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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Minimizing Environmental Contamination by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Other Contaminants of Emerging ConcernEPA Grant Number: F07A10285
Title: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Minimizing Environmental Contamination by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Other Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Investigators: Scruggs, Caroline
Institution: Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Just, Theodore J.
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through September 1, 2010
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2007) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Endocrine Disruptors , Fellowship - Interdisciplinary Environmental , Academic Fellowships
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and other contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are released into the environment daily through numerous routes. Though human health effects from low-level exposure to these chemicals are still being debated, worldwide research has demonstrated that some of these chemicals can cause reproductive, developmental, and growth abnormalities in hundreds of species of wildlife. Because of the many routes of pollution, any minimization of environmental contamination by EDCs and other CECs will not be simple and may require changes in lifestyle, regulations and policy, treatment strategies, livestock/agricultural practices, and industrial operations. The objective of this project is to contribute toward a responsible and sustainable plan to minimize environmental pollution by EDCs and other harmful CECs. This plan will address environmental, wildlife, and human health concerns which are based on sound science, and will involve an optimized combination of wastewater and water treatment, policy and source control strategies, an understanding of public perceptions, and communication with policy-makers and the public.
Due to the complexity of this issue, an interdisciplinary approach will be necessary, and the project scope will be limited to water contamination issues. Research results from fields of ecology, biology, and toxicology will be used to determine which environmental contaminants are most hazardous to wildlife and humans and at what levels. Treatment strategies will be investigated to determine which of these chemicals can be adequately and sustainably removed from water and wastewater to minimize wildlife and human exposure to them. Some of the chemicals or chemical combinations will not be treatable and/or derive from non-point sources, and will require law and policy strategies to minimize their presence in the environment. The options explored will vary from source control or chemical substitution in lieu of treatment, to more extreme measures such as new regulations on industry, treatment taxes, or take-back programs for products that contain harmful chemicals. The optimum balance of cost and sustainability will be compared for different treatment and policy options.
Since most environmental contamination results from human activity, this research will also include a science communication element. Society’s understanding of its role in environmental pollution, along with public awareness and perception of the risks posed by EDCs and CECs in the environment, are important considerations in determining the amount of action society would be willing to support in combating pollution. This research will explore the most effective ways to communicate the facts and consequences of environmental contamination with EDCs and CECs to the public and policy-makers. Approaches to science communication and control of EDCs and CECs in other countries will be considered in generating a potential U.S. approach.
This research will provide: (1) a clearer understanding of how diverse factors and stakeholders interact to affect EDC and CEC discharges into the environment, and (2) a roadmap by which the environment and public health can be sustainably protected from these chemicals. The short-term benefit of this project is that it will serve as a model of interdisciplinary collaboration, inspiring similar efforts to integrate research results from relevant disciplines for a single, holistic, comprehensive solution. Long-term benefits include a step toward improved ecosystem health, safer drinking water for human consumption, and minimally polluted resources for future generations.