|Impacts of Energy Resources on Human Health and Environmental Quality
|Human liver tissue exposed to environmental toxicants in our BSL-2 laboratory is examined by fluorescent microscopy. Photo credit: USGS
The hypothesis tested in this study is that energy resources may often contain toxic organic and inorganic substances that can be mobilized into the air by combustion or from dust, or leach into surface water and groundwater, posing a potential environmental threat and human health risk (linked to the etiology of human disease in certain instances). Health and environmental impacts of toxic substances mobilized from energy resources: (1) in the geologic environment, (2) from extraction, transport, storage, and utilization of energy resources, and (3) the disposal of energy waste, are addressed by project work.
The major objectives of the project are:
- Determine links between disease occurrence and energy resources through epidemiological investigations.
- Investigate the geochemistry of energy-derived organic and inorganic substances in air particulates, natural waters (especially drinking water supplies), or other matrix vectors (e.g. soil, food).
- Work with medical researchers to assess validity of links between initial epidemiological surveys and the presence of energy resource-derived chemical substances (potential xenobiotic agents) in the environment.
- Conduct toxicological studies to examine the impacts of energy-derived xenobiotics on human cell cultures, human enzyme systems, human immune function, and animal models, as appropriate.
- Develop conceptual models of the mechanisms of toxicity of energy-derived chemical substances in humans and/or on ecosystem function.
- Conduct studies of approaches for the prevention or mitigation of exposures, or remediation of air, water or other matrix vectors for energy-derived xenobiotic substances.
The approach used requires scientific expertise and collaboration across several disciplines. The strategic approach would generally follow a sequence of: (1) epidemiology to define the problem and develop an hypothesis to explain the energy resource link to the health issue in question, (2) geochemical studies to examine toxic substances in the environment that may pose a public health hazard, and (3) toxicology to establish a link to a biological effect. Finally, conceptual models are developed to put all of the epidemiological, geochemical, and toxicological pieces together.
For more information go to USGS Human Health and USGS Medical Geology. Also contact Joseph E. Bunnell , USGS National Center.
See also Human Health: Energy Impacts >>