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Final Progress Reports: University of California-Davis: Immunoassays for Human and Environmental Health Monitoring

Superfund Research Program

Immunoassays for Human and Environmental Health Monitoring

Project Leader: Bruce D. Hammock
Grant Number: P42ES004699
Funding Period: 1995-2023
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Final Progress Reports

Year:   2014  2009  2004  1999 

One goal of this project is to develop and use immunoassays to analyze chemicals in the environment.  An immunoassay is a rapid, simple and sensitive measurement method that is based on using antibodies as detectors.  Pyrethroid insecticides are a focus group of compounds.  Although less toxic to mammals than some insecticides, pyrethroids are toxic to non-target organisms like fish and aquatic invertebrates, thus environmental monitoring methods are useful.  Since some monitoring efforts will involve detection of different pyrethroids, the researchers have developed assays not only for specific pyrethroids, but also assays that will detect groups of pyrethroids.

The second goal of this project is to use immunoassays for monitoring human exposure to toxic chemicals.  Tools, such as immunoassays that can analyze large numbers of samples rapidly are necessary for carrying out such monitoring studies.  An immunoassay for the herbicide paraquat was used in an extensive epidemiology study to monitor exposure of pesticide applicators.  Results from the analysis of some 400 samples were compared to lung function and general health.  Exposed populations were easily identified from control populations based on paraquat concentrations in the urine; however, there were no apparent relationships to health effects.  Because pyrethroid insecticides are used in the home and garden as well as by pest control operators, exposure to the general population is likely.  Thus, the investigators have developed assays to the putative human metabolites of pyrethroid insecticides. 

Immunoassays, like other sensitive tools are subject to interferences.  To avoid interferences one can separate the chemical being measured from the interference, or dilute the interference away.  However, dilution also dilutes the chemical to be measured and so requires even more sensitive analysis.  Immunoassays currently use colorimetric labels for detection.  In collaboration with Project 8 (Biosensors), the team’s recent development of novel fluorescent labels based on europium has resulted in more sensitive assays.  These advancements mean more rapid, sensitive and ultimately more portable assays that can be applied to human or environmental monitoring are becoming a reality.

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