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    Environmental and Injury Epidemiology and Toxicology Unit

    1100 West 49th Street
    Austin, TX 78756

    Phone: 1-800-588-1248
    Fax: 512-776-7222


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TEHI Projects

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Lead Exposure - West Dallas Area & Cadillac Heights (September 2002 – August 2006)
TEHI
provided Parkland Health and Hospital System (Parkland) in Dallas, Texas, with approximately $545,000 to conduct the pilot project outlined in the TEHI originating legislation.  Parkland conducted a two-phase project designed to assess the health of people in the West Dallas area and Cadillac Heights.  Phase 1 consisted of taking a medical history with a focus on potential lead exposure.  Phase 2 consisted of a focused physical examination and laboratory testing designed to detect lead poisoning and other important health problems.  A total of 4,215 individuals participated in Phase 1 and 2,797 individuals participated in Phase 2.  Follow-up educational activities also were conducted.  A report for the project was prepared and submitted on November 28, 2005.  The pilot project was completed and the results were submitted to the 78th Legislature.

Parkland Lead Study:2002. Final Report of Analysis of Health Survey Data - Bert Little, PhD, Counsulting Research Scientist


Screening for Asbestos - Related Lung Diseases Associated with W.R. Grace & Co./Texas Vermiculite
(June 2006 – August 2007)
TEHI provided Parkland Health and Hospital System (Parkland) in Dallas, Texas, with approximately $192,900 to conduct a screening program for asbestos-related lung diseases among former workers, family members, and residents who lived near the former W.R. Grace & Co./Texas Vermiculite site in Dallas.  Parkland organized and conducted a community education program concerning the methods and findings from the surveillance activities.  For this project, 378 chest x-rays were reviewed.  Two-hundred sixteen people were found to have no medically significant abnormalities on x-ray.  Individuals with indications of other potential abnormalities were advised to see their physician.  Participants identified with possible asbestosis were provided an opportunity to be followed-up with a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT).  Results from the PFT were reviewed by occupational medical physicians at UT Health Science Center at Tyler. 

Report of Project Design And Preliminary Findings To The Texas Department of State Health Services - Parkland Health & Hospital System and The University of Texas Health Center at Tyler.


Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and Superfund Site Map Layers & GeoDatabase
(July 2007 – August 2007)
TEHI provided Texas State University and Texas A&M University Health Science Center with approximately $37,000 to develop the GIS-based Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Map Layers and GeoDatabases in order to create a comprehensive geographic information system for 2002 through 2005 TRI reporting facilities.  Developing these GIS components expanded the coverage of the environmental databases and updated health outcome data on birth defects and congenital malformations to enable additional research on adverse health outcomes and environmental exposures.  In addition, Texas State University and Texas A&M University Health Science Center extended the GIS-Based Superfund Site Map Layers and GeoDatabases.  These updated databases were linked to the respective geocoded addresses of industrial facilities and boundaries of more recently added superfund sites.


Database of Environmental Hazards
(July 2007 – August 2007)
TEHI provided The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University with approximately $112,300 to develop an integrated system to monitor environmental hazards that could potentially impact human health.  The integrated system of technologies and resources resulting from this effort, particularly the GIS-based mapping overlays and precise near-real time databases of environmental health hazards that exist throughout the State of Texas, could be used to improve the ability of municipal services, communities, industry, and individual citizens to prepare for and respond to hazardous incidents or disasters.  These highly accurate and easily up-datable digital overlays and databases could be readily accessible to local and state emergency first responders and hazardous materials teams, and may be utilized by environmental scientists to enhance their understanding of where biological and chemical hazards occur and how they may affect people.


Survey of the Trace Element Geochemistry of Texas Soils
(August 2007-August 2009)
TEHI provided the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG), who has been working with the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), with approximately $159,800 to collect samples to complete coverage of the Geochemical Survey of Texas in order to create a new higher precision survey of the trace element geochemistry of Texas soils.  These data will provide state agencies and others with information needed to assess whether metal contaminants at a site (e.g., state and federal superfund sites) have impacted the soil.  These types of assessments are needed when identifying populations potentially exposed to environmental metals in the areas immediately surrounding such sites.  BEG collected soil samples from the approximately 600 sample “cells” remaining to complete the Geochemical Survey of Texas, following the sampling plan generated by the USGS.  The samples were shipped to the USGS for metal analysis.  Per an agreement with BEG, these data will be supplied to TEHI as soon as they are available.


