Project 2 2017-2022

"Mitigation of chemical and mixture effects through broad-acting sorbents"

Timothy Phillips develops novel, broad-acting sorbents for chemicals that humans and animals may be exposed to during an environmental disaster. Sorbents are insoluble materials, or mixtures of materials, that may be used to remove unwanted contaminants from food, water, or the human gut.  When taken as therapeutic materials—made from naturally-occurring materials that are safe for consumption—they will tightly bind complex mixtures of hazardous chemicals in the gastrointestinal tract (intestines) and decrease chemical exposures and adverse effects, thus, helping to mitigate risk and improve the health and well-being for people and animals at the site of a natural or man-made disaster.


Following natural and man-made disasters, people and animals in areas near the site of impact, first responders, and those involved in site management and cleanup can be exposed to complex mixtures of hazardous chemicals—such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, organic solvents, and toxic metals—through contaminated drinking water and food supplies. Many of these chemicals can have severe and long-lasting effects on human health. In addition, potable water can be rapidly depleted and food can become contaminated during these events, increasing the risk of high exposure to hazardous substances. Thus, the ability to minimize human and animal exposures to complex chemical mixtures during disaster events through the use of novel sorbent materials is an attractive option.

Principal Investigators:


Timothy Phillips

The long-term goal of this work is to create and deploy novel, broad-acting enterosorbent materials developed in this project in communities at risk of exposure to hazardous substances during disasters, especially chemical emergencies. Researchers anticipate that the optimal sorbents developed in the project can be included in food (such as snacks), condiments, and flavored water, or delivered by sachet or capsule. These sorbent materials will bind to hazardous chemicals and prevent their absorption into the human body.

Specific aims:

  1. Investigate and characterize environmental chemical-to-sorbent interactions, including surface affinities, capacities, and thermodynamics. High-affinity, high-capacity sorbent materials and broad-acting mixtures of these materials are hypothesized to reduce the bioavailability and toxicity of chemicals that are mobilized during disasters.
  2. Assess the thermodynamics and mechanisms of absorption for individual chemicals onto the surfaces of selected sorbent materials using both computational and physical chemistry methods. These studies will delineate the fundamental chemical mechanisms of effective, broad-range sorbent actions and help predict the effectiveness of enterosorbent materials.