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University of California-Davis

Superfund Research Program

Biomarkers of Exposure to Hazardous Substances

Center Director: Bruce D. Hammock
Grant Number: P42ES004699
Funding Period: 1987-2023

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Summary (1995-2000)

The goal of this program focuses on the development and application of sensitive systems (biomarkers) for evaluating exposures and effects in potentially exposed populations. These biomarkers will serve as biological dosimeters in epidemiological and ecological research and will be used to assess the impact of hazardous waste exposure on human health. The program consists of seven projects (two nonbiomedical, five biomedical); three research cores (analytical chemistry, statistics and antibody engineering); and administrative/outreach and training cores.

Individual research projects within the biomedical component of the program concentrate primarily on pulmonary, dermal, and reproductive systems in mammals, as well as microbial and fish systems in the environment. One project is developing sensitive biomarkers of exposure, effects, and susceptibility that can be correlated with specific intracellular targets for airborne chemicals such as the pulmonary toxicants naphthalene, nitronaphthalene and trichloroethylene. Another project is isolating biomarkers for use in epidemiological studies designed to assess the effects of reproductive toxins on women's reproductive health.

The research conducted in the three other biomedical projects focusses on developing and enhancing methods to detect hazardous materials at toxic waste sites. One project is developing biologically-based detection assays for environmental agents based on the existing knowledge of their mechanisms of action. Human epidermal keratinocytes are being used as targets for this research. In another project, researchers are developing novel approaches to characterize waste sites and remediation efforts. These techniques integrate conventional aquatic toxicity approaches with state of the art methodologies to establish biomarkers of response to toxic components of complex waste mixtures. A third project is developing and utilizing rapid immunochemical analysis. This procedure will be used for evaluating hazardous waste sites, for monitoring transport of hazardous substances, and for determining human susceptibility, exposure, and health-related effects due to toxicant exposure from these sites.

Contained within the nonbiomedical component of the program, new technologies for thermal treatment and bioremediation of toxic waste are being explored. One focus of these studies is to investigate processes affecting the fate and transport of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE), dichloroethylene (DCE), toluene, p-nitrophenol and naphthalene in soil and geological sediments. Through this project, deterministic and stochastic models of transport in the vadose zone are being developed. Another non-biomedical project is studying the fate of chromium in a simple, laminar diffusion flame. The purpose of this investigation is to evaluate novel, commercial thermal treatment systems which may be applicable to soil venting operations at hazardous waste sites.

Among the project cores, the training core's goals contribute significantly to the overall aim of the Superfund Basic Research Program. Through this training program, highly qualified doctoral students are being trained in methods which will further Superfund research. The training program focuses primarily on cross-training between toxicological and engineering sciences in the hazardous waste domain.

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