For more information:Email Us
Everyday Exposures - Toxins & Health
This pilot grant opportunity focused on the effects of environmental toxins on human health. Environmental toxins are frequently, but not exclusively, derived from human activity and may be present in the air, water, land, food, or manufactured products in concentrations affecting human health. For example, a recent Science review, “Exposome & Health”, captures the diversity and range of exposures to a variety of stimuli, including synthetic chemicals, dietary constituents and increasingly noise and temperature, as well as their corresponding biological responses. The impact of local air quality, as assessed by concentrations of particulates, has recently been defined as a significant contributor to increased mortality from COVID-19. We strive to fund innovative translational research proposals that address unmet human health needs that are outside of currently funded research work or that extend such work into novel applications.
Pilot grant proposals may focus on a variety of environmental toxin concepts, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Diagnostic technologies
- Biomarkers for disease detection, disease progression, or clinical response
- Preventative or therapeutic treatment modalities
- Educational methodologies
- Associated disease causation
- Health disparities
- Toxin remediation
- Public policy
- Environmental or architectural design
All Harvard University-appointed junior and senior faculty members were encouraged to apply for this funding opportunity.
Funding decisions were announced in May 2021.
Principal Investigator: Joseph Allen, DSc. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Building materials often contain harmful chemicals such as flame retardants, pesticides or stain repellents to name but a few. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors where they are known to interfere with the endocrine system and can adversely affect fertility, fetal development, thyroid function. This project will build upon two previous studies, in the first study over 100 chemicals were measured in silicone wristband worn by office workers in buildings across the US, UK, China, and India and showed that there are significant differences in chemical exposures by country. In a second study using in vitro cell assays, Allen has shown that the chemical mixtures in office dust have considerable effects on human hormone. In combining these two studies, this project will use a novel approach where in vitro cell assays on the silicone wristbands will be used to measure the disruption of estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone receptors. Additionally, the project will evaluate country differences in the hormone-disrupting potential of personal chemical exposures in buildings.
Principal Investigator: David Cantonwine, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
This project will create and validate an environmental history screening questionnaire that can be used to evaluate environmental toxin exposures in pregnancy. The first aim of this project will adapt a survey, that has been developed by the National Environmental Education Foundation, to assess maternal exposure to phthalates, hydrocarbons, pesticides, volatile organic compounds and toxic metals during the first trimester. The second aim of this study will assay blood and urine for metal exposure.
Principal Investigator: Qi Sun, DSc. MD, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health
Using cohorts of the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, this project will investigate the possible associations of PFAS and lipoproteins that carry various apolipoproteins and whether these associations are related to an increase in coronary heart disease risk.
Principal Investigator: Katherine von Stackelberg, ScD, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
This project will take publicly available biomonitoring data of levels of PFAS in human blood and compare this with the response of human cells to levels of PFAS using in vitro assays. Using a regulatory construct known as an “adverse outcome pathway”, these data will combined in order to better understand the levels of PFAS and their effect on the immune system.
Principal Investigator: Xuehong Zhang, DSc. BM, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
The incidence of liver cancer has tripled since the 1980s and the underlying causes are unclear. Using two unique data sources, this project will investigate the association of PFAS exposure and liver cancer. The data from three population based cohorts that have up to 30 years of follow-up will be used and as well as a novel cohort of people with liver cirrhosis derived from the Mass General Brigham Biobank.