March 13, 2019

This past week, 18 Science and Technology Liaisons (STL) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to a 2-hour training offered by our Superfund Program. Dr. Stacey Harper (Co-coordinator, Research Translation) welcomed the participants to Oregon State University. She and Michael Barton (Research Translation) previewed the new visualization tool being developed in our Superfund; a network analysis tool that can visualize connectivity between SRP projects. Continue reading

OSU Disaster Research Highlighted at Upcoming NIEHS Community-Based Participatory Research Workshop in India | February 26-28, 2019. New Delhi, India

Workshop Agenda available here: https://www.pria.org/event_details.php?id=26&evtid=465

The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences recently released their new strategic plan. Three dominant themes emerged:

  1. Advancing Environmental Health Sciences
  2. Promoting Translation – Data to Knowledge to Action
  3. Enhancing Environmental Health Sciences through stewardship and support.

Continue reading

Scientific research is designed to build knowledge and explore. Sometimes, that means changing previous ideas. In the US, we have a system that reviews and updates toxic chemicals. In 2017, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) was updated. BaP is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) (https://superfund.oregonstate.edu/all-about-pahs). It is also a carcinogen. Exposure to a carcinogen may increase cancer risk.

The review of BaP found it to be 7 times less toxic than previously thought. However, it is still a carcinogen. This change may impact Superfund sites that have PAHs as pollutants. Why? Because BaP is used as a standard of toxicity for 6 other carcinogenic PAHs. When the toxicity of BaP changes, it changes these other PAHs. This means that BaP and 6 other PAHs will be considered 7 times less carcinogenic. We developed a one-page infographic describing this change (https://superfund.oregonstate.edu/sites/superfund.oregonstate.edu/files/image-album/infographics/infographics_0.jpg). The Portland Harbor Superfund site has BaP and other PAHs. Only BaP and 6 PAHs will be affected by the change in toxicity. Other PAHs will not be changed.

Want to learn more about PAHs? Check out our newest research:  https://www.researchgate.net/project/Superfund-Research-Program-at-Oregon-State-University

 

Hurricane Harvey and hazardous exposures

Following a disaster, we tend to be worried about finding food and shelter, reuniting with families and pets, and cleaning up the damage left behind. We don’t tend to think about toxic chemical exposures. With Hurricane Harvey, it’s a different story.

Harvey flooded at least 13 Superfund sites flooded. Millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals were released. In addition, small explosions and chemical spills were reported. The New York Times created maps showing  the magnitude of the disaster. For example, this image from the New York Times shows flooded or damaged Superfund sites, in orange.

Only days after Harvey, OSU SRP researchers partnered with Texas A&M, University of Texas – Houston, and Baylor College of Medicine. The goal of the partnership is to place personal samplers on individuals living in and near hurricane-damaged areas. The passive sampling wristband is the perfect tool.  It doesn’t need batteries or the internet. Additionally, the wristband can detect over 1,500 different chemicals.

Disaster Research Response

Oregon State University has been preparing for disaster research for several years. This year, Oregon State received their first ‘Disaster IRB.’ This allows Oregon State researchers to deploy quickly, with appropriate controls in place to ensure participants are safe and their information is confidential. SRP investigators Drs. Kim Anderson and Rohlman worked carefully with the Oregon State Institutional Review Board to develop this IRB.

The Superfund Research Program is supporting this response effort. In the image below, SRP trainees are preparing wristbands for a September 20th deployment. We hope to enroll several hundred individuals. The results of this study will help us better understand the potentially toxic chemical exposures that could result following natural disasters.

Mary Leonard, PhD
PhD: Chemistry, Oregon State University, 2017
Research focus: transport, transformation and remediation of environmental contaminants.

Mary joined the Simonich laboratory this spring as a post-doctoral research associate. Before beginning her graduate degree, Mary worked in government and industry as an analytical chemist. Mary will be working in the Superfund Research Program to identify certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in water.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are environmental contaminants generated by the incomplete combustion of organic compounds, such as those found in fossil fuels and cigarette smoke.
See this infographic to learn more.

Several PAHs are known to cause human health effects, such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. Humans are mostly exposed to PAHs through air, water and food. New research is showing that PAHs can be transformed into different types of chemicals. When this happens, the ‘new’ PAH may be more toxic than the first one. For example, some PAHs can be transformed when exposed to high heat.

Mary’s project will look at known PAHs and their transformation products in environmental water systems. As these new PAHs have a different chemical structure, much of her work will include developing techniques for the detection and identification of these chemicals. For a more complete summary of Mary’s work, please review this technical abstract.