EPA Awards $7.7 Million for Research Grants to Improve Risk Assessment of Chemical Mixtures in the Environment
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 9, 2022, that it awarded $7,770,044 in research grant funding to 11 institutions to develop and evaluate innovative methods and approaches to inform its understanding of the human health risks that may result from exposure to chemical mixtures in the environment. EPA states that toxicology studies have traditionally focused on the effects of single chemicals on human health. Chemicals in the environment are often present as mixtures in the air, water, soil, food, and products in commerce, however, and these chemical mixtures include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), disinfection byproducts (DBP), and other well-characterized mixtures. According to EPA, there is a need to assess the toxicity of chemical mixtures to understand how their combined effects on human health and the environment differ from what is known about individual chemicals. Due to their lower cost and higher throughput, new approach methods (NAM) and use of alternative animal models have emerged as potential approaches to advance the risk assessment of mixtures.
To help address this research need, the institutions receiving these grants will conduct research focused on the development, improvement, evaluation, and integration of predictive toxicology methods to evaluate environmental chemical mixtures. The grantees and their project titles include:
- Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia -- High-Throughput Lung Damage and Inflammation Assessment of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbon Mixtures;
- Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina -- Developing an Integrated Framework for Evaluating Toxicity of Real-life Chemical Mixtures;
- Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana -- Protein Binding Affinity as the Driver for Studying PFAS Mixture Toxicity;
- The Research Foundation of CUNY, New York, New York -- Innovative Approach to Assess the Effect of Metal Mixtures from Infant Meconium Associated with Adverse Infant Outcomes by Identifying Methylation Loci in Mothers and Infants;
- Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas -- A Tiered Hybrid Experimental-Computational Strategy for Rapid Risk Assessment of Complex Environmental Mixtures Using Novel Analytical and Toxicological Methods;
- University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York -- Assessment of Neurotoxicity of Mixtures of PFAS and Other Neuroactive Organic Pollutants through Integrated in Silico, in Vitro Cellular, and in Vivo Models;
- University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., Athens, Georgia -- Development of a Quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathway Network to Assess Neurodevelopmental Toxicity of PFAS Mixture in C. Elegans;
- University of Houston, Houston, Texas -- Oral Toxicity Assessment of PAH Mixtures Using an in Vitro 3D Cell Culture Bioreactor Mimicking the in Vivo Intestinal Tract Environment;
- University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, Massachusetts -- Whole Animal New Approach Methodologies for Predicting Developmental Effects of Air Pollutant Mixtures;
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina -- Wildfire Smoke Mixtures Toxicity Testing; and
- Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan -- Assessment of Underlying Molecular Mechanisms Promoting Adipogenic Outcomes in Complex Mixtures.