Significant accomplishments were: (a) to incorporate principles of research translation into the design of the annual meeting for the Program; (b) to plan and execute an innovative and highly successful meeting of the Research Translation and Community Engagement Cores; (c) to assist state and federal government agencies to develop and adopt more informative fish advisories; (d) to complete an analysis of the implications of findings about susceptibility to environmental toxicants for assessment and policy; and (e) to develop a presence and audience for SRP work on YouTube. We engaged with audiences and partners in government agencies and in organizations and networks in environmental health on four topics: (1) fish advisories, (2) implications of susceptibility findings for chemical assessment and policy; (3) cumulative impacts; and (4) translation of information about chemicals from new testing and “omics” methods. With regard to promoting effective translation of information about chemical safety, activities included participation in multi sector discussions, maintaining links with community colleagues, completing manuscripts for previous work, and participating as an expert at the national meeting of research centers on Environment and Breast Cancer.
With project investigators and the administration core, we organized a multi-sector partnership to improve scientific and policy approaches, with a focus on identifying chemicals that have escaped monitoring or evaluation. It includes academic investigators at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and elsewhere; entities within the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) and California Department of Public Health; US EPA; and key community partners. Our successful meeting on “Seeing the Whole Picture” highlighted opportunities with new methods from chemistry, incorporated work on the exposome, and discussed ways to avoid emergence of new chemicals. We recorded the presentations and made them available.
We continue our partnership with seven NIEHS-funded centers and Cal EPA to synthesize and extend work on greater susceptibility of children to environmental factors. Kyle presented a well-attended hands-on workshop on implications of findings from the 2013 Symposium on Cumulative Impacts and Children’s Environmental Health in July at the national meeting sponsored at NIEHS on Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice and established a resource site. Video recordings of the Symposium were posted on YouTube in July. NIEHS Director Birnbaum cited this work as one of two examples of excellence in research translation at her Congressional Briefing at the Capitol in October. Kyle gave an invited presentation entitled “Health Disparities – Implications for Public Health Policy” to a Special Session on Environment, Lifestyle or Genes? Modeling Health Determinants – Implications for Research, Practice and Policy by the Epidemiology Section of APHA and continues to work with this group.
We continue work on the transition in testing and characterization of chemicals. Ongoing work led to an invitation to Kyle to contribute to a session on California’s Safer Consumer Products Proposed Regulations: Looking for the Devil in the Details at the California Green Chemistry Conference in April 2013 and to contribute to the policy forum of Physicians for Social Responsibility on reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
On the topic of community exposures and hazardous sites, Kyle is currently scoping a project at the invitation of the Department of Toxic Substances Control of Cal EPA, to begin in the following project year.
We have implemented our plan for an integrated research translation program. We enhanced the identity of the program and prominence of Berkeley branding to increase credibility with all audiences by including elements in designs for posters and presentations created by investigators and trainees.
We made great progress in expansion to new communications platforms using video and more visual styles of communication. The videos we posted in the prior year receive a steady rate of views. Graduate student Vanessa Raditz assessed how video is now being used by academic institutions to expand the reach of their work and communicate it to new audiences. Her analysis of YouTube analytics suggests that there is both an US and international audience for Berkeley Superfund Research; that academic videos have an audience with a longer attention span than is true of the average for YouTube; that videos on YouTube increase hits on web sites and downloading of journal articles; and that visual elements, active demonstrations, and approachable demeanor increase retention.
We created video posters with our trainees and longer videos for cross-cutting and key issues. We have established a YouTube channel Berkeley EnviroHealth to enable use of the analytics and interaction with our audiences. Development of videos has enhanced participation in research translation and eased adoption of new design elements and contributed to a learning community.
All projects and cores have made progress in translating their work for appropriate audiences.
- Project 1 — Investigators are widely sharing results regarding benzene toxicity and the exposome by presentations, including significant outreach to international audiences in highly affected countries,
- Project 2 – Investigators have confirmed elements of mechanisms of carcinogenicity of importance to risk assessment for important chemicals including TCE. Researchers respond to requests from EPA for presentations. Results once published will be communicated likely by factsheet, video.
