Environmental Health Sciences

Research

Faculty and students in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences are active in a wide variety of nationally and internationally recognized multidisciplinary research, education and research centers, and training programs. 

Just some of the areas of expertise of our faculty include occupational health and safety, infectious disease, hazardous materials, industrial hygiene, exposures, toxicology, global health, air and water contaminants, health policy, cancer, foodborne illness, and health policy.

The EnHS Faculty Directory includes biographies, expertise, publications and other information for all EnHS division faculty.

Research Centers

Our division is home to many national research centers and training programs. Our faculty and students work jointly with other researchers at the University of Minnesota and throughout the world on multidisciplinary research projects. The research centers also award pilot project grants to support innovative research projects.

Learn more about the centers within our division.

Laboratory Facilities

Graduate students in Environmental Health Sciences have the opportunity to participate closely with faculty on research projects in state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, as well as in field practice settings.

The Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, shared by the IH core faculty, occupies 2,500 sq. ft. and is equipped with the latest instrumentation for measurement of gases, vapors, particulate matter, biological aerosols, noise, radiation, and hazardous materials.

The lab consists of a large room occupied by a wind tunnel, a filter tester, and two biological safety cabinets; a smaller room with a walk-in exposure chamber and two laboratory hoods; a wet-chemistry laboratory with work benches and another lab hood; and several smaller work, storage, and office spaces.

For aerosol research and measurements, the IH Lab has condensation particle counters for measuring nanoparticle concentrations, nephelometers for measuring aerosol mass concentrations, diffusion chargers capable of measuring surface area concentrations, instruments for measuring particle size distributions, samplers for collecting biological aerosols, and numerous gravimetric samplers and cascade impactors. To analyze filter samples, microbalances and microscopes are present.

The IH Lab owns equipment for gas and vapor sampling, including direct reading instruments for measuring ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations and concentrations of organic vapors. The lab also has typical industrial hygiene devices such as flow calibrators, sampling and vacuum pumps, Dräger pumps and tubes, noise dosimeters, velometers, manometers, pressure gauges, pitot tubes, and centrifugal fans. Equipment is available for generating different kinds of gases, vapors, and aerosols for experiments.

The Toxicology Laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art tissue culture facilities, high-speed centrifuge, rotors, microfuges, speed vac, environmental shaker, visible and UV spectrophotometer, fluorimeter, luminometer polymerase chain reaction (PCR), liquid scintillation counter, dark room, electrophoresis and electroblotting equipment for protein and nucleic acid purification, BioRad Econo System, and chromatography cabinet for doing work at four degrees Centigrade.

The Environmental Chemistry Laboratory is equipped with extraction and processing equipment for trace analysis of environmental samples. The lab includes three GC/MS, one LC/MS, a GC/ECD, and a scintillation counter.

Current laboratory research focuses on understanding the processes that govern organic toxicant behavior in the aquatic environment. Fundamental research in the laboratory is also conducted to develop and test hypotheses of chemical behavior in the “real world.”

The Environmental Chemistry Laboratory participates in a large multiagency effort that is developing a model for use in the Great Lakes that describes toxic chemical behavior. Additional projects concentrate on the relative roles of atmospheric versus nonatmospheric sources of chemicals to the Great Lakes and the state of Minnesota, to aid in the management and regulation of the ecosystem.

Funded Research Projects by Faculty

Bruce H. Alexander Faculty Page

Cancer and Other Disease Risks in U.S. Radiologic Technologist Cancer Incidence Update and Support for Data Analysis and Interpretation
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
08/30/2018 – 08/29/2019
The goal of this project is to link the USRT with state cancer registries pooled by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) and to evaluate the potential for using this mechanism for cancer epidemiology research. The project will use the USRT cohort which is one of very few nationwide cohorts and has been followed by the University of Minnesota and the National Cancer Institute for 35 years.

