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Your Environment. Your Health.

PROTECT Offers Introductory Seminar Series on Superfund Research Topics

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PROTECT is a collaboration of experts in engineering, public health, and biomedical and environmental sciences, with the dual goal of reducing exposure to environmental contamination and reducing the preterm birth rate in Puerto Rico and beyond.

The Northeastern University Superfund Research program (NE SRP) Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Environmental Contaminants (PROTECT) held an introductory seminar series focused on environmental health disciplines.  The purpose of the seminars was to provide an introduction to the primary concepts, basic terminology, and applicability of NE SRP fields of research to the understanding of environmental health problems. Attendees included students, researchers, and faculty who want a better understanding of environmental health areas that they may interface with in the course of their research.

Four PROTECT grantees gave presentations during two weeks in June related to contaminant transport in groundwater, environmental epidemiology, toxicology, and remediation.

Ingrid Padilla, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, explained basic concepts about contaminants, how contaminants enter groundwater, and how they are transported in groundwater. She then used her PROTECT work in the Karst Aquifer of Northern Puerto Rico as a case study to explain how she is working to better understand how contaminants move through groundwater.

John Meeker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, focused on basic concepts of environmental epidemiology. He explained the types of epidemiological studies and clarified basic terminology. He also helped the participants understand causality and study validity in epidemiology, and how epidemiological studies inform exposure assessments by explaining his work in the PROTECT Program.

Rita Loch-Caruso, PhD., Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, provided detailed information about what happens to chemical contaminants after they enter the body by explaining the processes of adsorption, distributions, metabolism, and elimination and how chemical properties can affect the effectiveness of each process. She also described her own research to understand the mechanisms by which certain Superfund pollutants increase women’s risk of preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes.

Akram Alshawabkeh, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, gave the final seminar on soil and groundwater remediation. He explained the types of contaminants in soil and groundwater, the importance of site parameters and contaminant properties on remediation, and the types of remediation methods used to recycle, destroy, remove, stabilize, or immobilize contaminants. Alshawabkeh’s PROTECT research aims to develop green remediation approaches based on conversion of solar energy into iron electrolysis in groundwater.

For more information and to listen to the seminars, visit the PROTECT Academy website .

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