BU & UK SRPs Collaborate on TCE Seminar for Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection

On October 29, 2014, Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays of Boston University’s Superfund Research Program gave a seminar entitled, Derivation of TCE Toxicity Values and Implications for Risk Management, to the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet, Department of Environmental Protection (KYDEP).  The seminar, which was part of the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center’s (UK-SRC’s) monthly seminar series for state agency regulatory staff, focused on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) 2011 Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Final Assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE).  The seminar also highlighted relevant TCE exposure scenarios for vapor intrusion sites.  In addition to the formal seminar, Dr. Heiger-Bernays and Dr. Kelly Pennell (of the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center) met with state agency staff and discussed various strategies for addressing TCE in indoor air at vapor intrusion sites. Dr. Pennell had previously presented vapor intrusion seminars to KYDEP (February 2014 and March 2010).  Following those seminars, KYDEP specifically asked for more information on TCE toxicity values, to which Dr. Heiger-Bernays’ seminar responded.

TCE is a common contaminant in groundwater in the United States and countries where this degreasing agent was and is used.  In addition to exposures that occur through contact with contaminated water, vapor intrusion results in inhalation of TCE in residential and commercial buildings. EPA IRIS provides an oral cancer slope factor and inhalation unit risk value, but the non-cancer effects are of particular interest because toxicological studies have shown developmental effects at very low doses for short durations in susceptible populations (i.e. near or below chronic levels). As a result, the non-cancer risk assessment is currently the determinant in the management of many TCE-contaminated environments. Regulatory agencies across the country are challenged with addressing these short-term exposure risks, while continuing to protect against chronic exposures. To date, few states have established final guidance about how to manage TCE inhalation acute exposure risks. Management scenarios range from ventilation to home evacuation. As a member of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Waste Site Clean-Up Advisory Committee, Dr. Heiger-Bernays discussed with KYDEP approaches being used by Massachusetts and other states for managing inhalation exposure risks of TCE at vapor intrusion sites.


Trainees Attend 2014 SRP Annual Meeting

The SRP Annual Meeting was held in San Jose, CA from November 12th to 14th. The meeting brings together researchers, trainees, and administrators supported by the program, representatives from partner agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and other interested individuals to discuss new research, technology, communication, and community engagement in critical areas related to the SRP mission. BU SRP trainees Kate Crawford, Mariam Girguis, Daniel GusenleitnerOlga Novikov, and James Watt participated in the poster sessions on November 12th and 13th. Thank you UC Berkeley SRP for hosting a fabulous meeting!


CEC Leader Madeleine Scammell Awarded JPB Environmental Health Fellowship

BU SRP Community Engagement Core Leader Madeleine Scammell has been awarded a three-year JPB Environmental Health Fellowship. The Harvard School of Public Health's JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program is an innovative approach to support junior faculty at U.S. Institutions engaged in research on social and physical determinants of environmental health relevant to disadvantaged communities.

Dr. Scammell’s areas of research include the use of qualitative methods in the area of community-driven environmental health and epidemiologic studies, mapping and monitoring community-identified environmental health hazards, and analyzing cumulative exposures to chemical and non-chemical stressors. Read more online from BUSPH.


Lindsey Butler ties for 1st place at BUSPH Research Day

BU SRP trainee Lindsey Butler tied for first place in the MS/MPH category at the 2014 Boston University School of Public Health Research Day held last week. Her poster entitled Childhood and Adolescent Fish Consumption and Adult Neuropsychological Performance: An Analysis from the Cape Cod Health Study is part of past Superfund research on Project 1. She was advised by Patricia Janulewicz, an assistant professor of environmental health and former BU Superfund trainee. The event featured posters from BU faculty, PhD, and Masters students and a keynote address about the challenges of using medical record data in research. To read more about Lindsey & her research interests, click here


Background: Methylmercury (MeHg) forms in aquatic environments when inorganic mercury from natural and anthropogenic sources is methylated by aquatic microorganisms, resulting in the contamination of fish and seafood. Numerous studies have shown that prenatal exposure to MeHg from fish has an adverse effect on the developing nervous system. However, certain fish and seafood are also rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) providing a significant nutritional benefit to brain and vision development.

Objective: To examine the effect of childhood and adolescent fish consumption on adult neuropsychological performance.  

Methods: The Cape Cod Health Study, a retrospective cohort study, assessed fish consumption from age 7 to 18 years via questionnaire.  A sample of 65 participants underwent an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests.

Results: No statistically significant associations were observed between fish consumption patterns and performance in the domains of academic achievement, language, visuospatial, executive function, motor, or mood. Consuming fish at least twice per month was associated with better performance on tests of visual learning and memory and attentional abilities.  

Conclusion: The results suggest that consumption of fish during childhood and adolescence is a relevant exposure period potentially effecting adult neuropsychological performance and future studies should be conducted examining this time period of exposure.

Affiliated Institutions

The Superfund Research Program at Boston University

Supported with funding from the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Superfund Research Program

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