It All Starts with Science

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

Science is the foundation of everything that EPA does to protect our health and our environment. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently discussed the important role of science at EPA—read her blog Why Science Matters and then check out some of our latest research below.

A Science-based Public Health Approach to Reducing Lead Exposure
One of the top great public health achievements in recent history has been reducing childhood lead exposure. However, the events in Flint underscore the continuing public health challenge of protecting our most vulnerable communities. EPA is taking a coordinated public health approach to dealing with lead so we can continue our progress in reducing lead exposures. Learn more about it in the blog A Science-based Public Health Approach to Reducing Lead Exposure.

Partnering to Protect Public Health
EPA signed two new Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Association of Public Health Laboratories. These MOUs will help us share our science and research with thousands of communities, including those who need it most – city and county health departments. Learn more about the new partnerships in the blog Partnering to Protect Public Health, One Community at a Time.

Addressing the Impacts of Looming “Megatrends”
The world faces serious challenges due to a growing number of what scientists and other have defined as megatrends—long-term changes that affect governments, societies, and economies over long periods of time. EPA is preparing for these changes through science, innovation, and extensive collaboration throughout the government and business communities. Read more about these efforts in the blog EPA is Poised and Ready to Help Communities Address the Impacts of Looming “Megatrends”.

Living Close to Roadways: Health Concerns and Mitigation Strategies
Living close to roadways can pose health risks related to pollution from traffic. EPA researchers are looking at ways to mitigate these risks, including placing vegetation barriers along roads to reduce pollution. Read more about this research in the Science Matters story Living Close to Roadways: Health Concerns and Mitigation Strategies.


About the Author:
Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Science-based Public Health Approach to Reducing Lead Exposure

By Tom Burke, PhD, MPH

One of the top great public health achievements in recent history has been reducing childhood lead exposure. However, the events in Flint underscore the continuing public health challenge of protecting our most vulnerable communities. Lead exposure has very real health effects, including effects on the developing brain. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead, which can include behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and anemia.

Over the past 50 years, EPA has worked with federal and state partners to reduce or eliminate the use of lead in gasoline, paint, plumbing pipes, food cans, and many other products. More recently, EPA has cleaned up lead-contaminated waste sites and established standards for dealing with old, lead-based paint. In addition, the public health and medical communities have worked together to increase awareness, identify those who are at risk, and provide blood lead testing for communities. Because of these collective actions, blood lead levels – the amount of lead measured in people’s blood – have declined by more than 90% since the mid-1970s. This is truly a public health achievement.

The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years dropped from 15 µg/dL in 1976–1980 to 1.2 µg/dL in 2009–2010, a decrease of 92%. The concentration of lead in blood at the 95th percentile in children ages 1 to 5 years dropped from 29 µg/dL in 1976–1980 to 3.4 µg/dL in 2009–2010, a decrease of 88%. The largest declines in blood lead levels occurred from the 1970s to the 1990s, following the elimination of lead in gasoline. 

Lead in children ages 1 to 5 years: Median and 95th percentile concentrations in blood, 1976-2014. Click the image for a larger version.

Despite an overall decline in lead exposure around the country, some communities still experience high levels of lead exposure from old, lead-based paint, corroding lead pipes, and industrial waste sites. As we’ve worked to reduce exposures from these sources, our understanding of the health effects of lead exposure has increased. We now know that exposure to even small amounts of lead can be harmful. Thus, it remains a priority to continue reducing lead exposure, especially in these vulnerable communities.

EPA is taking a coordinated, public health approach to dealing with lead so we can continue our progress in reducing lead exposures. This approach outlines a common set of public health principles, listed below, that will guide the Agency’s work related to lead.

  • There is no known threshold for the effects of lead.
  • The best way to reduce a child’s exposure to lead is to address all potential sources of exposure.
  • Reducing and minimizing sources of lead exposure is a long-term goal.
  • Children’s vulnerability to lead exposure through any source varies with their age.
  • When evaluating new actions, EPA uses a common set of science-based analytical tools to measure the impacts on children’s and adults’ blood lead levels and health.
  • While the public health goal is to eliminate exposure, national sampling of blood lead levels helps to track progress and identify children and communities at highest risk for effects.