Proximity to Hazardous Waste Sites and Industrial Facilities and Selected Pregnancy Outcomes Among Residents of Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties (October 2007-March 2008)
TEHI provided Texas State University and Texas A&M University Health Science Center with approximately $38,400 to conduct an epidemiological sub-analysis utilizing the Texas State and Federal Superfund (Hazardous Waste Site) Database, 2004, and the Reported Air Emissions from the Toxic Release Inventory in Texas, 1996-2001.  The relationship between residential proximity to state and federal superfund sites and industries reporting air emissions of chemicals and selected birth defects, low birth weight, and preterm birth was determined.  Additional geographic information system (GIS) functions were added to the GIS-EpiLink and linked with environmental and birth data in the Dallas area from 1996 through 2003.  Race/ethnicity and other measures of socioeconomic status and their association with maternal residential proximity to waste sites and industrial facilities for Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties also were explored.  Overall, the study found no convincing evidence that residents who lived in close proximity to state or federal superfund sites in Dallas, Denton, or Tarrant counties were more likely to have the adverse pregnancy outcomes studied.  However, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant county residents were more likely to give birth to babies with neural tube defects during the study period of 1997 – 2000 if they lived near industrial facilities with reported air emissions of chemicals.  This finding should be interpreted with caution as no exposure analyses for ambient or personal exposures were conducted and information regarding folic acid and vitamin intake (known to reduce risk of neural tube defects) and other risk factors was not available.

Proximity to Hazardous Waste Sites and Industrial Facilities and Selected Pregnancy Outcomes Among Residents of Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties Presentation

Hazardous Waste Sites, Industrial Facilities, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes in Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties.  1997-2000 Report.


GIS-Augmented Environmental Health Research in Texas: Maternal Residential Proximity to Superfund Sites and Low Birth Weight in Offspring (March 2008-August 2009)
TEHI provided Texas State University with approximately $87,900 to determine if low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams) could be potentially related to environmental exposures of Texas mothers who lived near federal or state superfund sites at the time children were born.  The case-control study looked at the distances between each possible pair of a mother's residence location at the time of delivery of a case/control and a superfund site from 1996 through 2004.  These distances were used as a proxy for exposure.  After obtaining data about potential environmental exposure and linking the birth data and environmental data, logistic regression was used to conduct the epidemiologic analysis.  Odds ratios were adjusted for a number of variables including maternal age, race/ethnicity, education, parity, multiple births, and proximity to Toxic Release Inventory sites.  Residential proximity was defined as a maternal residence distance within 1 mile or closer distances from active superfund sites.  The referent (unexposed) group consisted of women who lived one or more miles away from superfund sites.  Overall, the study did not find any compelling evidence that a maternal residence near hazardous waste sites at delivery was associated with low birth weight in offspring.

Maternal Residential Proximity to Superfund Sites and Low Birth Weight in Offspring Presentation


Bayesian Risk Mapping of Childhood Cancer Around Texas Superfund Sites (March 2008-August 2009)

TEHI provided Texas A&M University with approximately $150,000 to model the small scale spatial patterns of childhood cancer risks around the 47 federal superfund sites in Texas.  These modeling results enable focused investigation of potential high risk locations.  The risk modeling was performed using a cancer database collected and linked with birth records.  All childhood cancer diagnoses with incidence from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 2003 were grouped into 19 groups based on the most recent International Classification of Childhood Cancers (ICCC-3).  Some pooling of very rare cancer types was performed.  The spatial mapping divides the target areas into many very small segments called pixels.  For each pixel the risk for each cancer histotype was estimated, adjusted for race.  Detailed risk surfaces capable of demonstrating risk patterns and risk clusters were created in this project.

