''The human animal is pretty tough,'' Leckie said. ''But the problem is that we're pretty ingenious, too, when it comes to designing synthetic compounds that last in the environment.''
Leckie has applied his own ingenuity in a somewhat novel way for someone in his discipline. Often environmental engineers work on cleanup projects. Over the years Leckie has had to learn much in the way of human behavior and physiology to be successful in his research. He hopes that this somewhat wide-ranging approach might someday inform legislation that will help to prevent future health risks to children.
Many laws to protect the environment and human health are already on the books. The Food Quality Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1996, recognized the importance of looking at children as a risk group. The law requires the EPA to address risks to infants and children before new pesticides are introduced and to collect better data on food consumption patterns, pesticide residue levels and pesticide use.
It's good legislation, Leckie said, but the challenge is to get politicians to realize that even the best models today are works in progress.
Leckie now hires undergraduates - cheaper than graduate students but still pricier than computers - to analyze the videotapes. With dozens of body parts to track second-by-second, it's time-consuming work.
But it's important work, too. The better the data, the more likely the models are to paint an accurate picture of the exposure to potential toxins in the environment.
''As good as our statistical and computation tools are, we still need a robust dataset,'' Leckie said.