EPA’s activities have been a cornerstone of the Nation’s progress in reducing lead exposure. However, our work is not done. Through this coordinated public health approach, EPA and partners will continue to identify and address environmental sources of exposure and prevent the harmful effects of lead in our communities.

About the Author: Thomas Burke, Ph.D. is the Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development as well as the Agency’s Science Advisor. He served as the Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health, Risk and Society and the Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health prior to coming to EPA. Before his time at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Burke was Deputy Commissioner of Health for the State of New Jersey and Director of the Office of Science and Research in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Partnering to Protect Public Health, One Community at a Time

By Tom Burke, PhD, MPH

One of the really cool things about my job is seeing how EPA science is making a difference – for EPA, states, tribes and local governments, international agencies, and communities. Our research looks at the many aspects that make up a healthy environment and community, like clean air and water resources, and healthy homes, schools, and workplaces. All of these things are critically important for public health. Schoolchildren depend on pollution-free air when they are running around on the playground. Families enjoy swimming in clean lakes and rivers on summer vacation. And we all expect to wake up each morning in a home that is free from harmful substances. That’s why EPA scientists are continuously studying the health effects of air pollution, testing water to make sure it’s safe, and evaluating the risks of chemicals used in household products or that make their way into the environment.

But our science is only useful if it’s shared with the people who need it most, and it’s most powerful when we’re partnering with others. At the local level, county and city health officials play an important role in protecting and promoting healthy communities. Our state and local health laboratories also play a critical role in monitoring and detecting health threats to maintain our health and safety.

Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck looks on as Tom signs the MOU

Dr. Tom Burke and Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, Executive Director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, sign the MOU. 

Tom and Scott shaking hands after signing the memorandum

Dr. Tom Burke shakes hands with Scott Becker, Executive Director of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, after signing the MOU. 

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that we’ve signed two new Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). NACCHO works to improve public health by supporting over 2,800 public health departments across the U.S. APHL works to strengthen state and local governmental health laboratories to assure effective surveillance, detection and response to health threats. These MOUs will help us share our science and research with thousands of communities, including those who need it most – city and county health departments. We’ll also be able to improve our ability to respond to environmental public health issues by collaborating with state and local public health labs. At the same time, NACCHO and APHL can inform EPA scientists about local environmental health challenges their members are facing, help us improve our tools by providing early feedback, and share information that can help inform public health decision-making.

Working together, we can focus on issues that we all care about – like promoting health and equity, improving the quality and length of all lives, and creating a safe and healthy environment.

We’re at our best when we’re working together. These partnerships with NACCHO and APHL will strengthen our efforts to improve the health of American families and protect the environment one community at a time, across the country.

About the Author: Thomas Burke, Ph.D. is the Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development as well as the Agency’s Science Advisor. He served as the Jacob I. and Irene B. Fabrikant Professor and Chair in Health, Risk and Society and the Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health prior to coming to EPA. Before his time at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Burke was Deputy Commissioner of Health for the State of New Jersey and Director of the Office of Science and Research in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EPA is Poised and Ready to Help Communities Address the Impacts of Looming “Megatrends”

By Alan Hecht and Aaron Ferster

The world faces serious challenges due to a growing number of what scientists and other have defined as megatrends, long-term changes that affect governments, societies and economies over long periods of time.  Many of these large-scale changes are driven by the environment. A 2015 report from the National Science Foundation, America’s Future: Environmental Research and Education for a Thriving Century: A 10-year Outlook, notes that “we’re experiencing a time in which human society and technology are increasing the pace and rate of environmental change in ways for which no precedent exists, and which have significant potential consequences.”

The destruction left after a major storm

EPA research is dedicated to helping communities become more prepared and resilient in the face of looming environmental megatrends.

The biggest impacts from these changes are felt most in cities, where the majority of people live. Cities today are struggling with the very real economic and quality of life impacts of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and other super storms, extended droughts, extreme heat days, and flooding.

