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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of California-Berkeley

Superfund Research Program

Toxic Substances in the Environment

Center Director: Martyn T. Smith
Grant Number: P42ES004705
Funding Period: 1987-2022

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Summary (2000-2006)

The University of California-Berkeley Superfund Basic Research Program began in 1987. The program consists of eight research projects (5 biomedical, 3 non-biomedical), two research support cores (biomarkers, and statistics and computing), and administrative, training and outreach cores. The central theme is to investigate the relationship between hazardous substances in the environment--both organic compounds (benzene, trichloroethylene), and heavy metals (arsenic and lead)--and their impact on human health. Researchers are also studying methods to mitigate the impact of hazardous substances. The projects focus on biomarker research, particularly the role of individual susceptibility to toxic compounds, and also includes non-biomedical research in site evaluation and remediation. Development and application of exposure biomarkers (i.e., DNA and protein adducts) for benzene and TCE at low doses using sensitive detection systems such as accelerator mass spectrometry is the aim of one research project. Development of biomarkers of genetic damage (including micronucleus assays and chromosome specific alterations using FISH) important to the pathogenesis of cancer and their application in epidemiological studies are the focus of several integrated research projects. Project investigators are initiating three molecular epidemiology studies--childhood leukemia, bladder cancer, and genetic damage and reproductive outcome. The focus of one is the relationship between environmental exposures and the risk of childhood leukemia in the greater San Francisco area using molecular endpoints to characterize genetic changes as a function of time. A case control biomarker study of bladder cancer is investigating the relationship between arsenic exposure from drinking water and molecular alterations in bladder tumors as a function of exposure dose. A sperm aneuploidy assay based on FISH will be employed to investigate the relationship between genetic defects in sperm and probability of fathering a chromosomally defective child as well as factors affecting rates of aneuploidy in sperm. The three non-biomedical projects include: 1) development and validation of a method for reconstructing historical exposures to trace metals in estuarine systems in order to anticipate human disease endpoints; 2) identification of conditions under which toxic combustion products are formed, establishment of kinetic mechanisms that identify major pathways of formation, and development of intervention and control systems for reliable real-time monitoring techniques and instrumentation; and 3) development of non-culture-based tools for evaluating the progress of in situ bioremediation of chlorinated solvents. In addition to the research projects, the outreach core (Children's Environmental Health Network) is the first national project to employ a multidisciplinary and multicultural perspective to focus on prevention of childhood exposures to environmental hazards.

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