The Commonwealth of Kentucky is home to 20 (14 active) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Priority List Superfund hazardous waste sites and to more than 500 federal and state Superfund sites. By participating in the National Institute of Environmental Health Science nationwide family of Superfund Research Programs (SRP), the University of Kentucky meets its land grant institution mandate and continues a strong tradition of cross-disciplinary collaboration. This grant represents the continuing effort of the University of Kentucky to pursue national prominence in environmental and health research while addressing issues of extreme importance to Kentuckians.
University of Kentucky SRC research efforts focus on the idea that nutrition can positively impact the negative human health effects related to chemical exposures near Superfund sites, thereby improving health and disease outcomes associated with such exposures. The UK-SRC focuses on the health impacts of exposure to different chlorinated organic compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE) -- both of which are prevalent at Superfund sites in Kentucky and nationwide.
SRP funding supports five projects (three biomedical projects and two non-biomedical projects). The biomedical projects focus on such common diseases in Kentucky as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and hypertension. Since pollutant compounds dissolve in fat, fatty foods usually contain higher levels of persistent organics, such as PCBs, than do vegetable matter. Once absorbed, PCBs spread to body tissues. UK-SRC researchers believe that nutritional choices can reduce oxidative stress and improve antioxidant status, thus positively impacting the human effects of Superfund pollutants.
The UK-SRC non-biomedical projects investigate new techniques to detect Superfund chemicals and to minimize or remove them from the environment. In conjunction with ongoing research activities, the UK-SRC engages communities near Superfund sites through its Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores. In addition, the UK-SRC Training Core provides support and experience for graduate and postdoctoral scholars working in fields related to chemical toxicity and environmental pollutants.