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Superfund Research Program

November 07, 2017 New

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.

Young addresses the audience at the TAMU SRP launch event. Other speakers at the event, pictured in the front row from left to right, included Eleanor Green, Ph.D., dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science; Chancellor John Sharp; Karen Butler-Purry, Ph.D., interim vice president for research; Glen Laine, Ph.D., former vice president for research; Center Director Ivan Rusyn, Ph.D.; and Anthony Knap, Ph.D., Project 1 leader. Also pictured are Michael Mancini, Ph.D., Project 4 leader, and Horney.
(Photo courtesy of the TAMU SRP Center)

November 03, 2017 New

Lancet Report Links Pollution to Nine Million Deaths in 2015

Exposure to polluted air, water, and soil caused nine million premature deaths in 2015, according to a recent report published in The Lancet. SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., co-authored the report as part of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.

Pollution infographic

The Lancet Commission released an infographic along with the report that outlined the findings. For a full size version of the infographic, visit the Lancet website. (Image from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution)

Through analyses of existing and emerging data, the Lancet Commission report lays out how pollution contributes to the global burden of disease. It also uncovers the economic costs of pollution to low- and middle-income countries, and compares the cost of inaction to the cost of available solutions.

The report draws upon previous studies to show how pollution is linked to various causes of death, including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. They estimated that nine million premature deaths in 2015 can be attributed to pollution. These add up to 16 percent of all deaths worldwide, killing three times more people than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. According to these findings, pollution is also responsible for 15 times more deaths than wars and all other forms of violence.

While the report notes that 92 percent of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, it also adds that no country is unaffected. According to their findings, children face the highest risks because prenatal and early-life exposure to chemicals can result in lifelong disease, disability, premature death, as well as reduced learning and earning potential.

"Pollution in rapidly developing countries is just getting worse and worse and worse. And it isn't getting the attention it deserves," says Philip Landrigan, M.D., pediatrician and professor of environmental medicine and global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is the lead author of the report along with Richard Fuller, president of Pure Earth, which works to clean up pollution in poor countries.

October 30, 2017 New

SRP Brings Students to Plant-Based Technologies Conference

Students supported by the Superfund Research Program (SRP) took part in the 2017 International Phytotechnologies Conference, September 25-29 in Montreal, Canada. Phytotechnologies refer to plant-based methods to clean water, soil, air, and provide ecosystem services, including creating energy from biomass.

First initiated for the 2009 conference, the Phytoscholars grant program provides funding for United States-based graduate students and post-doctoral associates to attend and participate at the international meeting.

Phytoscholars presented posters on their research, learned more about current research advances in the field of phytotechnologies, and met with scientists and engineers from all over the world. The conference focused on strategic use of plants and their associated microorganisms as sustainable solutions to address environmental issues.

Current and former SRP grantees also attended the meeting and shared recent developments in plant-based technologies to address environmental contamination. Sharon Doty, Ph.D., a partner on an SRP small business grant and former University of Washington SRP Center researcher, presented work on enhancing degradation of trichloroethylene on a Superfund site using microbes to boost poplar tree phytoremediation. Former SRP grantees Joel Burken, Ph.D., and Lee Newman, Ph.D., also presented on their phytoremediation work and chaired conference sessions.

2017 phytoscholars
From left, Jason White, Ph.D., and Burken from the IPS International Organizing and Scientific Committee with the 2017 phytoscholars.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)