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Research Project 6


Characterization of Exposures of Urban and Rural Cohorts to Airborne PCBs

The AESOP Study (Airborne Exposures to Semi-volatile Organic Pollutants) has assessed exposures and body burdens of atmospheric PCBs among an urban cohort of children and their mothers in an area contaminated with legacy pollutants and where dredging and filling of PCB-laden sediments is now underway.

The AESOP Study seeks to answer key questions about what are the determinants of PCB exposures among children and their mothers, what are the exposure levels indoors and out, and how can we best monitor exposures and metabolites. The Specific Aims are:

  • Maintain the urban and rural residential cohorts in East Chicago and Columbus Junction and gather demographic, residential, occupational, activity, dietary and baseline health data from subjects.
  • Collect air samples inside and outside at homes and schools and measure congener-specific concentrations of atmospheric PCBs.
  • Collect blood annually from all subjects and measure PCB congeners and congener-specific metabolites in serum samples and report these values to participants.
  • Collect urine from all subjects and measure congener-specific PCB sulfate metabolites and evaluate the efficacy of urine as a biomarker for exposure to lower-chlorinated congeners.
  • Model exposures and body burdens for the atmospheric PCB congeners from the East Chicago and Columbus Junction cohorts and compare modeled and measured data.

The AESOP Study has enrolled and followed 315 subjects and provided new insight into airborne exposures and resulting body burdens. It has changed prevailing views on how most Americans are exposed to PCBs.

We have demonstrated that our subjects have substantial exposure to PCB congeners from inhalation in addition to ingestion and their blood shows enrichment with inhaled lower-chlorinated congeners. This has important implications for children’s environmental health.

  • Project Leader: Peter S. Thorne, PhD

    Dr. Thorne is a professor of toxicology in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa with a secondary appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will serve as a principal investigator for this study. He has worked successfully with the community advisory boards and schools in Columbus Junction and East Chicago, and will oversee the enrollment of the cohorts for the project.

    • Keri C. Hornbuckle, PhD

    Dr. Hornbuckle, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, will provide advice on fabrication and deployment of the passive monitors and high volume samplers, and she will provide guidance in the analysis of PCB congener-specific data. Her experience in measuring and modeling PCBs in urban and rural settings will be drawn upon in the interpretation of exposure data.

    • Michael Jones, PhD

    Dr. Jones is a Professor of Biostatistics and has extensive experience developing and using statistical methods for the analysis of multiple PCB-congener measures, many of which fall below the limit of quantification resulting in left censored data.

Research Projects

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