And the extended forecast is not promising. Scientists project that in the decades ahead, droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains could be drier and longer than dry conditions seen in those regions during the last 1,000 years. Maps of potential rising sea levels show that nearly two million U.S. homes could be inundated by 2100, displacing many more millions of people and resulting in staggering property losses totaling hundreds of billions of dollars.

EPA is poised to respond to these predictions through science, innovation, and extensive collaboration throughout the government and business communities.

EPA researcher Alan Hecht and co-authors identify several key actions for working toward a more resilient and sustainable society in their recently published paper, Responding to Megatrends for a Resilient and Sustainable Society.

These actions include:

  • Anticipating future changes and adopting foresight management;
  • Applying systems thinking in problem solving;
  • Developing and using decision support tools;
  • Advancing green design and infrastructure;
  • Advancing environmental education and the understanding of future threats and the links between the environment, the economy, and human well-being; and
  • Expanding stakeholder engagement and cooperation, especially between businesses and government.

Taking action to anticipate and meet even the most daunting environmental challenges is at the core of EPA’s mission. Over the past forty-plus years, our role has evolved to a science-based leader in innovation and collaboration. A new challenge for EPA now is to act with the foresight needed to deal with present and future megatrends in ways that increase resiliency and advance sustainability.

For society as a whole, the challenge ahead is to respond to emerging trends, build a resilient and sustainable society, and recognize the need for widespread cooperation to ensure the security and prosperity of present and future generations. A new era of environmental management and education is needed.  We must plan for future challenges and disprove Benjamin Franklin’s classic adage “It is not until the well runs dry that we know the worth of water.”

About the Authors: Alan Hecht is a Senior Sustainability Advisor in EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Community national research program. Aaron Ferster is the communications lead for that program, and an EPA science writer.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

Does your New Year’s resolution happen to be something like read more EPA science stories? Well then you’ve come to the right place—here’s the latest.

Washington Post Interview Highlights Science at EPA
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was interviewed by The Washington Post to discuss the accomplishments and frustrations of her tenure. She reflected on the water crisis in Flint, the importance of continued domestic and global leadership on climate change, and the need to protect the integrity of the science at EPA and other federal agencies. Read the article Outgoing EPA chief: Science is ‘fundamental to absolutely everything we do.’

Final Analysis of Metals Released from Gold King Mine in the Animas and San Juan Rivers
EPA posted the final fate and transport report for the Gold King Mine (GKM) release. The report is a scientific analysis that focuses on understanding pre-existing river conditions, the movement of metals related to the GKM release through the river system, and the effects of the GKM release on water quality. Learn more about the Fate and Transport Analysis.

Blue-green Algae Detection Project
EPA researchers Dr. James Lazorchak and Dr. Joel Allen are working with the Thomas More College and Northern Kentucky University on a blue-green algae detection project. The team set up a wireless camera on the banks of the Ohio River, where it will take a picture each hour and transmit it to a website where the pixels are examined to determine the ratio of green to blue-green algae. Learn more about the project in the article Ohio River research underway at TMC Biology Field Station to determine amount of harmful algae in water.

Killifish Research
EPA biologist Dianne Nacci was interviewed by CBC’s As It Happens about her recent research showing killifish adaptations to polluted water. Dr. Nacci co-authored the study which found that over just a few decades, distinct populations of killifish independently developed similar genetic adaptations that make life possible in the most unlikely environments. Check out the study published in Science.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Year in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap with Happy New Year message

Our EPA researchers were hard at work in 2016—so to highlight that effort, we’ve put together a list of the ten most popular blogs from this year.