Thompson, J.A., 2011. Statistical modeling of geographic risks for very low birth weights near Texas superfund sites. Proceedings of the 26th International Workshop on Statistical Modeling. pp. 607611


Pilot Project - Assessing the Role of Prenatal Lead Exposure on Infant Blood Lead Levels (March 2008-August 2009)
TEHI provided the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Chemical Threat Lab with approximately $11,000 to conduct a pilot project with dried blood spot (DBS) specimens.  The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between blood lead levels (BLLs) in infants and prenatal exposure to lead (as measured by newborn DBS results), using public health registry data for infants born in Texas from July 2002 through July 2006.  The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) database was used to identify infants 0-6 months of age who had elevated blood lead levels greater than 10 µg/dL, as well as infants of the same age who had blood lead levels as close to 0 as possible.  The DSHS lab analyzed DBS specimens for these infants.  Correlation coefficients were calculated to compare CLPPP infant BLL results and newborn DBS lead levels.  Although an association was seen between elevated newborn DBS lead levels and elevated BLLs in infants tested between 0-6 months of age, the findings suggest that prenatal exposure does not appear to be the only source of significant lead exposure for infants < 6 months of age.

Relationship between prenatal lead exposure and infant blood lead levels. Archer NP, Bradford CM, Klein DM, Barnes J, Smith LJ, Villanacci JF. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2012: 16(7):15181524. doi: 10.1007/s1099501109173. PMID: 22160764


Characterization of Airborne Contaminants around the Texarkana Wood Preserving Site in Texarkana, Texas (October 2008-August 2011) 
TEHI provided The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University with approximately $250,000 for an air monitoring project around the Texarkana Wood Preserving Federal Superfund Site in Texarkana, Texas.  The overall goal of this project was to identify and characterize airborne contaminants in and around this former creosote and pentachlorophenol wood preserving site to help assess potential exposures.  Air samples were taken quarterly over a one-year period.  Samples were collected both upwind and downwind of the site as well as at a leeward location on-site.  Samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and furans.  Data from these analyses provide information regarding potential exposure to air contaminants to those living near and working at the Texarkana Wood Preserving Site.  With the exception of PAHs, air pollutant concentrations were low near the Texarkana Wood Preserving Site.  Based upon the data collected in this study, the nearby rail line was most likely the primary source of PAHs.

Characterization of Airborne Contaminants around the Texarkana Wood Preserving Site in Texarkana, Texas Final Report - Appendices


Grand Prairie Vapor Intrusion Investigation
(January 2009-August 2009)
TEHI provided the University of Texas and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) with approximately $250,000 to conduct air sampling and an exposure investigation in Grand Prairie.  Trichloroethylene (TCE) groundwater plumes had been identified in three areas in Grand Prairie, Texas.  The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether residents living above these TCE plumes had higher levels of TCE in their bodies as compared to residents not living above a TCE plume (comparison area), and to provide information on the relationship between human exposures and the vapor intrusion pathway.  This was a multi-agency project that involved the collection and measurement of TCE in groundwater, soil vapor, indoor air, and biological specimens.  Additional exposure related information - time spent indoors, body weight, occupational information, etc. - was collected through the use of a survey.  Residents living above one of the groundwater plumes had significantly higher levels of TCE in their blood, as well as a higher percentage of people with detectable levels of TCE in their blood, than residents living in the comparison area.  Together, the biological and environmental data suggest that vapor intrusion and human exposure was occurring in one of the groundwater plume areas.  It did not appear that vapor intrusion was occurring in the other two areas.

Grand Prairie Vapor Intrusion Investigation Final Report
Grand Prairie Vapor Intrusion Investigation Fact Sheet


Characterization of Airborne Contaminants at the Ballard Pits State Superfund Site in Nueces County, Texas (April 2009-August 2011)

TEHI provided the University of Texas-Pan American with approximately $66,500 for an air sampling project on the Ballard Pits State Superfund Site near Robstown, Texas.  The overall goal of this project was to identify and characterize airborne contaminants in and around this petroleum waste site prior to any additional removal activities.  Passive air sampling techniques were used at 20 locations surrounding the North Pit to establish time-averaged concentrations of airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  Data from these analyses provide information regarding potential exposure to air contaminants to those living near and working at Ballard Pits.  PCBs were not detected in air samples collected at the site.  However, some VOCs including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and trimethylbenzenes were found at somewhat elevated concentrations, but below those of health concern.

