The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) has long promoted sustainable approaches to address environmental health problems. Many such projects are on bioremediation – using bacteria, algae, fungi, and plants – to remove or detoxify hazardous substances in the environment. SRP researchers are working to understand how organisms break down contaminants into less toxic products, and if the natural processes can be made more efficient.
This edition features another important part of the puzzle: SRP researchers' promising work using plants to track and measure chemicals in the environment. Researchers are even studying what plants we can eat to reduce harmful effects of hazardous substances already in the body. Others are looking at how green spaces can provide physical health benefits. Their work is broad in scope, from lowering the risk of some diseases to making communities more resilient to flooding and air pollution.
Previous issues of the Digest have highlighted similar projects. For example, one feature focused on how microbial communities interact with different contaminants in the environment and our bodies. In another edition, we highlighted novel approaches that use renewable materials and less energy to clean up pollutants compared to existing technologies. We also featured plant-based solutions to clean up pollutants and address the effects of climate change.
These activities complement the current issue as part of how SRP grantees "think green." I trust you will be as excited as I am about all the possible uses of "plant power" in cleaning up the environment and enhancing human health and wellbeing.
William A. Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Superfund Research Program