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University of California-Berkeley

Superfund Research Program

Toxic Substances in the Environment

Center Director: Martyn T. Smith
Grant Number: P42ES004705
Funding Period: 1987-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Summary (2017-2022)

The University of California (UC) Berkeley Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, in consultation with the Program's key stakeholders, has identified four complex problems associated with hazardous waste sites that have proven intractable to current methods. These problems are how to better assess:

  • Cumulative impacts from multiple environmental stressors (e.g. chemical exposures, stress and obesity);
  • Past exposures, especially early-life exposures and their contribution to risk;
  • The effects of chemical mixtures and their impact on remediation efforts; and,
  • The complex transformation of chemicals to reactive intermediates and their ability to act through multiple mechanistic pathways.

The UC Berkeley SRP Center is conducting six interactive projects and five cores that aim to address these four problems though original research, translation to appropriate end-users and community engagement efforts. The team's work focuses on exposures to high priority chemicals commonly found at Superfund sites, including arsenic, benzene, trichloroethene, formaldehyde, chromium and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to address the specific mandates of the Program.

The UC Berkeley research team takes a novel approach in adopting the so-called ‘exposome paradigm' in research. This new paradigm allows for a ‘seeing the whole picture' approach to risk assessment, hazard identification, and the safe and effective remediation of hazardous sites containing multiple chemicals. In the exposome paradigm all nongenetic environmental stressors are considered as environmental exposures. Therefore, cumulative risk assessment, where the impact of all stressors on a population is assessed, could be operationalized by exposomics.

Communities living near sites face cumulative risks from a variety of environmental and social factors. The theme of the UC Berkeley SRP Center focuses on the exposome, and relies on a step-wise approach to applying exposomics to help solve the complex problems found at Superfund sites. The Biomedical Projects are working to develop advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effects and risk to human health of hazardous substances; The Oxidative Remediation of Superfund Contaminants engineering project will develop methods to detect new hazardous substances in the environment and together with the Microbial Communities that Bioremediate Chemical Mixtures engineering project will develop methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances. The Community Engagement Core (CEC) will address contaminated drinking water problems in California in collaboration with the Exposomics and Arsenic Epidemiology, Oxidative Remediation of Superfund Contaminants, and Microbial Communities that Bioremediate Chemical Mixtures, projects and the Data Science and Laboratory Core. The Core will assist researchers and the CEC in meeting their goals. The Research Translation Core will facilitate interactions between investigators and key stakeholders and the Training Core will develop the next generation of multidisciplinary professionals. The overall goal is to enhance understanding of the relationship between exposure and disease; provide usable tools to improve human health risk assessments; and, develop a range of prevention and remediation strategies to protect public health and the environment. The program will be overseen and coordinated by an Administration Core.

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