- Project 3 – New findings about effects of arsenic have been conveyed through videos, presentations, and publications. Investigators work with organizations to identify and implement interventions and have contributed to founding an organization dedicated to this in Bangladesh.
- Project 4 – Results are being prepared for publication and conveyed to science policy communities by participation of Investigator Alvarez-Cohen in advisory committees to ATSDR, NAS, and NAE.
- Project 5 – Investigator Lucas has contributed actively to efforts to reduce use of flame retardants through participation in hearings and testimony on proposals and at hearing and appeared in an HBO documentary on flame retardants first broadcast in November 2013.
- Project 6 – has been meeting with and presenting new methods to remedial engineers and will soon be looking for opportunities to test methods at a field site.
- Core D – Is contributing to methods that can make sense of big data for public health purposes, and we are working with Alan Hubbard on how to communicate the significance of this.
Our work with government agencies and stakeholder organizations increases capacity in environmental health policy programs to innovate improve environmental health protection for the 38 million people of the state. Because California programs serve as models for other states and federal agencies, such efforts may also have broader implications. We are increasing understanding among academic, policy, and stakeholder communities of the importance of multiple exposures and interaction of social and environmental factors, particularly for children and expect to see integration of children in the California EnviroScreen model. Findings provided to the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee informed advice to the Administrator. We see more attention to these issues in research and in policy discussions, as a result of our efforts and others’.
Our work to produce a collection of informative and scientifically accurate videos for both public and academic audiences is reaching a new audience. It is significant because it provides scientifically credible information on a major platform that has much misinformation but is widely relied upon.
Training our trainees and investigator to engage with non-technical audiences and use newer communications tools to advance environmental health issues will have long term benefits beyond what we fund in this programs, as they will retain these skills and interests beyond their time here and in other elements of their professional lives.
Plans include development of additional community tools for addressing cumulative impacts and children’s susceptibility; project with DTSC on cumulative impacts and hazardous sites; meeting of Seeing the Whole Picture partnership to advance proposals and understand needs of parties; completion of assessment of uses of video; development of materials and training related to hazards of solvents including benzene and TCE; development of prototype for web site integrating traditional and new types of information.
Currently under review.
Currently under review.
Investigators are working with a wide variety of external audiences and partners to enhance the integration of important findings from the Superfund Research Program into public policy and the transfer of technology. Specific goals are:
- to engage stakeholders in non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations in ways that increase the availability of relevant scientific findings and knowledge;
- to increase the transfer of scientific findings and understanding to government agencies in ways that enhance their capacity;
- to increase the capability to use engineering strategies developed through research in the real world through “scaling.”
Important accomplishments so far:
- Successful and influential engagement in policy discussions in numerous topics at the state and national levels;
- Creation of pathways for research translation for both state and federal environmental protection and public health agencies related;
- Numerous partnerships with non-governmental and community-based organizations.
Accomplishments for the last year
The engineering component of Core B explores how research results are scaled from simple laboratory systems to more complex field sites undergoing remediation. Laboratory studies in beakers can be used to investigate fundamental principles in biology and chemistry, but additional processes must be included when models and experiments are conducted in small field experiments that include more realistic subsurface and geometric conditions.
During this year our focus has been on radionuclide migration at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This facility produced nuclear materials for defense applications and generated significant chemical and radionuclide wastes. Fission products from nuclear fuel rods were released as aqueous wastes into disposal pits that rapidly traveled through the subsurface to become springs releasing contaminants into surface waters. The contaminants of interest include tritium, iodine-129 and technetium-99 along with nitric acid as a co-contaminant that mobilized the radionuclides through the subsurface sand aquifers.