Mortality and Cancer Incidence in PFOS Exposed Workers
Funding Source: 3M
10/01/2016 – 09/30/2018
The objective of this study is to evaluate potential health risks associated with occupational exposure to perfluorooctanesulfonyl fluoride (POSF). The study will evaluate the mortality experience of workers employed at a 3M facility in Decatur Alabama that manufactured POSF and conduct a feasibility study for a linkage to regional cancer registries.

Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center
Funding Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
09/30/2011 – 09/29/2021
The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health (UMASH) Center is one of nine Centers of Excellence in Agricultural Disease and Injury Research, Education, and Prevention funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) throughout the United States. The center is a collaboration of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine, the National Farm Medicine Center of the Marshfield Clinic, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Kimberly Anderson Faculty Page

Development of Real-time Inhalable Particle Spectometer
Funding Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
09/01/2017 – 08/31/2019
The objectives of this research are to develop and to evaluate a real-time inhalable particle sizer. This research will use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and analytical modeling to optimize the sampler design, and then test the sampler in laboratory. The development of this instrument will allow researchers to characterize inhalable aerosol size distributions in occupational environments.

Susan Arnold Faculty Page

Exposure Assessment of Antineoplastic Drug Contamination on Work Surfaces
Funding Source: Univ of British Columbia / GOA prime
02/01/2018 – 04/30/2019
In this study, we will measure antineoplastic drug contamination on surfaces in pharmacy and patient care areas at three Minnesota based cancer clinics. These toxic drug residues are sources of dermal exposure. Understanding where and how much contamination is present is a critical first step in developing an efficient strategy for conducting routine surveillance and for developing targeted exposure intervention strategies.

Minnesota Technical Assistance Program
Funding Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
07/01/2010 – 06/30/2020
The goal of this project is to assist Minnesota Businesses with pollution prevention and waste management information, facilitate implementation of improved practices through on-site assistance, provide referral for compliance with environmental regulations and minimize transfer of pollutants from one environment to another.

Timothy R. Church Faculty Page

Central Data Collection Center (CDCC)
Funding Source: Westat, Inc.
06/01/2013 – 02/28/2019
The purpose of this contract is to provide support to Westat, Inc., who is administrating a centralized follow-up of participants from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial.  Follow-up of participants will provide data for molecular epidemiologic research.

Great Lakes New England Clinical Validation Center
Funding Source: University of Michigan / NIH prime
04/06/2016 – 03/31/2019
The purpose of this study is to identify biomarkers for early detection of colorectal cancer.

GNLE 010 Validation and Comparison of Biomarkers for the Early Detection of Colorectal Adenocarcinoma
Funding Source: University of Michigan / NIH prime
05/01/2017 – 04/30/2019
The purpose of this study is to recruit participants to identify biomarkers for early detection of colorectal cancer.

Susan G. Gerberich Faculty Page

Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (MCOHS) Education and Research Center
Funding Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
07/01/2014 – 06/30/2020
This education and research center, founded in 1977, was designed in response to a mandate of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) — to provide an adequate supply of qualified personnel to carry out the purposes of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and reduce the national burden of work-related injury and illness. MCOHS provides graduate academic and research training programs, continuing education and outreach activities, including research-to-practice, and serves as a regional resource for industry, labor, federal, state, and local government agencies, agriculture, and other interested parties.

Craig W. Hedberg Faculty Page

Food Safety Center of Excellence (CoE)
Funding Source: Minnesota Department of Health / CDC prime
11/15/2012 – 09/30/2022
The Minnesota Department of Health Food Safety Center of Excellence will provide technical assistance and training on epidemiological, laboratory, and environmental investigations of foodborne illness outbreaks and associated analyses. The center will identify and implement best practices in foodborne diseases surveillance and will serve as a resource for public health professionals at state, local, and regional levels. The goal of this project is to coordinate the development and use of metrics to evaluate the performance of foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak investigations. Develop academic training opportunities for public health students and working professionals to develop and improve surveillance and outbreak investigation skills.

Revisions of the Second Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Outbreak Response
Funding Source: Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologist (CSTE) / CDC prime
07/01/2017 – 01/31/2019
This project is to complete a thorough content review of the Second Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response, and to guide the development of the Third Edition.

