e•Bulletin: 2013 - Issue 6

UW-SRP Investigator Profile | Agency Seminar Series | UW-SRP Trainee Research Project | Community Profile

Welcome to the University of Washington's Superfund Research Program (UW-SRP) e*bulletin! We offer a few snapshots highlighting some our program's recent work, as well as providing links to interesting upcoming talks and events. Our Acting Principal Investigator, Dr. Evan Gallagher, and Research Translation Community Engagement Core Director, Dr. Tom Burbacher, invite you to please read and enjoy the stories that catch your eye.


UW-SRP Investigator Profile - Evan Gallagher

Duwamish Park Plan

Dr. Evan Gallagher has been engaged in environmental toxicology research for 25 years and has been using aquatic models to study the effects of cadmium, copper and chlorpyrifos (ATSDR priority hazards) in his UW-Superfund Research Project since 2005.

His laboratory studies the effects of these chemicals on the olfactory systems of Pacific salmon and zebrafish. Dr. Gallagher is investigating the molecular mechanisms of chemical 'injuries' to the olfactory system of salmon in relation to impacts on neurologically-controlled behaviors such as the ability to detect predators and prey, as well as homing skills to return to native streams. This type of olfactory injury has also been demonstrated in other aquatic species, underscoring the ecological importance of this phenomenon as it relates to species’ survival. In addition, zebrafish are an important component of this laboratory research, providing scientists with a well-defined genetic model that can be manipulated in the laboratory, thus complimenting the salmon work.

The Gallagher laboratory is successfully unraveling the specific mechanisms of chemical-induced olfactory injury by integrating epigenetic, genomic, physiological and behavioral endpoints. The effectiveness of this multi-pronged approach is described in SRP Research Brief 224 which profiles three recent laboratory publications. A short research snapshot can also be found at this link on our UW SRP website.

This month Dr. Gallagher is presenting research results on the mechanisms and biomarkers of cadmium-induced olfactory dysfunction in fish at the Nanotechnology and Toxicology Symposium of the 15th International Conference of the Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health.

Agency Seminar Series - Dr. Jim Gawel

Dr. Jim Gawel was the invited speaker at the UW-SRP Agency Seminar at EPA Region 10 this summer. Dr. Gawel is an Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Engineering, University of Washington Tacoma. Jim shared his recent research findings on arsenic fate, transport, and bioavailability in regional lakes.

His biomarker research has helped define the range of impacts of heavy metals pollution in terrestrial and aquatic systems. Urban lake systems not only support plant and animal habitat diversity but are also relevant to key segments of human populations who depend on lakes for subsistence fishing and cultural uses. As urban density continues to increase, knowledge about the mobility of arsenic deposited in lake sediments becomes more important to protecting human health worldwide. Chemical analyses show that arsenic does not remain fixed within the sediment layers. When polluting nutrients and organic compounds enter a lake there is potential for increased phytoplankton growth. Subsequently, decomposition and bacterial respiration occur in sediments and bottom waters, and the arsenic that had been held in sediments can migrate into the water column. Proposed research plans that can assist in development of water quality and sediment quality criteria were described to the agency audience.

This presentation titled ‘The Long-Term Impact of Metal Smelting Operations on Arsenic Availability in Urban Lakes of South-Central Puget Sound Region’ reached a national audience via EPA’s CLU-IN. The audio file and accompanying slides are archived here. The UW-SRP website also hosts the presentation video-file and slides.

The UW-SRP sponsors regular seminars held in Seattle at the regional EPA headquarters. These seminars are directed toward an audience of agency staff involved with risk assessment and communication at Superfund sites, such as EPA Region 10 and the Washington State Departments of Health and Ecology. The series provides a forum for intra-agency discussions with scientists about current research and applications of the science.

UW-SRP Trainee Research Project - Toluwalose Okitika

Duwamish River

When Toluwalose (Tolu) Okitika arrived in Seattle as a Master of Public Health student in the Environmental and Occupational Health Program, she was already well versed in environmental health issues that impact regional communities in Nigeria. In 2012-13, Tolu was involved in two research projects at the University of Washington (UW) School of Public Health. She initially worked with Dr. Judith Wasserheit in the Department of Global Health. Tolu helped implement a ‘Polio Eradication’ simulation game project that was designed to increase interest in global health concerns among the lay public. This study evaluated increased global health interest among game participants against control groups in an exhibition setting. Her results indicated that this kind of interactive activity can indeed raise awareness and increase interest in global public health challenges.

Tolu’s Master’s degree project involved a needs and capacities survey of 33 regional community organizations that focus on pollution and hazardous waste issues in the Northwest United States. In her work with Dr. Tom Burbacher and Research Translation Community Engagement staff of the UW-Superfund Research Program, Tolu developed an on-line survey and phone interview with protocols for collecting information. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were implemented with the intention of documenting individual experiences, expertise and available resources for organizations. The survey participants are from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and have received results that include their individual on-line survey scores and mean group scores. A webinar is being scheduled for the participants to review and discuss findings that have been completed so far. A publication of this study will follow.

Tolu also received a graduate certificate in global health and is currently an Associate Program Officer with the Malaria team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The NIEHS SRP is a strong advocate for interdisciplinary training for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

Community Profile - Linnton Neighborhood Association

Northwest Toxic Communitties Coalition Logo

The Linnton Neighborhood Association (LNA) offers many services for their community in Portland, Oregon. The LNA was formed to provide a forum to help unify residents and businesses around common interests that impact their quality of life. The LNA supports activities for seniors and youth, and offers tutoring for children. The association also has an environmental watchdog group tasked with monitoring and responding to activities that could negatively impact their community.

In 2000, the 'Portland Harbor Superfund site' was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The site includes approximately eleven miles of the Willamette River, an area that stretches past Linnton. Two LNA members are in the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group (CAG), the ‘EPA-recognized’ community voice. Darise Weller is the CAG treasurer. John Shaw, who represents the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition is also a member. Weller and Shaw said that their current focus is on disseminating more information about the effects of the hazardous waste dump at Terminal 4 on the Willamette River. "It appears that EPA is considering methods that will still leave toxics in place that future generations will have to contend with. It is our goal, however, to reach a real cleanup endpoint."

The Portland Harbor site is in a key stage of cleanup with a Feasibility Study being completed that will be followed by a public comment period. Close attention is being paid to human health impacts as ingestion of resident fish poses the greatest risk of adverse human health effects. Findings from the earlier Remedial Investigation illuminated significant and widespread risks from exposure to PCBs, dioxins and furans, DDT and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

"In 2011, our neighborhood worked with Oregon Public Health to develop community health priorities called the ‘Linnton Action Model,’ one of our targeted concerns was the lack of redevelopment of the Linnton Plywood Mill site. Today, it seems that the property will not become usable for our community but be absorbed into the overall remediation process" Shaw said.


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