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Your Environment. Your Health.

Informing Public Policy

Superfund Research Program

One of the primary goals of SRP-funded research is to improve public health. Thus, the program supports a wide range of research to address the broad public health concerns arising from the release of hazardous substances into the environment. The intent is to provide sound science to those making public policy, regulatory, remediation, and risk reduction decisions. SRP-funded research has been successful in this area as studies have improved our understanding of minimizing the health effects associated with exposures to environmental contaminants. For example:

  • Arsenic Drinking Water Standard: SRP-funded researchers at several universities played a vital role in the process leading to the revised drinking water standard for arsenic by contributing greatly to our knowledge of the risk and health effects of arsenic in drinking water.

  • Brown Researchers Create Mercury-Adsorbent Container Linings for Broken CFLs: The Brown University (BU) Superfund Research Program's (SRP) team of researchers, led by Dr. Robert Hurt, senior engineering student Natalie Johnson, and graduate student Love Sarin, discovered that a variant of a substance called nano-selenium can absorb most of the mercury emitted from broken and spent compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

  • Brown SRP addresses contamination in the Northeast: The Brown University Superfund Research Program (SRP) held two events on May 23 to further its mission of tackling environmental health and cleanup concerns in Rhode Island. At one event, Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program, met with researchers from the center to discuss ways to reduce exposures and improve health outcomes for people in Rhode Island. On that same day, Brown SRP scientists hosted a workshop for hazardous waste management officials, sharing information about polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are contaminants of concern in the region.

  • Dartmouth SRP Center Informs Protective Limit for Arsenic in Water: A bill to sharply lower the drinking water limit for arsenic in New Hampshire was signed into law by Governor Chris Sununu on July 12, 2019. The new rule, informed by Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center research and outreach efforts, sets the state Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) at 5 parts per billion (ppb), which is half of the federal limit. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), the new limit will better protect human health by reducing the number of arsenic-related illnesses and deaths.

  • FDA ban on antibacterials in soaps informed by SRP research: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule banning 19 antibacterial chemicals as ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial hand and body washes. Development of the final rule was informed by research that included several studies from scientists supported by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP). The final rule bans the sale of any OTC consumer soaps and body washes containing any of the banned chemicals, including triclosan and triclocarban, unless the product undergoes approval as a drug.

  • Fry Maps Arsenic Levels Across NC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP researcher Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., analyzed levels of arsenic in North Carolina, finding specific areas of the state that should be targeted for monitoring and remediation programs.

  • Midwest legislators convene at Environmental Health Summit: Environmental health topics were the focus of a workshop Jan. 24-25, 2013, co-hosted by the University of Iowa (UI) Superfund Research Program (SRP). The purpose of the Midwest Environmental Health Summit was to inform state legislators about environmental health issues in the region.

  • PCBs in the Hudson River: The SRP funds wide-ranging research into the human and environmental impacts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination. Aspects of these studies provided information that was seminal in the EPA determination of an appropriate remediation strategy to address PCB contamination of the Hudson River.

  • Removal of Chlorpyrifos and Diazinon from Retail Sales: The collective body of the research carried out by Drs. Lucio Costa and Clement Furlong on the importance of genetic variability in the human paraoxonase (PON1) gene in determining sensitivity to specific organophosphate exposures has provided regulators with data that was important in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) negotiating removal of chlorpyrifos and diazinon from retail sales and home use.

  • Revolutionizing Understanding of PCBs as Air Pollutants: Researchers at the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded Center at the University of Iowa developed new methods to improve how we compare and quantify sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in air. Their work is informing policies and strategies to clean up these contaminants in air, including at Superfund sites and in schools.

  • Seminar series marks ATSDR/Superfund collaboration: The SRP/ATSDR seminar series began in 2007, when Frederick Pfaender, Ph.D., was invited to give a seminar. Since then, 16 investigators have presented their research to an ever-growing audience of regulators and researchers.

  • SRP Researchers Inform Health-Related Decision Making on PFAS: Researchers supported by the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) informed new drinking water health advisories issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for several types of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

  • Studies find arsenic in food adds up: Three studies from the SRP and the NIEHS/EPA Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research add to the growing body of evidence that arsenic levels in food require regulation.

  • Superfund Research Prompts Review of Antimicrobials: Based in part on the findings of SRP researcher Rolf Halden, Ph.D., Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) petitioned the U.S. EPA to regulate antimicrobial agents under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

  • Tackling Triclosan: Congress Recommends Review Based in Part on SRP Research: Congress Recommends Review Based in Part on SRP Research: Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider more stringent regulations for the antimicrobial compounds triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC). His complaint was filed partly under consideration of Superfund Research Program research demonstrating the chemicals' environmental persistence and bioaccumulation in aquatic species.

  • UNC Superfund scientists study effects of Dan River coal ash spill: In response to this environmental challenge, a team of NIEHS-funded scientists that are part of the University of North Carolina Superfund Research Program Center., joined forces with state and federal regulatory agencies, to help answer important questions about the toxic chemicals present in the coal ash.

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