Superfund Research Center:
Climate change, increased coastal populations, and shifts in domestic economic activity markedly increase the risks of catastrophic chemical contamination events resulting from weather-related or human-caused emergencies, all of which increase the risk of potential adverse health impacts.
The Texas A&M Superfund Research Center (Superfund Center) comprehensively evaluates the complexities of hazardous chemical exposures, potential adverse health impacts, and potential hazards of exposures to complex mixtures through a series of multi-disciplinary projects that derive from a case study utilizing Galveston Bay.
More than 100 years of legacy chemicals can be found in the sediment in Galveston Bay, some of which have been caused by the industry along the Houston Ship Channel; these chemicals can be dislodged during a severe storm and transported to land. When this happened during Hurricane Ike in 2008, officials were uncertain of whether the chemicals were toxic, nor did they have the resources to determine the concentrations of the chemicals in the sediment, the changes that might have occurred when the sediment layers mixed with the rising water levels, or the extent of the impact made by industries within the Houston Ship Channel.
Texas A&M Superfund Center project teams work to measure as many “known-unknown” or “unknown-unknown” contaminants in the sediment and then expand the current understanding of additional exposures, going beyond the “one-chemical-at-a-time” approach by focusing on “whole mixtures,” which will allow the work to be applied to other, human-caused environmental crises in other locations.
A final component of the project will be the development of a comprehensive set of tools that can be used as models for cities, counties, states, the federal government, and other entities that respond to disasters in an effort to mitigate the health consequences of exposure to hazardous mixtures during emergency-related contamination events.