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LSU receives $3.6 million to fund center studying hazardous waste cleanup and health impacts

BATON ROUGE LSU Professor and Patrick F. Taylor Chair of Chemistry Barry Dellinger was recently awarded a grant of $3.6 million by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, or NIEHS, to support a Superfund Research Center focusing on hazardous waste disposal and its impact on public health. It is the only center ever awarded by this program that is not located at a medical school or school of public health.

"This grant is the result of a highly competitive process," said Dellinger, who serves as director of the center. "It forges a research partnership with LSU and its Health Sciences Centers in both New Orleans and Shreveport."

LSU's Superfund Research Center, supported with NIEHS dollars generated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will look into the health effects of toxic combustion products. Combustion, or burning, was once the primary means of disposal for hazardous waste.

"The problem is that burning something doesn't completely get rid of it," said Dellinger. "It leaves behind lots of small particles, many of which are nanoscale in size."

Because of this fact, Dellinger, who in the past assisted the Environmental Protection Agency with developing its toxic waste disposal guidelines, said that the group's sub-focus will look at the role of combustion-related nanoparticles to determine if they have special and perhaps more harmful properties because of their size.

The group will also study environmentally-persistent free radicals, or EPFRs, which are a specialty of Dellinger's and a potentially revolutionary concept for scientists.

"Environmentally-persistent free radicals are essentially incomplete molecules that we believe are actually how many pollutants truly exist within the environment when they are attached to fine particles," said Dellinger. "Other researchers assume that the pollutants exist as molecules rather than radicals."

If the research group can prove this theory, it will essentially wipe the scientific slate clean and clear the path for a completely new avenue of research.

"We're hoping that we can convey the importance of these radicals and encourage epidemiological studies on the subject," said Dellinger.

The center has a multi-layered task, which, while focusing on research, also has the task of public outreach, training and associated tasks. Researchers will work closely with communities that are home to such toxic waste disposal sites and will reach out to those affected by their proximity.

Other project and support core leaders involved in the center include:


  • Randy Hall, professor of chemistry
  • Slawomir Lomnicki, research assistant professor of chemistry
  • Robin McCarley, Barbara Womack Alumni Professor of Chemistry
  • Erwin Poliakoff, Roy Paul Daniels Professor of Chemistry
  • Margaret Reams, associate professor of environmental sciences
  • Maud Walsh, associate professor of plant, environmental and social sciences
  • Isiah Warner, Boyd Professor and Philip W. West Chair in Air Quality/Environmental Analytical Chemistry and vice chancellor for strategic initiatives

LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans

  • Wayne Backes, professor of pharmacology, associate dean for research and co-director of LSU's Superfund Research Center
  • Stephania Cormier, associate professor of pharmacology
  • Kurt Varner, professor and interim head of pharmacology

LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport

  • Tammy Dugas, associate professor of pharmacology

"Ours is a fantastically integrated team," said Dellinger. "It's truly both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary; all parts have to work well together in order to be successful. I'm extremely proud that we have been awarded such an exceptional opportunity."


Contact: Ashley Berthelot
Louisiana State University

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