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Boston University

Superfund Research Program

The Long-term Impacts of Early Life Exposure to Superfund Chemicals in Humans and Wildlife

Center Director: David H. Sherr
Grant Number: P42ES007381
Funding Period: 1995-2021

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Summary (2017-2021)

The Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP) Center consists of five interdisciplinary scientific projects and five cores from an experienced collaborative that leverages the extensive resources of two major research institutions, BU and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The Center focuses primarily on contaminants found in and around the New Bedford Harbor (NBH) Superfund site and in drinking water of communities in the Buzzard’s Bay and Cape Cod area. NBH, an 18,000 acre estuarine Superfund site, has extremely high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (historically up to 100 mg/g in sediment; 0.1-1 mg/g dry weight in killifish) and other industrial wastes of significant concern to the surrounding communities and to federal and state agencies who are attempting remediation.

The theme of the BU SRP Center that links all components, "long-term impacts of early life exposure to Superfund chemicals in humans and wildlife," has implications for Superfund chemical exposure outcomes, including transgenerational effects and aberrant adolescent behavior. The BU SRP Center’s overarching objective is to address the Program theme while meeting specific goals articulated by the national SRP.

The BU SRP Center has four specific aims:

  1. Carry out multidisciplinary human and wildlife population-based research integrated with mechanistic studies in animal models. Two complementing epidemiological studies, three laboratory/field-based projects, and a supporting service core address the effects of early life exposure on adolescent and adult behavior, the integrity of developing biologic systems (bone, adipose tissue, brain), and alterations in gene programming or gene pool selection across generations.
  2. Transmit scientific results to affected communities through bidirectional partnerships. The Community Engagement Core (CEC) expands and enhances its trust-based, bidirectional relationships with partners and stakeholders through targeted communication strategies, encouraging open access and sharing scientific information and resources.
  3. Respond to and alert scientists and government stakeholders of environmental issues of most concern to affected communities. The Research Translation Core, with the CEC, investigators, and trainees, provides scientific expertise in response to concerns in the NBH/Buzzard’s Bay/Cape Cod area, expanding educational initiatives, developing prevention and intervention strategies, and coordinating multidirectional public and government sponsored interactions.
  4. Train and mentor young investigators in inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to resolving complex human and ecological health issues resulting from exposure to hazardous substances. The Training Core is implementing a program leveraging resources within BU and WHOI to provide interdisciplinary training and mentoring and to teach trainees how to communicate findings to SRP partners and stakeholders.
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