UA SRP research in areas of interest to the mining industry.
In semiarid environments such as the Southwestern United States, mining operations are an important source of airborne metal contaminants. Trace metals can be mobilized through dispersal of dust particles emitted from mine waste as well as in fumes. At UA SRP, researchers are characterizing dust from mine waste and other mining operations. They are also experimenting with using plants to stabilize contaminants from mine waste so they remain in the ground, preventing transport to nearby communities. In addition to the research projects, they are reaching out and creating educational materials to inform nearby communities of potential risks from mine waste.
Because sustainable management of mining wastes is a global challenge facing the mining industry, partners from Summit Mining and the San Cristóbal Mine discussed research at UA SRP related to understanding and reducing health effects from mine waste. Following the meeting, the visitors toured four mine sites where UA SRP is currently working.
As the next step in this collaboration, UA SRP researchers were invited to visit their colleagues in Bolivia. There, they will tour the San Cristóbal Mine, discuss potential collaborative research projects in more detail, and develop a mechanism for Bolivian students from Tomás Frías Autonomous University to visit UA for specialized training.
Former SRP Grantee Named Provost of Rice University
Marie Lynn Miranda, Ph.D., the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, has been named provost of Rice University.
Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Miranda led both the Outreach and Research Translation Cores of the Duke University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. Miranda was part of the Duke SRP Center for 11 years, since its formation in 2000. As a member of the Center, she used geographical models to compare where children live with where contaminants are found. She also led outreach and education activities for communities in North Carolina and nationally and helped promote and improve the use of SRP science to enhance public health.
Miranda is also the founding director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative, a research, education, and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper.
For more information about Miranda and her new appointment, visit the Rice University website.
SRP Alumnus Awarded Prestigious NIEHS Grant
Former Superfund Research Program (SRP) trainee Neel Aluru, Ph.D., is one of six early-career scientists who received a 2015 NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) award. The NIEHS created the highly competitive ONES award to encourage emerging researchers who want to discover how our environment influences human health.
Aluru is an Assistant Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, under the guidance of Mark Hahn, a Boston University SRP Center grantee and senior scientist at WHOI. Hahn’s SRP project focuses on how certain fish have evolved to resist dioxins, a common Superfund contaminant, and the mechanisms and effects of this resistance.
The ONES award will allow Aluru to set up his own lab and become an independent researcher at WHOI. He will use zebrafish to study how early-life exposures to toxic chemicals may lead to developmental disabilities.
“The ONES funding comes at a critical time in a research career when someone is trying to set up their own lab to pursue their unique ideas,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., NIEHS director. “These early-career scientists are so innovative and they inspire the entire research community. I believe this program will spur new biomedical research and lead to important medical breakthroughs.”
See the Environmental Factor for more information on the ONES award and the other awardees.
Dartmouth SRP Citizen Science Project Receives Local Attention
Northeast news sources recently featured an ongoing Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (Dartmouth SRP) citizen science project with high school science classes in New Hampshire and Vermont. Articles in the Valley News and Berlin Daily Sun, New Hampshire newspapers, and on WCAX, a local Vermont news source, covered the work from high school classes around the region.
A partnership with the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Maine, the project introduces high school students to environmental health concepts and provides a real-world example of how science works by sampling dragonfly larvae for mercury. Dartmouth SRP has been running the project for three years, and it has become virtually self-sustaining.
This year, Dartmouth SRP trainee Kate Buckman presented to all the science classes and led the project in each of the high school classes. Students learned that when dragonflies hatch, they spend a few years in water searching for food and can build up mercury content from the food, making them good indicators of mercury levels in the water.
The students collected dragonfly larvae samples and sent them to the Dartmouth SRP Trace Metals Core to measure mercury content. They also came up with a hypothesis to help better understand mercury. For example, one student used weather data to see if mercury levels in one area were linked to humidity. At the end of the fall semester, students had the opportunity to present their research at Dartmouth College.
SRP Research Shines at Battelle Conference
Superfund Research Program (SRP) staff and grantees were well represented at the Eighth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments, January 12-15, 2015, organized and presented by Battelle and other sponsors.
More than 900 scientists, engineers, regulators, remediation site owners, constructors, and other environmental professionals convened to share research results, practical experiences, and opportunities for cleaning up sediments in aquatic environments.
