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Your Environment. Your Health.

Biomedical Health Research

One goal of the SRP is to integrate both biomedical and non-biomedical research components to address the complex nature of hazardous waste management and remediation. The stories below are examples of biomedical research conducted by SRP researchers.

  • Arsenic in well water may diminish intelligence in children: Evidence of a long-suspected connection between arsenic exposure and decreased intelligence among children is reported in a new study by NIEHS-funded scientists from the Columbia University Superfund Research Program Center.

  • Arsenic linked to blood pressure increases during pregnancy: Arsenic exposure is associated with greater increases in blood pressure over the course of a pregnancy, according to a new NIEHS-funded study of U.S. pregnant women. These findings may have important implications because even modest increases in blood pressure can affect future cardiovascular disease risk for mothers and their children.

  • Basic metabolism studies lead to a treatment for laminitis in horses: A compound developed by researchers at University of California (UC), Davis Superfund Research Program (SRP) to study basic catalytic mechanisms of an enzyme in the body is being used to treat laminitis in horses, relieving pain and inflammation.

  • Children Exposed to Cadmium May Be at Higher Risk for Learning Disabilities: Robert Wright, M.D., led a team of researchers to discover that children and teens with higher levels of cadmium in their bodies are more likely to have learning disabilities and be placed in special education.

  • Commonly Manufactured Nanomaterial Induces Neurovascular Toxicity: Nanoalumina, a widely manufactured nanomaterial, can accumulate in brain cells, inducing nerve and blood vessel damage and protein degradation in the brain, according to a 2012 study from the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Program (UK SRP).

  • Exposure to low levels of chemical mixtures linked with cancer: Chemicals can sometimes act together to cause cancer, even when low-level exposures to the individual chemicals might not be cancer-causing, or carcinogenic. This important finding emerged from an international task force of more than 170 cancer scientists, known as the Halifax Project, which collaboratively assessed the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment.

  • From Water Treatment Research to Edible Clays that Reduce Harmful Exposures in People and Animals: Researchers at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center developed a therapeutic sorbent technology that can bind to hazardous chemicals in the body after exposure, reducing their uptake and bioavailability. Built on decades of research, these broad-acting enterosorbent materials can be added to food or water and ingested by humans and animals to reduce harmful contaminant exposures following natural disasters, chemical spills, and other emergencies.

  • Novel Method Identifies Potential Key Pathway in Arsenic-Induced Birth Defects: Blocking the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) pathway in a chick embryo model prevents structural birth defects induced by arsenic, according to a 2013 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Superfund Research Program (UNC SRP).

  • Prenatal Exposure to Perchloroethylene (PCE) and the Incidence of Birth Defects: Prenatal exposure to a chemical solvent can put babies at an increased risk for birth defects, according to a study published in the September 2009 issue of Environmental Health.

  • Residential Exposure to PCBs and Pesticides May Increase the Risk of Leukemia: The incidence of childhood leukemia in industrialized countries rose significantly from 1975 through 2004, and the reasons for the increase are not understood. Drs. Patricia Buffler and Catherine Metayer from the University of California at Berkeley are investigating how exposure to Superfund chemicals may affect a child's risk of contracting leukemia.

  • SRP Researchers Tackle Arsenic from Many Angles: The Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) is a large, prospective cohort study in Bangladesh that has become a landmark research resource to understand the health effects resulting from arsenic exposure and the underlying biological mechanisms involved. With funding from the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), the cohort was first established in 2000 with 12,000 participants. Since then, it has expanded to include over 35,000 people.
  • Study Links Prenatal Mercury Exposure and Fish Intake to ADHD-Related Behavior: A Harvard University study suggests that low-level prenatal mercury exposure is associated with an increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related behaviors.

  • Study Suggests Possible Therapy for Arsenic Toxicity: Columbia University researchers conduce one of the first large-scale genomic studies conducted in a developing country. Their findings suggest a possible route for preventing disease in people exposed to arsenic.

  • Superfund study examines carcinogenicity of nickel nanoparticles: Brown University researcher Agnes Kane, M.D., Ph.D., shows evidence that nickel nanoparticles activate a cellular pathway that contributes to cancer in human lung cells.

  • Triclosan promotes liver tumor growth in mice: A collaborative study performed by NIEHS-funded scientists from the University of California (UC) San Diego and UC Davis showed that long-term exposure to triclosan promotes the growth of liver tumors in laboratory mice, raising concerns about its safety for humans. Triclosan is a common antibacterial chemical used in a wide variety of consumer products such as cosmetics, soaps, detergents, and toothpaste.

  • Widely Used Antibacterial Agents May Lead to Significant Health Concerns: Triclosan (TCS), a chemical widely used for its antibacterial properties, was shown to weaken heart and skeletal muscle activity in animal models in a study performed at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center.

  • Using Nutrition to Reduce Harmful Effects of Pollutants: With funding from the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), researchers at the University of Kentucky (UK) SRP Center follow a multidisciplinary scientific approach to understand how environmental contaminants harm the body and explore effective interventions to protect the health of communities.

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