Characterization of Airborne Contaminants at the Ballard Pits State Superfund Site in Nueces County, Texas Final Report


Defining Biota-Sediment Accumulation Factors for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, Texas (September 2009-August 2012)
TEHI provided approximately $250,000 to Baylor University to study biota-sediment accumulation factors (BSAFs) at the San Jacinto Waste Pits Federal Superfund site in Channelview, Texas.  Waste from a former paper manufacturing plant was dumped near the San Jacinto River from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Studies recently conducted to evaluate dioxin levels in the Houston Ship Channel identified this site as a significant source of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and -furans.  Measurements of these chemicals in fish and shellfish have resulted in consumption advisories near this site.  The current project characterized the capacity of dioxins, furans, and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to bioaccumulate in edible fish and shellfish on or near the site.  Results from this provide information necessary to calculate a BSAF to better estimate fish/shellfish uptake and subsequent risks to human health associated with eating fish.  The capacity for bioaccumulation of dioxins, furans, and PCBs at the site was also modeled using the TrophicTrace tool, and further characterized chemical concentrations throughout the food chain.  The chemical properties associated with bioaccumulation also were examined using quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) modeling.  Further, a novel extraction method for dioxins, furans, and PCBs was developed in this project.  Although analysis of dioxin, furan, and PCBs at the San Jacinto Waste Pits site revealed significant contamination, calculated biota-sediment accumulation factors were lower than expected.  The scientific outcomes of this project enable site managers and local public health officials to better understand potential human health risks posed by the consuming fish from the Houston Ship Channel and provided a methodology that can be applied to similar sites.


Defining Biota-Sediment Accumulation Factors for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, Texas Final Report
Defining Biota-Sediment Accumulation Factors for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, Texas Presentation

Subedi, B, and Usenko, S. 2012, Enhanced pressurized liquid extraction technique capable of analyzing polychlorodibenzopdioxins, polychlorodibenzofurans, and polychlorobiphenyls in fish tissue. Journal of Chromatography A. Vol. 1238, 3037.


Prevalence Estimates of Asthma in Texas (September 2010-August 2012)
TEHI provided the University of North Texas with approximately $250,000 to determine the prevalence of asthma among children living near selected Superfund sites in Texas and to obtain data on Texas asthma prevalence for comparison.  The relationship between child asthma and environmental pollutants has been hypothesized and previous research has found elevated rates of asthma in children who lived near hazardous waste sites.  Certain areas of Texas have been purported to have higher asthma prevalence rates than others.  Parents of children living near the selected Texas Superfund sites and other areas in the State were interviewed to determine if children in the home have asthma or asthma-like symptoms.  All data have been collected for this project and the researchers are preparing a report of their findings.


Lavaca-Matagorda Bay System Seafood Tissue Contaminant Monitoring and Risk Assessment (September 2012-August 2013)
TEHI provided the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) with approximately $65,000 to characterize the human health risks associated with consumption of select seafood from the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay System potentially due to mercury-impacted sediments related to the Alcoa-Lavaca Bay Superfund Site.  Between 1966 and 1970, wastewater from the Alcoa-Lavaca Bay chlor-alkali plant that contained mercury was transported to an offshore gypsum lagoon located on Dredge Island. After a settling period, the overflow from the gypsum lagoon was discharged to Lavaca Bay from two outfalls on Dredge Island.  This resulted in unacceptable levels of mercury in fish and crab in Lavaca Bay and DSHS issued a fishing ban for Lavaca Bay.  Prior to this project, DSHS had not conducted any seafood contaminant monitoring in the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay System since 2001.  For this project, the DSHS Seafood and Aquatic Life Group collected seafood from the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay Estuary and will prepare a report to quantify current mercury related human health risks associated with consumption of seafood from the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay Estuary and compare historical mercury data.

Characterization of Potential Adverse Health Effects Associated with Consuming Fish from the Lavaca-Matagorda Bay Estuary Final Report 2013


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Last updated February 13, 2014