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Your Environment. Your Health.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Superfund Research Program

Lead and Organochlorines in New York City

Center Director: Philip J. Landrigan
Grant Number: P42ES007384
Funding Period: 1995-1999 and 2001-2006

Summary (1995-2000)

The ultimate goal of this program is to understand and prevent human diseases that may be associated with exposures to hazardous substances in the New York City environment. The information gained from the research efforts of this program will have many applications at Superfund sites. The individual projects center on three well-defined objectives. One objective is to determine current urban sources of two environmentally important hazardous substances, lead and organochlorines. Another objective focuses on assessing current environmental distributions of these substances. The final objective seeks to determine potential chronic, toxic effects of such materials to human health. Disease outcomes of specific concern include lead poisoning (i.e., neuropsychological dysfunction) and cancer - particularly breast cancer. The program consists of six research projects (four biomedical and two nonbiomedical), and six support cores.

Two biomedical projects concentrate on health-related effects due to environmental exposure to lead. One of these projects is examining lead mobilization during pregnancy and lactation in urban women. The other project is a prospective longitudinal epidemiological study of urban women to determine whether lead is mobilized from bone into blood during menopause, and if a dose-response relationship exists between the amount of lead released and indices of neuropsychological dysfunction. A nonbiomedical project regarding lead focuses on sources and pathways of exposure. Current urban sources of environmental lead are being measured and identified in samples of air, soil, water, sewage sludge, and sediment cores from the New York Harbor, Central Park and the Hudson River.

In the projects focussing on organochlorines, one nonbiomedical study is analyzing dated sediment cores and samples from waste treatment plants for PCBs and DDT-derived compounds. The hypothesis being evaluated in this project is that a continuing major source of these chemicals are discharges from waste water treatment plants. In one of the two biomedical projects concerning organochlorines, in vitro assay systems using isolated human cell lines are being utilized to test the hypothesis that chlorinated hydrocarbons exhibit hormonal activity including estrogenicity. In another project, extracts from sediment samples containing PCB mixtures are being tested using normal human mammary epithelial cells to determine if these PCB mixtures enhance metabolism and DNA adduct formation of exogenous and potentially endogenous carcinogens.

The six support cores include an administrative core, a biostatistics and data management core, two analytical cores, a training core, and a community outreach core. The outreach core has established a summer program for minority students (grades 11-12) to provide them with didactic and laboratory experience in environmental sciences. Collaborating institutions include: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Columbia University), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY City Department of Health, and the High School for Environmental Studies.

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