Support for Continuation of USDA AMS-UMN Collaboration to Improve Usefulness of Microbiological Testing Data for Ground Beef
Funding Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts
06/28/2018 – 06/27/2019
This project will evaluate the impact of processing variables within plants, results of regulatory inspections, and the microbiological profiles of source animals on USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service purchase specifications for ground beef to enhance the usefulness of indicator testing of product and help refine purchasing specifications, with the goal of optimizing the public health benefits for testing dollars spent within the system.

Public Health Consequences of Foodborne Listeriosis
Funding Source: American Frozen Food Institute
09/01/2018 – 09/30/2019
This project will examine food exposure data and provide a framework to evaluate how food consumption patterns affect the risks of acquiring Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Previous Lm risk assessments will be updated with the findings from this project to evaluate the public health impact of contamination at low (non-zero) levels and product use characteristics that accomplish public health goals and help develop industry guidelines and guide regulatory policy development in the US.

Patricia M. McGovern Faculty Page

Maternal Obesity, Breast Milk Composition, and Infant Growth
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
07/10/2014 – 05/31/2019
The objective of this project is to test the lactational programming hypothesis in humans.

Claudia Muñoz-Zanzi Faculty Page

Development of a Predictive Model Encompassing Environmentally-Based Drivers to Implement Preventive Action Against Yellow Fever Outbreaks
Funding Source: Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
11/14/2017 – 10/01/2018
This project will develop predictive tools for infectious disease risk stratification and forecasting that will inform outbreak prevention and response activities, strengthen countries analytical capacities to analyze their surveillance data for timely decision-making, and support PAHO/WHO’s work in developing predictive tools for various infectious diseases of public health importance.

Jonathan Oliver Faculty Page

Dynamics of Anaplasma Phagocytophilum Infection through Tick Development
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
08/22/2016 – 06/30/2018

Lisa Peterson Faculty Page

Interactions Between Tobacco Smoke Constituents in Rodent Tumor Models
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
04/01/2014 – 03/31/2019
The goal of this project is to characterize the potential interactions between known human carcinogens (4‑methylnitrosamino-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, N-nitrosonornicotine, or benzo[a]pyrene) and volatile components of tobacco smoke (acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde) in established rodent tumor models.

American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant
Funding Source: American Cancer Society
01/01/2013 – 12/31/2016
This grant funds junior faculty seed grants for cancer research at the University of Minnesota.

Marizen Ramirez Faculty Page

Anti-Bullying Laws and Youth Violence in the United States  A Longitudinal Evaluation of Efficacy and Implementation
Funding Source: CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC-NCIPC)
09/01/2017 – 08/31/2020
This mixed methods study will involve legal analysis of anti-bullying laws passed from 1999-2017 correlated with longitudinal surveys of bullying and other forms of youth violence (fights, weapons-carrying, assaults) collected from students and school administrators across the United States. To assess if successful implementation of the law protects against bullying and youth violence, we will develop and conduct an implementation survey with K-12 school administrators and counselors in the state of Maine, and link these data to reports of bullying and other youth violent behaviors.

Link For Schools: A System to Prevent Violence and its Adverse Impacts
Funding Source: University of Iowa / NIJ prime
07/01/2017 – 06/30/2021
Link for schools is system that incorporates principles of Trauma Informed Care and Psychological First Aid to intervene on mental and behavioral precursors of violence and to mitigate its impacts among exposed youth. The objective of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of Link in reducing school violence and improving school outcomes, and to assess Link’s cost effectiveness. This study will be set in 12 schools with an enrollment of almost 5000 students from the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD), the second largest district in Iowa.

Surveillance of Injuries and Risk Factors Using Workers’ Compensation Data
Funding Source: University of Iowa / NIOSH prime
09/30/2016 – 09/29/2018
This study will lead to improved surveillance of agricultural injuries and risk factors. Through a partnership with Nationwide Insurance, Workers’ Compensation will be assessed as a data source for agricultural injuries, and a new tool developed by Nationwide to monitor agricultural hazards/risk factors will be evaluated for its ability to predict injury.

