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Harvard School of Public Health

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Superfund Research Program

Superfund Toxic Substances - Exposure and Disease

Center Director: Karl T. Kelsey
Grant Number: P42ES005947
Funding Period: 1992-2006

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Summary (2000-2006)

The Harvard School of Public Health Superfund Basic Research Program began in 1992. Currently, it consists of six research projects (4 biomedical, 2 non-biomedical), two research support cores (environmental and biological chemistry, and environmental statistics), and administrative, training and outreach cores. The general goal of this program is to assess and understand the risk to human health from toxic substances in the environment using an approach that integrates exposure assessment, biological pathogenesis and epidemiological studies. The biomedical studies focus on reproductive health, cardio-respiratory health and cancer. Two interrelated projects focus on lead-related health effects. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study in Mexico City is testing the hypothesis that calcium supplements during pregnancy will significantly decrease bone resorption. A second longitudinal study is building on previous studies to focus on the effects of low-level intrauterine toxin exposures on memory and learning. Two molecular epidemiology studies focus on arsenic exposure and cancer. One study is developing biomarkers of exposure, susceptibility and outcome (skin and bladder cancer). The second study is investigating epigenetic mechanisms in bladder cancer etiology. The two non-biomedical projects address the health of the ecosystem and exposures that affect aquatic organisms. These projects focus on: 1) developing and field testing sampling devices that determine the activity of metal and organic contaminants in aquatic sediments in order to provide information on the bioavailability of contaminants; and 2) evaluating the ecological health of New Bedford Harbor by examining physiological and biochemical responses in the macrobiota to pollutants, including effects on their endocrine systems.

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