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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Albany - SUNY

Superfund Research Program

Multidisciplinary Study of PCBs at Akwesasne

Center Director: David O. Carpenter
Grant Number: P42ES004913
Funding Period: 1990-2000


This program is focused on studying the characteristics and effects of pollutants, specifically polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). The intent of the program is to assess the impact that these pollutants exert on the health, cognition, and biosocial well-being of Mohawk Indians, especially women and children, residing proximal to the Massena, NY Superfund site. The overall design of the program combines assessment of exposed populations with biomedical models of toxicity. From the information gained by assessing and understanding the methods of exposure and the potential health-related effects of hazardous substances, efforts are being guided toward elimination of persistent exposure via remediation technologies. The program consists of ten projects (six biomedical and four nonbiomedical) and five cores (administrative, epidemiology, laboratory, technology transfer/outreach, and training).

Included within the six biomedical projects are two epidemiologic studies which focus on growth, maturation, and cognitive development of Mohawk children, with significant consideration toward their ensuing biopsychosocial well-being. The remaining four biomedical projects are using rodent or in vitro systems in attempts to understand mechanistically the health effects of PCBs, PCDFs or related congeners. One project is focused on examining alterations of endocrine function with neurobehavioral and neurotoxic endpoints. Another project is assessing how these toxic substances affect the long term potentiation model for learning. An additional project is directed toward understanding the roles of Phase I and Phase II metabolism of estradiol and oxidative stress in susceptible tissues. A related project is addressing the concept of using estrogen dependent endpoints in establishing the relationship between structure, metabolism and the estrogenicity or antiestrogenicity of PCBs.

There are three nonbiomedical projects which focus primarily on developing approaches to reduce exposure via remediation technologies. One remediation project centers on systems which concentrate on enhancing PCB degradation by combining anaerobic dechlorination with aerobic mineralization. Two other projects are exploring photocatalytic breakdown and supercritical fluid extractions. There is also a nonbiomedical project that consists of a tiered approach to determine the toxicity of fractionated sediments collected from the St. Lawrence River. This project is coupling chemical fractionation/separation schemes with direct bioassays using bacterial cells, mammalian cells, and midge larvae.

The outreach component is strongly involved in disseminating information to the Akwesasne people and to local and government agencies. Three organizations, including Syracuse University, SUNY-Oswego, and the NY State Department of Health are working in conjunction with this program in order to more effectively address environmental concerns related to hazardous pollutant contamination at the Massena location.