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Current EHS Research Projects

Using GIS modeling to compute traffic exposure for a cohort of children followed by the Arizona Respiratory Center. Traffic exposures are assessed in relation to incidence of lower respiratory tract infections and wheezy phenotypes.

We are taking soil samples, dust samples and TSP samples from near Saginaw Hill. The samples are being analyzed for crustal elements and other heavy metals. These results will help us to develop, validate and revise a model soil contaminant transport. Ultimately this model could be used to assess relative contribution of soil particles to the indoor environment and aid with decision of appropriate mitigation procedures.

This is a field sampling based project to take water and breast-milk samples from women in Nogales, AZ and analyze them for TCE. A questionnaire is being developed to help identify risk factors. Ultimately, these results will be combined with a PBPK model for TCE in the infant and used to compute cancer risk from various routes of exposure.

The goals of this study are to utilize existing and archived population-based questionnaire and biological data that describe food and water consumption histories and exposures to construct predictive models for urinary arsenic biomarkers that can be used as indicators of arsenic exposure and health effect outcomes. Five publications were published in relation to this study. This was an EPA funded study. 

Global Mining Community Health - Environmental Exposures.

Eric Lutz was a contributor on this project but has since left the University of Arizona. 

The project provides public education, evaluates the content of private wells, and integrates the efforts of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Pharmacy, and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

This project focuses on work with farmers in rural communities for the promotion of safe animal practices to prevent infectious agent spread. Rural communities involved are located in Arizona. This project is a part of a subcontract. Project funding comes from the United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA - AFRI). 

This proposal aims to determine the presence of toxin-producing cyanobacteria associated with algal bloom events in canal drinking water sources of Egypt. This is a proposal to the U.S. - Egypt Joint Science and Technology Board. 

This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of household bleach for preventing the growth of mold on porous gypsum-wall board. Drywall tiles were inoculated with Penicillium brevi-compactum and Alternaria alternata spores. The molds were grown under saturated conditions for one week to encourage mycelium production and the tiles were treated with a household bleach solution (5250 ppm sodium hypochlorite) with a 10 minute contact time. Treatment with water and no treatment were included as controls. Household bleach reduced >99% of mold on drywall surfaces.

This study is an NIH/NHLBI funded project that is examining the effectiveness of a school based hand sanitizer program on asthma exacerbations in elementary school children.

This project is a small/pilot project program with the Southern California NIOSH Education and Research Center. This project was funded by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) through the CDC and NIOSH. For this project, I am serving as Ms. Sugeng's primary sponsor.

Melanoma is a public health concern since the incidence is increasing faster than any other cancer in the United States. While ultraviolet radiation is a widely accepted risk factor for this disease, understanding the possible role arsenic exposure may play in the development of melanoma will allow for a more developed base of knowledge regarding the etiology of melanoma.We will conduct a population-based case-control study of incident cutaneous melanoma (CM) cases and arsenic content detected in toenail samples.

Abstract not available. 

This project will focus on the design of a miniaturized flow cytometer (a device for counting cells) for the detection of human viruses using engineered molecular beacons. These probes target unique microbial nucleotides, producing a fluorescent signal. This approach integrates optical detection systems for fast, quantitative signal measurement. Microfluidic systems reduce reagent volumes, system cost, size, and power requirements while addressing the need for rapid, real-time environmental monitoring and disease diagnostics.

Evaluation of Disinfecting Wipes for the Interruption of Pathogen Surrogate Transfer in the Environment.

Development and Validation of a Questionnaire to Assess Swimming Pool Exposures and Health Outcomes.

Noise exposures and hearing loss in the mining industry continue to be a major problem, despite advances in noise control technologies. This study evaluated the effectiveness of engineering, administrative, and personal noise controls using both traditional and in-ear dosimetry by job task, work shift, and five types of earplug. The noise exposures of 22 miners performing deep shaft-sinking tasks were evaluated during 56 rotating shifts in an underground mine. Miners were earplug-insertion trained, earplug fit-tested, and monitored utilizing traditional and in-ear dosimetry.

