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Michigan State University

Superfund Research Program

Health Hazards from Groundwater Contamination

Center Director: Lawrence Fischer
Grant Number: P42ES004911
Funding Period: 1989-2027

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Summary (1995-2000)

MSU Program Summary The general goal of this program, which is a collaborative effort between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, is to understand the potential negative impact on human health as a result of exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These contaminants frequently occur in groundwater and other environmental media. The program is designed to support basic biomedical and engineering research related to the degradation, containment, and transport of hazardous wastes. The program consists of thirteen projects, (six nonbiomedical and seven biomedical), plus administrative, analytical, remediation product evaluation, and outreach cores.

The research conducted in the individual projects seeks to fulfill the overall program goal by striving toward several specific aims. One specific aim of the biomedical projects is to understand characteristics and mechanisms of action of toxic effects in order to more effectively mitigate human risks. Another specific aim of the biomedical projects is to provide better knowledge of human exposure and potential toxicity using biologically based assay methods. To achieve these aims, two projects are examining the biochemical and physiological mechanisms involved in immune function alteration due to exposure to PCBs and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), respectively. Three projects are concerned with understanding and detecting effects and risks of selected chemicals, including PCBs, on reproductive function. Two other projects are investigating epigenetic mechanisms of chemical toxicity and carcinogenesis, using primary culture models derived from human tissue.

For the nonbiomedical research projects, one program aim is to improve and develop new methodologies to trap and degrade pollutants. Another aim centers on examining and predicting the movement of contaminants in the subsurface environment for the purpose of optimizing degradation processes and for predicting exposures. To accomplish these objectives, three projects are studying various aspects of biodegradation at the molecular level using indigenous, as well as recombinant microorganisms. Another project is evaluating and characterizing the role of modified clays for in situ remediation to determine their ability to retard contaminant movement to the surface. Two other projects are striving toward understanding of and quantitation of non-aqueous phase organic liquid (NAPL) contaminants.

The outreach core for this program was established for the purpose of improving public understanding of human health risks due to chemical exposure at Superfund sites. Through the education and training of journalists, the outreach core is helping to more effectively and accurately communicate important environmentally related information. Two other collaborating institutions, including the University of Indiana and Rush Presbyterian - St. Lukes Medical Center, are involved in cooperative efforts with this program.

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