Superfund Research Program
Arsenic Conference Explores Multidisciplinary Approaches to Protecting Human Health
On Nov. 2 - 3, researchers, stakeholders, and government officials met in Hanoi, Vietnam, to discuss the sources and health effects of arsenic and to explore multidisciplinary remediation strategies for the U.S. and around the world. Sponsored in part by the Columbia University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, the goal of the symposium was to develop strategies to reduce arsenic exposure and related diseases.
The conference featured presentations on diverse topics by a variety of speakers, including several SRP grantees. Columbia SRP Center Director Joseph Graziano, Ph.D., spoke about how inorganic arsenic may harm children's neurodevelopment. Center project leaders Mary Gamble, Ph.D., and Benjamin Bostick, Ph.D., discussed the influence of nutrition on arsenic metabolism and research on Vietnam's arsenic groundwater contamination, respectively. Craig Steinmaus, M.D., from the University of California, Berkeley SRP Center provided an overview of arsenic exposure and cancer.
Other organizations from diverse disciplines that participated in the meeting included NIEHS, the National Science Foundation, Dartmouth College, Vietnam's National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, Vietnam's Center for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development, and the Chulabhorn Research Institute of Thailand.
SRP Center Researchers from Northeastern University Featured in Nature News
Two Superfund Research Program (SRP) researchers from Northeastern University were featured recently in a Nature News article. It highlighted the work of the Center’s Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT) study in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island on September 20.
PROTECT Co-Director José Cordero, M.D., and project leader Ingrid Padilla, Ph.D., have been working with the research team to study how the hurricane has influenced drinking water contamination, stress, and infectious diseases that could harm pregnant women and their developing babies. In the article, Cordero and Padilla describe how the research team, which has been studying the impact of the island’s 18 Superfund sites on birth outcomes for the last six years, is conducting research in the face of incredibly difficult circumstances.
Most of the island still lacks power, and both study participants and team members continue to struggle to meet basic human needs for water, shelter, and food. Despite these challenges, the team is working to collect hair and blood samples from pregnant women, conduct health assessments, and collect groundwater and tap water samples to see whether the population is at increased risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals because of the storm.
In the article, Padilla explained that her research on how contaminants mobilize during flooding events led to concern that the water supply of the study population may be compromised. Twelve of the island’s Superfund sites sit on porous rock, called karst, which enables contaminants to travel easily between groundwater and surface water, potentially impacting drinking water sources. The team hopes that by collecting water and biological samples, they can pinpoint the primary hazards and prioritize strategies to protect residents’ health.
“The kind of work we’re doing is not because it would be interesting to do,” Cordero said in the interview. “It has to be done now because a few years from now, it will be too late.”
TAMU SRP Center Celebrates Launch
On Oct. 17, scientists, students, and faculty came together to celebrate the launch of the new Texas A&M University (TAMU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center. Remarks were delivered by SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., TAMU President Michael Young, J.D., and other key officials and project leaders.
The TAMU SRP Center researchers are developing tools to address exposure to mixtures during environmental, emergency-related contamination events, using the Houston area as a model. Center projects focus on:
- Understanding how people are exposed to chemicals during environmental emergencies
- Developing remediation technologies to reduce the public’s exposure to chemicals
- Characterizing differences between individuals resulting from exposure to chemical mixtures
- Developing assays to identify the presence and health risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Funded just weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, TAMU researchers were already on the ground and ready to respond. Jennifer Horney, Ph.D., leader of the TAMU SRP Community Engagement Core, recently authored an article that outlined many of the efforts underway at TAMU in response to the hurricane.