Our efforts are testing a conceptual model that the waste solutions were sufficiently high in salts that the density was greater than the ambient groundwater leading to density driven flow and emplacement into less permeable parts of the aquifer. The contaminants are predominately dissolved in the water, but even through water flow from the disposal pond to the springs took less than ten years, 25 years after waste disposal stopped, contaminants continue to be present in the groundwater. The slow recovery is attributed to a secondary source of contamination from the emplaced waste brines slowly leaking into the aquifer.
We are working with remediation managers to acquire additional data to test our hypothesized explanation and establish conditions at other field sites where this mechanism should be considered.
We continue to demonstrate that laboratory analysis and long-term field monitoring data can quantify dominant transport pathways and evaluate the effectiveness of remedial approaches.
Core B worked to increase the preparation of government agencies and the non-governmental sector for the coming transition in chemicals management. One aspect is to define normative aspects of chemicals policy, specifically the attributes of chemicals that should be considered in making decisions, whatever methods are used. This was reflected in the provisions to identify “hazard traits” in the California green chemistry legislation. Investigators have worked with the implementing agency at the California Environmental Protection Agency on the draft regulations for this, and rules are being proposed this week.
Investigators completed an analysis of the elements of chemicals policy with regard to children’s health protection, considering both international and US national contexts. This will be submitted for publication shortly.
Core B has worked on identifying and disseminating approaches to address scientific findings relevant to children’s environmental health, holding a workshop in 2009. This has led to additional collaborations with the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and other partners. Moreover, the SRP investigators are involved in the children’s environmental health centers funded at UC Berkeley by NIEHS and EPA, and efforts are underway to coordinate research translation activities. Co-leader Kyle was appointed by US EPA Administrator Jackson to the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, a federally chartered FACA, and has been appointed to chair a work group on prenatal exposures. SRP research will be included in that analysis.
Core B continues to work with US EPA and other parties on issues related to cumulative impacts. Kyle participated in the US EPA research symposium on Disproportionate Impacts in March 2010 and on a panel with US EPA at the American Public Health Association in November 2010.
What we plan to do next
The Engineering investigators plan to complete the Savannah River project and to expand the work to additional sites. The Health Sciences component plan to complete work on the prenatal work group for the CHPAC and to continue to work to develop research translation projects and tools related to research advances on children’s environmental health.
Health Sciences – Amy Kyle
The health sciences component of the Core focused on informing policy and stakeholders about key scientific information related to the effects of environmental toxicants on susceptible populations, particularly children.
We organized a workshop on children’s environmental health in cooperation with the California EPA, US EPA Region, and University of California San Francisco entitled: “Children’s Environmental Health: What Have We Learned and What Do We Need to Do?” This workshop focused on translation of research findings and engaging academic, government, and general audiences in one dialogue. The workshop led to expanded and new stakeholder collaborations. We are developing a “plain language” summary of the meeting for publication.
We collaborated on the CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN) and with the US EPA and the Children’s Environmental Health Network to assess improved surveillance for environmental factors, body burdens, and disease outcomes for children. Our project was represented in a joint presentation at the national EPHTN meeting and by a poster showing initial analysis of data from the tracking network at an Environmental Public Health conference sponsored by CDC.
We are represented on the federally chartered Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, providing advice to the US EPA and on subcommittees advising on the development of metrics reflecting children’s environmental health issues. We briefed senior management at EPA Region X on chemicals policy reform initiatives in the US and Europe. We also provided briefings to California legislators on the importance of scientific evaluation and interpretation of chemical hazards data for state policy makers.
Engineering Sciences – James Hunt
The engineering component of Core B is exploring how research results are scaled from simple laboratory systems to complex field sites undergoing remediation. Laboratory studies in beakers can be used to investigate fundamental principles in biology and chemistry, but additional processes must be included when models and experiments are conducted in realistic conditions.