Abstract not available. 

Eric Lutz was a contributor on this project but has since left the University of Arizona. 

Collect water and toenail samples from community of well water users.

The Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC)

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Description: An increasingly militarized border region has deeply embedded immigration enforcement policy into the daily lives of residents, including farmworkers living and working in the region. Objective: The institutionalization of ethno-racial profiling in immigration and local law enforcement, and the sanctioned use of Mexican appearance as probable cause for citizen inspection is a potential structural determinant of health yet to be explored.

This project involved an Occupational Exposure Assessment and Inflammatory Biomarker Evaluation of diesel versus bio-diesel emissions, specifically in underground mining. This project was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

The goal of this project is to generate pilot data on the extrinsic incubation period for an important dengue vector. We used this to translate a mathematical model into MATLAB. This model is being used to investigate weather-related vector abundance for dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile virus vectors. Support for this project came from the University of Arizona Center for Insect Science. 

The goal of this project is to 1) to demonstrate utility and feasibility of detection of LTBI among migrant farmworkers, and to compare outcomes in the US and Mexico and; 2)To assess follow-up of workers detected with LTBI and ability to link individuals to care. Through additional funding, we have been able to expand the work to include further care for participating migrant farmworkers in conjunction with the Migrant clinicians Network.

The quality of irrigation water drawn from surface water sources can vary greatly. This is particularly true for waters that are subject to intermittent contamination events such as runoff or direct entry of livestock upstream of use. Such pollution in irrigation systems increases the risk of food crop contamination. A single sample does not adequately characterize the risk potential present in large irrigation systems often utilized in the Southwestern US.

The goal of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of the XStream Infection Control system against viruses, bacteria and spores from the air, surfaces and human hand transfers. Microbial surrogates will be used to represent human enteric and respiratory viruses (i.e. influenza and norovirus), MRSA and other bacterial pathogens, and C. difficile spores. The resulting data can be used for the development of exposure and risk assessment models for determining the relative risk reduction in human populations following XStream Infection Control system use.

The Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research (CIEHR) is a Center of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research supported by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more at

Problem Statement and Justification: Mining remains a dangerous profession.  Risk management is a cyclical process of identifying operations or activities at high risk for injuries, redesigning operating procedures to reduce risks, implementing these changes and evaluating their effectiveness.  Internationally, risk management is a legal requirement in many countries, but in the U.S.

First Renewal of the Intergovernmental Agreement Between the City of Tucson and the Arizona Board of Regents: The Contractor shall provide specialized Services related to the development of new technology and methods for improved monitoring and detection of microbiological and chemical contaminants in the drinking water distribution system. These Services will improve Tucson Water's investigative capabilities by providing real...time contaminant data in the field.

Infections with Legionella have been steadily increasing over the past decade. Current strategies regarding Legionella have been focused on response-based approaches rather than prevention-based. The purpose of this study is to bring together the resources to create a comprehensive, interactive online training focused on preventative interventions.

Prenatal exposure to organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) has been associated with a wide range of adverse childhood outcomes [1]–[7]. However, most of these studies rely on OP biomarkers in the general population. These biomarkers disproportionately reflect non-toxic dietary ingestion of metabolites and cannot distinguish between parent pesticides. Exposure metrics that use agricultural pesticide applications may overcome these limitations, but such studies are limited to California.

The University of Arizona (UA), Department of Community, Environment & Policy (the Contractor) agrees to carry out the scope of work and provide the specific deliverables described below to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The proposed work is part of an OEHHA-led study designed to further our understanding of chemicals that can be released from crumb rubber under various environmental conditions, human exposures to these chemicals, and the associated chemical hazards and risks to human health.

The contractor provided specialized Services related to the development of new technology and methods for improved monitoring and detection of microbiological and chemical contaminants in the drinking water distribution system. These Services were focused on improving Tucson Water's investigative capabilities by providing real...time contaminant data in the field. Real-time data can be used to assist in the selection of proper analyses techniques and to determine appropriate responses to emergent events.

Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples and can assist in identifying organisms present in any environment. Metagenomics provides faster and more precise analysis of multiple samples, delivers information on pathogen occurrence in water, allows scientists to identify organisms not previously possible using culture based-methods, and has revolutionized the way scientists view the living world. Sequencing of irrigation water could validate the use of traditional indicator organism in southwest US canals.

The pilot project was focused on obtaining preliminary data to highlight the tremendous potential of using the renowned Arizona Respiratory Center (ARC) cohorts for NIEHS-funded air pollution epidemiology projects. More specifically, this pilot project allowed us to demonstrate access to exclusive historical air pollution data as well as demonstrate our capabilities to measure air pollutants in order to develop land-use regression (LUR) models for exposure assessment.

On August 5, 2015, 3 million gallons of acid mine drainage was accidentally released from the Gold King Mine spill, eventually reaching the San Juan River - the spiritual and physical lifeblood of the Navajo Nation. As a result, environmental contamination from catastrophic mine spills severely impacted indigenous people to the core of their spiritual and physical livelihoods, and there became a potential for unique exposure pathways and greater health risks.

This project used pesticide application data from Arizona Department of Agriculture to determine children’s exposure to pesticide.  The exposures were then spatially linked to biomarker measurements to determine the efficacy of the model. This project was supported by the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

This goal of this study was to determine if soil characteristics might determine where Coccidioides sp. grows in the Tucson basin.  The soil type was geo-spatially linked to severe cases of Valley fever to determine whether proximity to specific soil types would result in enhanced disease incidence. This project was supported by ADCRC. 

This environmental epidemiology project is a mentored research award (K99/R00) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The project's goals are to 1) create models of atmospheric dispersions of agricultural organophosphorus and pyrethroid pesticide applications over a 20 year period in Arizona, 2) to construct a case control study of ADHD in Arizona by applying a validated algorithm to Medicaid (AHCCCS) claim records, and 3) to examine associations between the modeled ambient pesticide concentrations during fetal/early life and ADHD.

This research supplement expanded analyses of arsenic and UVR exposures to additional analyses accounting for location and time using spatial epidemiology methods including Geographic Information Systems (GIS). To accomplish this, Marvin Langston was trained in GIS technologies and spatial epidemiologic methods under the mentorship of Dr. Dennis and a co-mentor Dr. Brown (another MEZCOPH faculty with expertise in GIS, not on the parent grant). These methods will then be applied to the arsenic and UVR exposures in relationship to melanoma within this study.

Asthma prevalence among Navajo children is 2 times that of the general population and is fueled by disparities including poverty, environmental pollutants, and minimally accessible healthcare. This project on the Navajo Nation will address these disparities using a community-based intervention targeting healthcare providers, schools, parents, children, and community members. This project was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. 

SARS-CoV-2 can be deposited on surfaces when shed from an infected individual. Hospitals have implemented increased routine cleaning protocols. The purpose of this study is to determine the level of contamination, the efficacy of the cleaning protocol, and if certain host factors influence the levels of the virus on surfaces.

Stomach cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death globally. Rates for stomach cancer are 3-4 times higher among the Navajo Nation compared to the non-Hispanic white population in Arizona. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) plays a role in the healthy human gut, but it is also associated with multiple chronic diseases, including stomach cancer. A multi-year research program, conducted in partnership with Northern Arizona University through the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention, seeks to estimate the prevalence of H. pylori among Native Americans.

Chronic diseases can be caused by a multitude of factors including numerous environmental exposures. To better understand how exposures to mixed contaminants in water may relate to gastric cancer rates, we exposed gastric organoids to a mixed matrix of contaminants to quantify how targeted health outcomes change with exposure scenarios. Preliminary results indicate increased H. pylori  infection and cancer markers with increased arsenic concentrations. Results are important for identifying at risk communities and preventing gastric cancers.

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