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Human Exposure and Atmospheric Sciences

Sustainability

EPA scientists are developing the science, tools and information to understand real-world environmental problems, and identify effective strategies to promote sustainable solutions that can minimize environmental risks and maximize benefits in communities. EPA’s exposure-related sustainability research includes development of innovative soil-testing methods that could save millions in cleanup costs at Superfund sites; and web-based community mapping, information access and assessment tools to inform environmental health decisions. EPA scientists are also conducting research to understand links between road-related air pollution and susceptibility to asthma. Study results will be useful for decision makers in developing plans for reducing exposures to air pollution for people living near roadways.

Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST)
In an effort to enhance community-based cumulative risk assessments, EPA exposure scientists have developed the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) — a community mapping, information access, and assessment tool. C-FERST is expected to increase the availability and accessibility of science for risk ranking and understanding the environmental health consequences of community based decisions. It will incorporate the latest research estimating human exposures to toxic substances in the environment. In doing so, C-FERST will assist communities with the challenge of identifying and prioritizing environmental health issues and potential actions.

Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (Tribal-FERST)
EPA scientists are collaborating with tribes and partners to develop the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (Tribal-FERST), designed to provide the best available human health and ecological science to tribes across the country. T-FERST is a community mapping, information access, and assessment tool designed to help assess risks and assist in decision making within tribal communities.

Tools to access bioavailability and bioaccessibility of arsenic and lead in contaminated soils
EPA scientists are developing rapid, reliable, inexpensive methods for assessing the bioavailability of arsenic and lead in contaminated soils. One of these methods involves the use of mice to mimic how the human digestive system absorbs arsenic. EPA scientists are also working on a chemical extraction laboratory method that mimics the human gastrointestinal system. Scientists plan to use the mouse method to validate the new lab method. If successful, researchers will be able to determine the bioavailability of these contaminants without having to rely on animal testing at all.

Air pollution near roadways
EPA researchers are partnering with the University of Michigan on a study of the impact of vehicle emissions on near-road air quality, human exposures, and potential health effects in asthmatic children. The Near-Road Exposures to Urban Air Pollutants Study (NEXUS) is being conducted as part of EPA’s larger research program on roadway air pollution and its potential health effects. The study design will help tease out the health effects of particulate matter from diesel-burning truck and car exhaust. Particulate matter and other pollutants are being measured immediately next to the roadways and at various distances from them, to study how pollutant concentrations change as distance from the roadway increases.

Development of Federal Reference and Equivalent Methods for measuring key air pollutants
EPA researchers are continually evaluating potential new Federal Reference Methods and Federal Equivalent Methods to foster innovation and improved measurement of atmospheric pollutants. The methods are tested in the lab and field. The scientists keep up-to-date on current air pollution sensor technologies, including availability and commercialization of emerging technologies. Adopting new technologies improves EPA’s ability to measure air pollution in new ways and locations.

Systems Reality Modeling
EPA scientists are conducting the Systems Reality Modeling Project, which uses new and emerging technology to develop tools to help people understand chemicals in their environments and the risks they pose to health. This project uses smartphone barcode-scanning capabilities, computer game environments, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to collect data on human activities and chemicals in the home. The data will be used to create detailed models of exposure. The scientists are developing custom-built smartphone apps to make data collection faster and more cost-effective. Ultimately, this research will provide scientists with a fast and inexpensive way to model chemical exposures and human behavior, and provide the general public with apps and other tools to find information about chemicals in their environments.

Nanosilver and consumer products
EPA scientists are conducting research to determine whether consumer products containing nano-silver are releasing nanoparticles in unintended ways. EPA scientists are also conducting studies to examine chemical and physical changes that might occur in silver nanoparticles that are ingested with food or water by exposing the nanoparticles to synthetic human stomach fluid. To be protective of human health, EPA scientists and regulators must understand how nano-scale silver — used in a variety of consumer products — moves through the environment and transforms under different product use scenarios.

Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) Model
EPA’s Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) Model is one of several receptor models developed by EPA scientists that provide scientific support for current ambient air quality standards and implementation of those standards by identifying and quantifying the relative contributions that various air pollution sources contribute to ambient air quality in a community or region. Users of EPA’s PMF model provide files of sample species concentrations and uncertainties which the model uses to calculate the number of sources types, profiles, relative contributions, and a time-series of contributions.

Unmix 6.0 Model
EPA’s Unmix 6.0 Model is one of several receptor models developed by EPA scientists that provide scientific support for current ambient air quality standards and implementation of those standards by identifying and quantifying the relative contributions that various air pollution sources contribute to ambient air quality in a community or region. Users of EPA’s PMF model provide files of sample species concentrations and uncertainties which the model uses to calculate the number of sources types, profiles, relative contributions, and a time-series of contributions.

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