Our focus shifted from chromate in groundwater systems of the deserts of southern California to radionuclide migration at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. This facility produced nuclear materials for defense applications and generated significant chemical and radionuclide wastes. Fission products from nuclear fuel rods were extracted and waste products were stored for a few months to permit the decay of short lived radionuclides. The aqueous wastes were released to disposal pits that were intended to provide 5 to 15 years of transit time in the subsurface before reaching surface waters that connected with the Savannah River. Actual contaminant migration was shorter than expected and longer lived radionuclides such as tritium, iodine and technetium were released to surface waters with minimal decay. The waste products contained high concentrations of sodium and nitrate with a pH sufficiently acidic to limit sorption processes of cations. The nuclides and ionic species provided multiple tracers to track plume migration before and after active remediation approaches.
We continue to work to organize our data, represent it in space and time, and quantify remediation effectiveness. While these waste components are unique to Department of Energy facilities, our research can be generalized to other sites lacking environmental monitoring data.
The “health” part of the Research Translation Core focused this past year on informing policy and stakeholder audiences about key scientific information and principles related to chemical assessment and characterization and about children’s environmental health, both key areas of research for the group as a whole.
Co-leader Dr. Amy Kyle conducted several formal and informal workshops for stakeholder groups in San Francisco, Oakland, and in Sacramento. The program advised legislative staff about key scientific concepts in the development of several pieces of legislation. This resulted in the inclusion of the concept of ‘hazard traits’ in California’s newly passed green chemistry legislation (AB 1879 and SB 509). This is important because including a concept of ‘hazard traits’ means that the chemical traits of health concern can be further defined and elucidated after legislation is passed and adapted as scientific knowledge and methods improve.
Dr. Kyle gave the keynote speech at the founding of a children’s environmental health network for Wyoming. The group agreed to pursue several specific projects to improve children’s health, working in an interdisciplinary fashion. She has continued to participate in the federal Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee and helped to develop comments related to chemicals policy concerns as they relate to children, providing advice to the US EPA.
The engineering component of the Core is exploring how research results are scaled from simple laboratory systems to more complex field sites undergoing remediation. Laboratory studies in beakers can be used to investigate fundamental principles in biology and chemistry, but additional processes must be included when models and experiments are conducted in sand columns, two-dimensional “ant-farms”, and smaller field experiments that include more realistic conditions. This work has examined density driven flow under laboratory and field conditions using observations at field sites to guide laboratory experiments. Core researchers have extensively analyzed data from two groundwater plumes containing chromate in the southeastern corner of California to assess groundwater remediation approaches. The monitoring data are reported in over a hundred wells during site investigation and remediation efforts over a 20 year period. These data reveal that chromium as a soluble contaminant has been retained in the groundwater aquifer up to 50 years after release. Pumping out groundwater has not been an effective remediation tool because the source of concentrated chromate present in trapped brines continues to slowly release chromate into flowing groundwater. The combination of laboratory studies on contaminant mixing in column reactors with the analysis of long-term monitoring data at field sites has provided complementary data on the importance of brines in the subsurface. These results have demonstrated how field data collected under complex conditions can guide laboratory studies, provide an analysis of remedial approaches, and assist regulatory personnel in hazardous waste site oversight.
How best to use biomonitoring to improve public health remains of considerable interest. Dr. Amy Kyle and Dr. James Hunt conducted a workshop in January 2007 to discuss implementation of California legislation passed in fall of 2006 and they are planning a workshop on how biomonitoring can contribute to improving environmental health in communities, with additional funding from the San Francisco Foundation. Dr. Kyle was recently appointed to the Federal Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee by Administrator Stephen Johnson of the US EPA, which may provide opportunities for collaboration. Kyle presented a new analysis of approaches to selecting chemicals for biomonitoring at the American Public Health Association annual meeting.
Dr. Kyle contributed to several projects by state and federal agencies. In May 2007, she spoke at the US EPA national meeting on hazardous air pollutants. She presented an overview of health-science related work in SBRP at Region IX. She also led discussions on the policy implications of reproductive and developmental effects of chemicals at a workshop organized by Cal EPA and US EPA. Kyle conducted briefings for legislators, including an overview of key issues organized by the National Conference of State Legislators in February 2007. Subsequent meetings with legislators and staffers led to greater awareness of the implications of current science, reflected in legislative proposals.
