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Texas A&M University

Superfund Research Program

Decision Science Core

Project Leader: Weihsueh A. Chiu
Co-Investigator: Gregory William Characklis (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Grant Number: P42ES027704
Funding Period: 2017-2022
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

The Texas A&M University Superfund Research Program (TAMU SRP) Center investigates the impacts of environmental emergency-related contamination events across the source-to-outcome continuum, including fate and transport, human health hazard, and mitigation of contamination and toxicity. In order to achieve the Center's ultimate goal of improving decision-making after an environmental emergency, the conclusions drawn from these projects need to be interpretable to first responders, impacted communities, and government bodies involved in site management and cleanup. Therefore, the entire Center is supported by the Decision Science Core, which has expertise in synthesizing relevant scientific data and conclusions for use by those involved in decisions related to risk management.

The overall objective of the Decision Science Core is to provide novel modeling services for supporting the cohesion, relevance, and implementation of project findings in the context of environmental decision-making. The Core provides numerous methods and services to TAMU SRP Center researchers and facilitates interaction among Center projects, while also serving as a bridge to the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core. Key services provided include toxicokinetic modeling, human health risk modeling, and economic modeling.

Toxicokinetic modeling services are provided to the projects to extrapolate between exposure doses and internal concentrations in cells or tissues, taking into account chemical absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion. Toxicokinetic modeling is an essential part of moving towards a new paradigm in evaluating hazard and risk using in vitro assays.

Human health risk modeling is used to make inferences about hazard or risk in the human population based on experimental or observational data, serving as an essential bridge between scientific data and environmental policy decisions. In the context of Superfund, human health risk modeling is used to demonstrate that exposure standards or environmental remediation decisions both protect human health and reduce toxicity or risk.

Economic modeling of costs and benefits is provided as a key input into environmental policy decisions, from planning and priority setting to establishing environmental remediation or exposure standards. The delivery of cost-effective environmental solutions is of keen interest not only to government agencies, but also to affected communities and stakeholders, many of whom will bear at least some of the cost, either directly or indirectly.

As a whole, these modeling services support the TAMU SRP Center's overall goal by helping to interpret and translate research project findings into information that can be used by varied stakeholders, from communities to federal and state decision-makers, to assess the human health and economic impact of contaminant exposures after an environmental emergency, and enhance the planning, emergency response, as well as long-term recovery and remediation efforts related to environmental disasters.

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