Superfund Research Program
Research Translation Core
The health sciences component of the Research Translation Core focused on informing policy and stakeholders about key scientific information related to the effects of environmental toxicants on susceptible populations, particularly children.
The core has organized a workshop on children’s environmental health in cooperation with the California EPA, US EPA Region, and University of California San Francisco entitled: "Children’s Environmental Health: What Have We Learned and What Do We Need to Do?" This workshop focused on translation of research findings and engaging academic, government, and general audiences in one dialogue. The workshop led to expanded and new stakeholder collaborations. We are developing a "plain language" summary of the meeting for publication.
The core has collaborated on the CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN) and with the US EPA and the Children’s Environmental Health Network to assess improved surveillance for environmental factors, body burdens, and disease outcomes for children. The project was represented in a joint presentation at the national EPHTN meeting and by a poster showing initial analysis of data from the tracking network at an Environmental Public Health conference sponsored by CDC.
Researchers are represented on the federally chartered Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, providing advice to the US EPA and on subcommittees advising on the development of metrics reflecting children’s environmental health issues. They briefed senior management at EPA Region X on chemicals policy reform initiatives in the US and Europe. The core also provided briefings to California legislators on the importance of scientific evaluation and interpretation of chemical hazards data for state policy makers.
The engineering component of Research Translation Core is exploring how research results are scaled from simple laboratory systems to complex field sites undergoing remediation. Laboratory studies in beakers can be used to investigate fundamental principles in biology and chemistry, but additional processes must be included when models and experiments are conducted in realistic conditions.
The focus shifted from chromate in groundwater systems of the deserts of southern California to radionuclide migration at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This facility produced nuclear materials for defense applications and generated significant chemical and radionuclide wastes. Fission products from nuclear fuel rods were extracted and waste products were stored for a few months to permit the decay of short lived radionuclides. The aqueous wastes were released to disposal pits that were intended to provide 5 to 15 years of transit time in the subsurface before reaching surface waters that connected with the Savannah River. Actual contaminant migration was shorter than expected and longer lived radionuclides such as tritium, iodine and technetium were released to surface waters with minimal decay. The waste products contained high concentrations of sodium and nitrate with a pH sufficiently acidic to limit sorption processes of cations. The nuclides and ionic species provided multiple tracers to track plume migration before and after active remediation approaches.
The core continues to work to organize our data, represent it in space and time, and quantify remediation effectiveness. While these waste components are unique to Department of Energy facilities, our research can be generalized to other sites lacking environmental monitoring data.