Peter C. Raynor Faculty Page

Midwest Emerging Tech Public Health & Safety Program (METPHAST)
Funding Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
08/01/2013 – 7/31/2021
The METPHAST Program is a multi-institutional education program, led by the University of Minnesota with partners at the University of Iowa and Dakota County Technical College, that trains and educates students and working professionals regarding health and safety issues associated with emerging technologies. The program’s objective is to develop a comprehensive array of focused, web-based modules about nanotechnology health and safety that can be used by instructors to tailor education and training initiatives to serve the unique needs of different learners.

Matt C. Simcik Faculty Page

Development of a Novel Approach for in Situ Remediation of PF
Funding Source: Department of Defense (DOD)
02/10/2014 – 12/31/2018
The primary purpose of this research is to use coagulants to sequester perfluorinated compounds to the solid phase in groundwater systems where fire training activity has been conducted by the military, and resulted in extensive contamination of the groundwater.

Development of Toxicity Reference Values (TRVs) for Birds Exposed to PFOS, PFOA and Associated Mixtures of Fluorinated Compounds
Funding Source: Department of Defense (DOD)
09/29/2016 – 09/29/2019
The goal of this project is to develop avian ecotoxicity information for compounds associated with aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) in birds. In particular, we propose to determine the acute toxicity of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) separately and in combination in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), and to determine the acute toxicity of other perfluoroalkyl substances relative to PFOS in Japanese quail using two historic formulations of AFFF, notably 3M and Ansul formulations, which represent electrochemical fluorination and fluorotelomer technologies. Finally, we propose to develop toxicity reference values (TRVs) for PFOS and PFOA in Japanese quail based on chronic feeding studies.

Irina Stepanov Faculty Page

Constituent Yields and Biomarkers of Exposure for Tobacco Product Regulation
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
09/02/2013 – 08/31/2018
This study aims to develop a testing approach that can produce meaningful predictions of changes in human exposure due to changes in constituent levels in cigarette smoke, and hence serve as a reliable measure for product regulation.

Nornicotine in Smokeless Tobacco as a Precursor for Carcinogen Exposure
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
05/01/2014 – 04/30/2019
This study investigates endogenous formation of the carcinogenic nitrosamine NNN upon exposure to nornicotine from tobacco use, and the effect of the reduction of nornicotine content in smokeless tobacco on the extent of endogenous NNN formation.

William A. Toscano Faculty Page

Hazardous Material Worker Health and Safety Training
Funding Source: University of Cincinnati/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) prime
04/24/2015 – 07/31/2020
The Midwest Consortium for Hazardous Waste Worker Training has been funded since 1987 by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to develop, present and evaluate model worker training programs to help employers comply with 29 CFR 1910.120. We offer in-person hazmat and hazwoper training, custom trainings at our site or yours to meet the needs of groups and companies, and community workshops.

Worker Training Program (WTP) Ebola Biosafety and Infectious Disease Response Training
Funding Source: University of Cincinnati / NIEHS prime
06/01/2016 – 05/31/2017
The major objective of this funding opportunity is to assist in the training and education of workers within the US in understanding how infectious diseases with varying transmissibility, incubation periods and clinical outcome are spread in an occupational environment and what measures can be taken to shield workers from potential exposure. Safety and health training will provide workers with the skills and knowledge to protect themselves and their communities from potential exposure to contaminated material (biological, chemical or radiological) or infected individuals who may be encountered.

Air emissions Assessment and Source Reduction Identification
Funding Source: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
10/01/2016 – 09/30/2018
This proposal seeks to identify sources of air emissions from small and large businesses in a target Minneapolis community, develop strategies to reduce these releases into the surrounding neighborhoods and initiate efforts to implement these reduction options.

