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Your Environment. Your Health.

Cornell University

Superfund Research Program

Cornell Superfund Basic Research and Education Program

Center Director: James W. Gillett
Grant Number: P42ES005950
Funding Period: 1992-2000


This program focuses primarily on investigating the bioavailability and the impact of hazardous substances on human health, emphasizing neurological and immunological effects. The program also seeks to evaluate ecological risk related to hazardous substance exposure. The program is comprised of six projects (three biomedical and three nonbiomedical) and three cores (administrative, laboratory, and training).

The three biomedical projects in the program focus on environmentally exposed subsistence consumers or laboratory animals serving as surrogates for animals chronically exposed to toxic substances found at Superfund sites. In one project which is assessing the immunotoxicity of environmental pollutants, the effects of Aroclor 1248 in controlled animal experiments are being compared to the effects in dogs which were environmentally exposed to hazardous substances at the Akwesasne Indian Reservation. A second biomedical project is examining factors which may modify lead-induced behavioral toxicity. This study is focused on determining if the new therapeutic chelating agent, dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) is effective in reducing blood and tissue levels of lead in labortory rats, without causing other unwanted, adverse side effects. In a closely related project, the relative risk of lead-induced immunotoxicity in young rats and chickens following embryonic exposure to lead is being assessed.

The remaining projects are concerned with the remediation of sites containing PCBs, PAHs, and metals such as lead. These nonbiomedical projects are designed to determine the availability of pollutants entering media, so as to assess the potential for human exposure to such pollutants, and also to determine the feasibility of remediation. One project is examining the bioavailability and the toxicity of pollutants which have remained in the soil for extended periods of time. Another project is evaluating microscale methods (small scale movements of pollutants) for use in studies of pollutant bioavailability in soil and sediment. A third project is estimating the ability of extracellular polymers (produced by bacteria) to enhance the release of and evaluate the subsequent mobility of sorbed contaminants into the aqueous phase.

The three cores provide support to the individual projects within the program. Specifically, the training core is designed to contribute to the widespread congruity of the program as it enhances graduate study research efforts by promoting collaboration among students and faculty. The training core offers a formal course in hazardous waste toxicology, as well as offering a related seminar series, which is available to the community and thus provides a significant campus resource for distributing environmental health information. Two institutions, the New York State Agriculture Experimental Station and the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine are collaborating on the research efforts of the program.