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University of Iowa News Release

May 26, 2006

Researchers Awarded $12 Million To Establish Superfund Research Program

University of Iowa researchers from four colleges have received a $12 million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a Superfund Basic Research Program.

The team of 15 researchers from the Colleges of Public Health, Medicine, Engineering and Pharmacy will study the consequences of atmospheric sources and exposures to semi-volatile polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), especially those associated with contaminated waters, former industrial sites and other atmospheric inputs. Studies include an assessment of citizens from the Chicago metropolitan area who are exposed to lower-chlorinated PCBs.

"The Iowa Superfund brings together a group of highly talented biomedical and non-biomedical researchers to investigate the sources and spread of these environmental pollutants as well as individuals' exposure to them," said Larry Robertson, professor of occupational and environmental health and Superfund program director.

"The research addresses issues that are often overlooked, namely the volatilization of semi-volatile pollutants, their movement and their effects. While the abilities of these pollutants to accumulate, especially in fatty tissues, and move through the food web are well known, air transport of semi-volatile pollutants, and the impacts of those processes on human health, are not well understood. This grant fills those needs," Robertson said.

Superfund was established by Congress in 1980 in response to citizen concern over the growing number of uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites and their impact on public health. Designed as a network of university grants, Superfund funds support research teams centered at 16 universities enabling investigations of mechanisms of toxicity and methods of remediation of the very worst hazardous pollutants in the country.

Superfund is a coordinated effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is federally funded and administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to Larry Robertson, the UI team includes faculty from the following colleges:

-- College of Public Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health: Peter Thorne, Tom Cook, Gabriele Ludewig, Hans Lehmler and David Osterberg.

-- Carver College of Medicine: Doug Spitz, Garry Buettner and Prabhat Goswami.

-- College of Pharmacy: Mike Duffel (who also serves as the associate program director).

-- College of Engineering: Keri Hornbuckle, Craig Just, Jerry Schnoor and Ben Van Aken.

"Overall, this multidisciplinary program brings a broad range of experience and expertise to bear on problems associated with Superfund chemicals that are critical to the Midwest and the nation," Robertson said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242

CONTACT: Kate Gleeson, 319-384-4277, kate-gleeson@uiowa.edu