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Our ability to analyze hazardous material in waste sites has improved dramatically in recent years.  However, we are very limited in our ability to trace the movement of hazardous materials from Superfund sites through various media or to prioritize and mitigate the hazards involved.  Our ability to predict exposure or effect of these materials on humans and their environment is still more limited.

This Program, now in its 32nd year, consists of five integrated research projects (two biomedical and three engineering and environmental science), two research support cores, a training core, a research translation core, and an administrative core to address these problems.  We are determining the fate and transport of hazardous materials in ground water, surface water, and air as they move from toxic waste sites using classical and innovative methodologies.  We are examining the effect of some of these materials using an epidemiological approach.  Concurrently, we are developing sensitive systems for evaluating the exposure and effect of populations to these materials.  Immunochemical, cell-based and other systems are involved.  The project emphasizes multiple organ systems with an in vivo emphasis on pulmonary and reproductive effects.  We also explore new technologies for thermal and bioremediation of toxic waste and address possible health risks associated with these technologies.  Rapid immunochemical and cell-based analysis supplement classical technologies for the evaluation of sites, validating models of transport from these sites, as well as determining human susceptibility, exposure and effect.  Modern mass spectral technology is being evaluated for monitoring parent hazardous chemicals as well as biomarkers of exposure and effect.  We are expanding the use of transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and integrated bioinformatics technologies to discover new mechanisms of action of hazardous materials and biomarkers for their action.

The biomarkers developed in this project will serve as biological dosimeters in epidemiological and ecological studies in this and sister projects.  The technologies developed are tested at field sites and transferred to end users through a research translation core.




The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was established by Congress in 1980, and is administered and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is responsible for locating the most hazardous sites nationwide, determining the parties responsible for the pollution, and financing the clean-up of sites when responsible parties are unable to do so, using money from the Superfund Trust.


In 1986, the Superfund Research Program (SRP), administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was established by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, to seek solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation’s hazardous waste sites.  The SRP is a coordinated effort with EPA and relies on a network of university grants supporting research to protect human health and the environment. 


The national Superfund program was established by Congress in 1980.  The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 established a university-based program of basic research within the NIEHS, an institute of the National Institutes of Health.  Funding is received through an Interagency Agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency using Superfund Trust monies.  The program's primary objectives are to expand the base of scientific knowledge, reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances and, ultimately, prevent adverse human health effects.

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