  1. Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Health
    We took a giant leap forward in our understanding of the relationship between air pollution and heart disease with the publication of results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Air Pollution Study(MESA Air) in the leading medical journal The Lancet. Learn more about the study and its implications in the blog EPA’s MESA Air Study Confirms that Air Pollution Contributes to the #1 Cause of Death in the U.S.
  1. Olive Oil and Fish Oil: Possible Protectors against Air Pollution
    Ever wondered what’s so healthy about taking fish oil tablets? EPA scientist Dr. Samantha J. Snow is investigating one of the potential benefits. Her research looks at how these oils in the diet might change the body’s reaction to ozone, a common outdoor air pollutant. Read more about her research in the blog Olive Oil and Fish Oil: Possible Protectors against Air Pollution.
  1. Goats Help EPA Protect Pollinators
    EPA’s research facility in Narragansett, Rhode Island enlisted the help of a highly skilled landscaping team to create a more pollinator-friendly habitat on the premises: a herd of goats! Learn more about ‘goatscaping’ in the blog It’s a Lawn Mower! It’s a Weed Whacker! No…it’s a Herd of Goats!
  1. Sunscreen and Sun Safety: Just One Piece of the Story
    It’s not surprising that sunscreens are detected in pool water—after all, some is bound to wash off when we take a dip—but certain sunscreens have also been widely detected in our ecosystems and in our wastewater. So how is our sunscreen ending up in our environment and what are the impacts? Find out in the blog Sunscreen and Sun Safety: Just One Piece of the Story.
  1. The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program
    As incidences of cyanobacteria bloom continue to increase, EPA strives to create and improve methods for bloom prediction, monitoring, and management. The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program will help generate region-wide data on bloom frequencies, cyanobacteria concentrations, and spatial distribution through three coordinated projects. To learn more about the program read the blog The Northeast Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program: One Program, Three Opportunities for You To Get Involved.
  2. Air Research Centers
    EPA is funding three university-based Air, Climate and Energy Research Centers through the Science to Achieve Results program. The centers will tackle pressing air quality issues for many communities across the U.S. still overburdened by air pollution. Read more about the new centers in the blog Air Quality Awareness: A New Generation of Research.

  3. Underwater Science
    Did you know that EPA has a team of scientists that work underwater? The EPA scientific diving program helps Superfund sites go from contaminated to clean – and keeps them that way! Read about what it’s like to be on the EPA Dive team in the blog Over 30 years of Wyckoff Superfund Site Diving Science.
  4. Compete to Improve Arsenic Sensing in Water
    The Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition is seeking innovative ways to improve arsenic sensing in water. Led by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, EPA experts helped in the prize competition’s design and development.  Read more about the Competition in the blog We’re Sensing a Change in Water Monitoring: Introducing the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition.
  5. A Trip Back in Time
    This year at EPA’s Robert S Kerr Environmental Research Center, a cornerstone box was dusted off and unsealed in honor of the lab’s 50th anniversary. The time capsule included artifacts representing the Center’s major milestones and key accomplishments in the last 50 years. Read more about the event in the blog Another Trip Back in Time: Kerr Lab Time Capsule Reopened in Honor of 50th Anniversary.
  6. Women’s History Month
    The 2016 theme for Women’s History Month was Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government. Here at EPA, there are quite a few women scientists and engineers who truly are helping us achieve a more perfect union. We asked some of them to share a few words about what inspired them to pursue a career in science. Read what they said in the blog Women’s History Month: Honoring EPA Women in Science.

That’s all for this year. We are looking forward to all the science that 2017 will bring. Happy New Year!

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap logo with a holiday wreath in the center

Kick off your holiday weekend with some science! Here’s the latest in EPA research.

New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid
We are exposed to chemicals everyday— either through chemicals in the environment, in our food or water, or by using consumer products. EPA evaluates these chemicals to help protect our health. Recent EPA research in this area is focused on evaluating chemicals for thyroid disruption. Learn more about this research in the blog New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid.

Taking Air Sensors to Communities
EPA has a team of people working to make low-cost air monitoring tools more accessible for people and their communities. EPA provides resources to help people find the right tool to use and to make sure they’re using it correctly. Learn more about these resources in the blog Taking Air Sensors to Communities.