Dr. Kyle conducted significant work on chemicals policy reform. She participated with Dr. Smith in a working group that examined ways to improve the scientific basis of chemicals assessment. This group presented a workshop at the annual meeting of the Environmental Mutagen Society in October.
Dr. Kyle is investigating methods to better deal with the emerging area of addressing environmental health issues at the community level with additional funding provided by the Cal EPA and environmental public health tracking program. She was asked to speak to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences on improving risk assessment.
James Hunt previously made considerable progress in the identification of environmental transport processes that constrain environmental remediation based on an analysis of the published literature and monitoring data collected at field sites. A research paper identified the importance of dense brines as a means for emplacing contaminants into the subsurface where density driven flow and poor mixing conditions decrease the efficiency of groundwater remediation. A Superfund Research Highlights article issued by NIEHS provided broad coverage of the research and generated an invitation to speak at additional professional society meetings and at a symposium for earth scientists working on site assessment and remediation for the State of California. This forum allowed Dr. Hunt to summarize the research findings and discuss their application to the remediation of groundwater contaminated by perchlorate and chromate spills. Examples from ongoing site remediation efforts were used to demonstrate that brines were long-term reservoirs of contamination. As a consequence of these outreach efforts to the regulatory community, Dr. Hunt presented an expanded seminar at the EPA Region 9 Headquarters for staff and consultants. Subsequently, Dr. Hunt has initiated discussion with the owner of sites contaminated by chromate. In addition, Dr. Hunt is engaged in further discussion with EPA Region 9 staff to identify additional sites where long-term monitoring data are available for the analysis of remediation efficiency and the analysis of dominant transport processes that occur at the field scale.
The Research Translation Core has developed an issue paper regarding use of biomonitoring in research and public health surveillance and policy for use in a workshop held in July 2006. The workshop successfully engaged government agency and general audiences in a discussion of key issues in the application of biomonitoring in California. Participants included representatives of US EPA, California health and environmental agencies, California legislature, other western states, NGOs, and academics. The Core also began a discussion of the possible application of omics technologies (e. g., genomics and proteomics) in conjunction with the biomonitoring of chemical contaminants in human bio-specimens. The Core provided resources to the Western Tracking and Biomonitoring Consortium, an organization of state health departments and public health laboratories for all of the western states and provided information to media outlets, including Health Affairs, a program produced by public radio in California, which did a one-hour program on biomonitoring. The Core also developed a web site with the information produced.
A second workshop on the implementation of the California biomonitoring program will be held in January 2007. The passage of legislation to establish a state program and create a new Department of Public Health has made this a timely topic to address. The materials developed for that workshop will be adapted for general audiences. Work on chemical prioritization and assessment will be further vetted with the audiences for this program.
The Research Translation Core was actively involved in planning the May 2006 kickoff meeting which provided investigators and industry and consulting representatives with an overview of the approach to scaling of research results between laboratory and field. Conversations were initiated in the selection of field sites for the evaluation of remedial approaches. The initial focus is on groundwater remediation sites where there is a long-term monitoring record with multiple sampling locations sufficient to quantify transformations and transport processes. Core researchers are engaged in the process of evaluating monitoring data from remediation sites to identify sites with sufficient data to proceed with more detailed analysis. The initial focus is on benzene and MTBE plumes from leaking underground storage tanks within shallow, alluvial aquifers in California.
Site investigations are continuing with a focus on the analysis of monitoring data reported for groundwater sites undergoing active and passive remediation. As the Application of Comparative Genomics, Transcriptomics, and Proteomics to Optimize Microbial Reductive Dehalogenation project and the Contaminant Oxidation Using Nanoparticulate and Granular Zero-Valent Iron project progress the Research Translation Core will participate with those project researchers in a discussion on the challenges of scaling their laboratory-based studies to field conditions.