Brown wins major award to improve environment, protect RI health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Rhode Island, home of America's first factory, launched the industrial revolution with its textile mills and metal works. But there is a legacy to this proud manufacturing past: Hundreds of acres of contaminated land.

The state is home to 13 sites on the Superfund National Priorities List waste sites considered the most dangerous in the nation. Rhode Island is also home to an estimated 300 brownfields, residential, commercial or industrial property that may require cleanup before being reused.

A new Brown University research program will address the health and environmental concerns created by this contamination. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, or NIEHS, has awarded Brown a four-year, $11.5-million grant to help scientists identify health threats posed by hazardous waste and come up with new tools to remove it.

The grant is one of Brown's largest research awards in the last five years. It establishes Brown as one of 18 universities funded under the Superfund Basic Research Program administered by the NIEHS, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. The program's premise is simple: Use science to protect public health and improve the environment.

To achieve this goal, the Superfund Basic Research Program takes a fresh approach, bringing together scientists from different fields to conduct research and quickly translate findings into policy briefs, educational materials or marketable technologies that benefit the public.

Under the University's program, researchers from Brown Medical School will evaluate the health effects of exposure to common toxicants such as asbestos, PCBs and mercury. Chemical experts from the Division of Engineering will develop safe, affordable remediation devices.

One Brown research project may produce a medical test that can assess DNA damage from hexavalent chromium, a toxic metal found in 40 percent of Superfund sites nationwide. Another aims to cr

Contact: Wendy Lawton
Brown University

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