A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA
Citizen science broadens environmental protection by enabling people to work together with government and other institutions toward shared goals. EPA’s Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg recently discussed a report outlining the transformational potential of citizen science in the blog Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

New CompTox Approach Targets Thyroid

By Michaela Burns

We are exposed to chemicals everyday— either through chemicals in the environment, in our food or water, or by using consumer products such as shampoos, colognes, and perfumes.  Chemicals help these products to do their jobs—whether cleaning your body or making you smell good. Soap / lotion / shampoo against whiteWorking with industry and other interest groups, EPA evaluates these chemicals and, if necessary, regulates their presence in the environment to help protect our health. Because traditional testing approaches are time-intensive, only a small fraction of chemicals have been evaluated fully for potential human health effects. New methods are needed to rapidly address chemical safety.

To help address this problem, EPA has been developing new computational toxicology methods to prioritize chemicals for testing. One example of this effort is the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program in the 21st century (EDSP21) which uses the latest computational toxicology methods to evaluate chemicals for potential endocrine disruption.  Recent EPA research in this area is focused on evaluating chemicals for thyroid disruption.

Why is EPA interested in the thyroid? Well, the thyroid, an organ that is located at the front of your neck, is responsible for producing thyroid hormone, a process called thyroid synthesis. Exposure to certain chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis, resulting in less thyroid hormone in blood and tissues. In adults, thyroid hormone helps regulate key functions, including metabolism rate and the amount of blood pumped into our heart per minute. When thyroid synthesis is disturbed in the adult body, it can cause reversible symptoms such as depression, fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. Thyroid hormones also help regulate brain development in utero, which means that pregnant mothers and children are populations of concern for thyroid hormone changes. A decrease in thyroid hormone availability during development of a fetus can result in irreversible changes to intelligence, cognitive ability, and motor skills. These potential health effects make it critical that we identify chemicals that may alter thyroid hormone levels.

One of the ways that thyroid hormone synthesis can be decreased is by inhibition of an enzyme called thyroperoxidase. EPA researchers have developed and are using a high-throughput screening assay to detect inhibitors of thyroperoxidase. This high-throughput screening assay can be used to screen thousands of chemicals at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional in vitro and/or whole animal studies.

In 2016 researchers published a scientific paper, Tiered High-Throughput Screening Approach to Identify Thyroperoxidase Inhibitors Within the ToxCast Phase I and II Chemical Libraries (Paul Friedman et al.). This paper describes the results and analysis from screening 1074 chemical samples for potential thyroperoxidase inhibition.

This the largest screening effort to date to identify chemicals that inhibit thyroperoxidase, and it’s only the beginning! This work is part of a larger EPA effort to develop a set of new high-throughput screening assays and other faster computational toxicology approaches to evaluate how chemicals might change thyroid hormone homeostasis. The ultimate goal is to screen chemicals as efficiently as possible in order to make a prediction about whether a chemical may affect thyroid hormones.

And all of EPA’s computational toxicology data, including the data from this paper on screening for thyroperoxidase inhibition, are publicly accessible. You can find and interact with the data through the EPA ToxCast Dashboard and all of the data can be downloaded from the ToxCast data download website.

About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Taking Air Sensors to Communities

By Joel Creswell

When I read about air quality in the news, it’s often described as a large scale problem where entire cities or states are being affected. While it’s important to think about these problems on a larger scale, I often wonder more about what’s happening in my neighborhood. Does the air I breathe while walking my dog down a busy street affect my health? What about if there is construction on my block or an industrial facility down the road? After all, what I really want to know about is what I’m being exposed to–something that information about regional air quality doesn’t fully capture.

Air Sensor with Briefcase that says citizen science toolbox EPA has a team of people working to make low-cost tools for community and personal air pollution monitoring more accessible. They have produced a multitude of resources to help people find the right tool to use and to make sure they’re using it correctly. These include the Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists, air sensor performance evaluations, and a set of curriculum materials for teachers on air quality and climate change. EPA also recently awarded six community air monitoring grants to organizations around the country addressing the challenges of using low-cost tools to monitor local air quality.

two people learning about air sensors

Demonstrating air sensors at the 2016 Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities.