Heather Henry, Ph.D., a SRP health scientist administrator, gave a presentation about new tools and approaches from the SRP for site monitoring and exposure measurement in contaminated sediments, particularly simple-to-use and economical passive sampling devices that can monitor sediment cleanup sites. She highlighted SRP-funded tools capable of measuring more than one chemical at a time and ongoing work to validate tools for monitoring changes during site remediation. She also explained how the tools can be integrated into health research by assessing a variety of exposures to humans.
SRP grantee Damian Shea, Ph.D., a professor at North Carolina State University, chaired a session on innovative characterization of assessment tools. Shea is developing a universal passive sampling device to measure a wide-range of chemicals in water, sediment, and soil (learn more on the University of North Carolina SRP Center website).
SRP grantee Upal Ghosh, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country, gave a presentation about his innovative cleanup project that uses activated carbon technology and passive samplers to monitor the effectiveness of the remediation technology (read more in the Environmental Factor).
The conference provided opportunity for SRP staff members Alicia Lawson and Henry to meet with SRP grantees and provide guidance on continuing efforts related to measuring contaminants in sediment.
SRP-Funded Technology Converts Waste into a Resource
A Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business grantee revealed how copper can be profitably removed from mine waste. Patrick James, Ph.D., the president and CEO of the SRP-funded small business Blue Planet Strategies (BPS) described his technology in this month’s Mining Engineering magazine.
BPS has developed and patented the Dynamic Electrolytic Mine Effluent Treatment (DEMET) technology, which leverages well-established and scalable processes to make a profit from extracting copper from what has been considered waste in the past. The technology uses electricity to cost effectively concentrate copper from waste generated as a result of mining operations. The concentrated product can then be used in conventional processing systems to recover copper.
James and his team are working to apply the DEMET system to a variety of additional metals including iron, nickel, zinc, gold, and silver. This system creates an economic driver to promote environmental cleanups by targeting metals that are profitable once removed. This is particularly valuable for abandoned mine sites nationwide where no previous economic incentive for cleanup existed.
More information is available in the Mining Engineering online exclusive publication.
The SOT Recognizes Slotkin for Excellence in TeachingDuke University Superfund Research Program (Duke SRP) Center project leader Theodore Slotkin, Ph.D., was chosen to receive the 2015 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Education Award. This award honors an individual who teaches and trains toxicologists and has made significant contributions to education in the field of toxicology.
Slotkin has been teaching and mentoring future toxicologists at Duke University for more than 40 years, with many SOT members receiving training from him. He has a project with the Duke SRP Center to better understand what happens in the brain when someone already being exposed to one chemical (such as nicotine from cigarette smoke or dexamethasone from preterm labor therapy) is exposed to other environmental chemicals such as organophosphate pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
"The Society believes strongly in supporting the development and growth of toxicology’s next generation of researchers, and serving on the frontline in this effort are the toxicologists who have dedicated themselves to not only the profession, but to mentoring budding scientists in the possibilities of the field," says Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D., the 2014-2015 SOT President. He went on to include that Slotkin is not only an excellent scientist but, potentially more importantly, also an inspiration to his students.
Chemical Leveraging Resources to Better Understand Chemical Exposures
A joint effort has led to the creation of the Southeast Global Change Monitoring Portal (GCMP), a database that provides a centralized, comprehensive catalog of monitoring sites associated with aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the southeastern United States. The GCMP database, created through a collaboration between Southeast Climate Science Center (SECSC) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Superfund Research Program (UNC SRP) Center, consolidates information about biological, physical, and chemical data in air, land, and water collected at monitoring sites. By consolidating this information into one database, GCMP supports multiple state and federal agencies and other organizations that are monitoring one or more aspect of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems so that associated data can be readily found.
The effort is led by Damian Shea, Ph.D., a professor at North Carolina State and a project leader for the UNC SRP. While the SECSC was mostly interested in climate-related stressors to ecosystems when creating the tool, Shea and his research group realized there was also a need to know more about chemical stressors in the same region.
"By leveraging resources from the SRP to enhance the project, we could include a significant number of monitoring programs that have produced, and continue to produce, data on chemical exposure in the Southeast U.S.," remarked Shea.
While the portal will continue to evolve and grow, it is already an excellent resource to determine what chemical monitoring programs exist in the southeast and learn how to access the data.
To learn more, visit the SECSC website.