Pollution Prevention Opportunities in the Minnesota Food
Funding Source: MN Pollution Control Agency
10/01/2016 – 09/30/2018
This project will focus on providing direct technical assistance for the food processing industry in Minnesota to optimize energy use, water use/wastewater quality and hazardous material use for the purpose of reducing industry environmental impacts and maintaining strong businesses within the state.

Research Center Projects

The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) is an outreach program under the Division of Environmental Sciences that helps Minnesota businesses develop and implement industry-tailored solutions that prevent pollution at the source, maximize efficient use of resources, and reduce energy use and costs to improve public health and the environment.  

Currently funded projects under MnTAP include:

Driving Wastewater Treatment Energy Efficiency through a Cohort Training and Implementation Plan
Funding Source: MN Department of Commerce
02/14/2018 – 06/30/2019
The target outcome of this project will be a regional wastewater treatment operations staff cohort training model to achieve energy efficiency. This project seeks to overcome the identified barriers to energy efficiency work through development of a training guide for a facilitated cohort based energy efficiency program at a scale and level appropriate for small to mid-size WWTPs across Minnesota. A key output to this effort will be vetting the training model with key industry stakeholders such as operations management and staff, industry associations and utility providers to address the varied perspectives on the topic. This work will outline program details needed to deliver energy training and activities that motivate site engagement, enable identification of energy efficiency opportunities, and empower implementation of these opportunities to reduce energy intensity of wastewater facilities. In addition, the project seeks to streamline the oversight and cost structure for service delivery to encourage program replication.

Non-Residential Water Efficiency through MnTAP Site Assessments and Interns
Funding Source: Washington County
01/01/2018 – 12/31/2018
Through this project, MnTAP staff will continue to explore opportunities for water efficiency by non-residential water users in Washington County. Primary focus will be on industrial businesses within the county, though other non-residential businesses or organizations may be considered. MnTAP will provide on-site technical assistance to one to two businesses or organizations within Washington County for the purpose of identifying water efficiency opportunities and providing technical recommendations on best practices for water management. In addition to technical assistance, this project will support one intern project at a site in Washington County. This site can be derived from a technical assistance site or an additional site. Washington County will gain information on water efficiency opportunities and intern project results will be summarized in an executive summary and presented at a public event.

Water Conservation Intern Project
Funding Source: Metropolitan Council
05/22/2014 – 12/31/2019
Through this project, MnTAP interns will explore opportunities for water conservation by businesses in the eleven county metro area through a contract with the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services. Through this work Metropolitan Council Environmental Services will gain information on water conservation opportunities. As part of this project, results will be summarized in executive summaries on water conservation resulting from three detailed intern project investigations and presented at a public event.

Choosing Safer Products – HAP and VOC Reductions from Degreasing Operations in North Minneapolis
Funding Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
06/23/2017 – 06/30/2019
Through this project, MnTAP will recruit and assist at least 10 businesses to support adoption of less toxic, low-VOC and non-HAP alternative degreasing solvents in industrial degreasing and vehicle maintenance operations in North Minneapolis. MnTAP will identify facilities using hazardous degreasing products, conduct outreach to businesses about the availability of alternative products, and engage at least 10 businesses to support adoption of safer alternatives through technical assistance and free product samples. MnTAP will also assess the factors that influence the adoption of safer alternatives, evaluate the project, and report and disseminate findings.

Sustainable Spirits – Reducing Environmental Impact of Breweries and Distilleries in Minnesota
Funding Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
06/30/2017 – 09/30/2018
Develop an outreach and technical assistance model to engage breweries and distilleries in Minnesota to strengthen their businesses by reducing environmental impacts and production costs. MnTAP will use benchmarking, on site technical assistance and implementation support to identify recommendations for reducing process inputs. Benchmarking activities identify opportunity areas at each facility. Technical assistance uncovers opportunities for reducing waste generated, optimizing water use and wastewater effluent compliance and improving energy efficiency. Implementation support brings needed resources to facilitate implementation of process improvements.Information from this project will be shared broadly through the industry.

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