Aside from grant funding, one of the best ways we can help individuals understand their exposure to air pollution is to meet with community leaders and help them address their air quality monitoring needs. I had just such an opportunity recently, when I attended the 2016 Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities. My colleague Dan Bator, an Environmental Health Fellow for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, and I demonstrated two low-cost monitoring technologies for airborne fine particulate matter. One was an air sensor for educational purposes only (pictured) that you can build yourself using these simple instructions and parts you can buy online. The other was the AirBeam, an off-the-shelf device developed by the non-profit group HabitatMap. Over the course of an evening, Dan and I spoke to numerous community leaders about how low-cost air sensors work and how they can measure air quality in communities and provide data to address environmental justice issues.

The problems described by community leaders varied. One was worried about the volume of traffic from a nearby port while children are going to and from school. One was concerned about industrial facilities. Another was interested in the impacts of a highway in her community. All were excited to learn that there were tools they could use to conduct their own air quality monitoring. These low-cost air quality monitors are not as accurate as the high-precision instruments used for regional and national monitoring, but the ability to monitor air quality at the local level empowers communities to address their concerns with real data.

Measuring my own air quality is important to me too. I built a particulate matter sensor using the instructions above. I’ve used it to measure the air inside my house and on my block. This gives me an idea of when pollution around me is high and when I should think about reducing my exposure, such as avoiding strenuous exercise outdoors. To help me understand my sensor readings and what actions to take, EPA has launched a pilot project to develop a scale for air sensors that provide data in short time increments. I also check the regional air quality forecast on AirNow.gov. Both can help me protect my health.

About the author: Joel Creswell is an environmental chemist and a AAAS Fellow on the EPA Office of Research and Development’s Innovation Team. Prior to coming to EPA, he worked on developing environmental trace metals analyzers for a scientific instrument company.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap logo with a holiday wreath in the center

Want to impress your relatives at the next holiday get-together? Wow them with some of these EPA science stories! Here’s the latest.

Final Report of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources
This week, EPA took an important step forward in our mission to protect clean drinking water. With the release of our final assessment of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, EPA is providing a strong scientific foundation for states and local decision makers to better protect drinking water resources in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs or is being considered. Read more about the report in the blog EPA Releases Final Report of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.

EPA Research Highlighted in New York Times
EPA biologist Dianne Nacci’s recent studies showing killifish adaptations to polluted water was featured in the New York Times article Rapid Evolution Saved This Fish from Pollution. Dr. Nacci co-authored of a study which found that over just a few decades, distinct populations of killifish independently developed similar genetic adaptations that make life possible in the most unlikely environments. Check out the study published last week in Science.

Compete to Improve Arsenic Sensing in Water
The Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition seeking innovative ways to improve arsenic sensing in water is now open! Led by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, EPA experts helped in the prize competition’s design and development.  Read more about the Competition in the blog We’re Sensing a Change in Water Monitoring: Introducing the Arsenic Sensor Prize Competition and then sign up to become a solver here.

EPA Researchers at Work
Do you ever wonder who’s behind all the amazing science at EPA? Meet some of our researchers! Check out who we are highlighting this week.

  • Worth Calfee, Ph.D. is a microbiologist working in EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center. His research focuses on improving decontamination methods for decontamination, sampling, and waste management after a bioterrorism incident. Meet EPA Microbiologist Worth Calfee!
  • Lukas Oudejans, Ph.D. is a physical scientist working in EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center. His research focuses on preparing cleanup options for the agency following a disaster incident. Meet EPA Physical Scientist Lukas Oudejans!

The Critical Role of Local Environmental Health and the Power of Partnerships
The role of local environmental health has always been important, but it’s becoming more critical as the challenges we face become increasingly complex. Through a Memorandum of Understanding, EPA and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) are working together to address these challenges. Check out this video of EPA Science Advisor Dr. Tom Burke and NEHA Executive Director David T. Dyjack discussing the new partnership at the signing last week.

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.