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, and risk reduction decisions. SRP-funded research has been successful in this area as studies have improved our understanding of the health effects associated with exposures to environmental contaminants. The following stories provide information on public health impacts. They are merely highlights and represent the breadth of work SRP researchers undertake. To see older stories, visit our archives webpage.
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.
Researchers at the NIEHS-funded University of Washington Superfund Research Program Center (UW SRP Center) developed innovative approaches to enhance phytoremediation of chlorinated solvents using poplar trees. Phytoremediation is a process that uses plants to remove, break down, contain, or immobilize contaminants from soil or water.
NIEHS-funded University of California, Berkeley Superfund Research Program Center (UC Berkeley SRP Center) researchers and collaborators developed a new approach to help risk assessors predict the toxicity of chemicals based on shared characteristics. The approach allows for identification of the events, or key characteristics, that are shared by chemicals with similar toxic effects.
An innovative technology, developed with funding from the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), successfully delivers amendments that immobilize and degrade polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in aquatic environments. The technology has proven effective in the field and resulted in millions of dollars in estimated cost savings at cleanup sites.
Killifish populations have adapted to survive and reproduce in polluted waters. Researchers have studied the evolutionary and genetic basis for this adaptation, discovering that it comes with a cost. For more than two decades, the Duke University and Boston University Superfund Research Program (SRP) Centers have used these 2-3 inch long fish to understand the toxicity, mechanisms, and health effects of two groups of hazardous contaminants.
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.
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.