Cooperative Projects

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CHEEC initiated a cooperative research program in 1999. It seeks to leverage research monies from university, state, and federal entities to conduct research in areas of mutual interest with collaborators. The collaboration requires matching funds from participating entities. A member of CHEEC's executive committee must serve as a co-investigator. Like the seed grant program, it seeks to establish innovative lines of environmental health research leading to preliminary results that may be used in seeking further larger grant funding from federal and private sources.

The following are CHEEC cooperative research efforts:

  • Project Period: 2017

    Iowa statewide small community drinking water survey of lead, copper and arsenic

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Iowa Institute for Hydraulic Research-Hydroscience and Engineering
    Sustainable Water Development Graduate Program, UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Project Investigator(s)
    Michelle Scherer, Drew Latta, David Cwiertny, UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Susie Dai, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa
    Abstract:

    This project will address the issue of lead, copper, and arsenic in small community drinking water systems. Lead, copper, and arsenic are regulated in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) due to their toxicity to human health. Over the last five years, 41 water systems in Iowa have exceeded the action level for Pb in their drinking water and 22 have exceeded the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic (impacted population = 23,393). This project will be a collaboration of CHEEC, the State Hygienic Laboratory, and IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering to collect, analyze and map available Pb, Cu and As data from small community drinking water systems in Iowa, as well as identify twenty small communities to survey and measure Pb, Cu, and As, water quality parameters, and treatment methods. The goal is to make Pb, Cu, and As data easily accessible to communities and to provide recommendations to communities on how to avoid future Pb, Cu, and As releases to their water.

  • Project Period: 2016

    Naturally-occurring radioactivity in private drinking water in Iowa: Understanding the potential for increased cancer risks to Iowans

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    UI Department of Radiology, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa
    Project Investigator(s)
    Michael Schultz, UI Department of Radiology
    Michael Wichman, Dustin May, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa
    Abstract:

    Naturally-occurring radioactive material can be a substantial source of radiation exposure to the public, especially in ground-derived drinking water. Two radionuclides from the uranium decay series (lead-210; Pb-210 and polonium-210; Po-210) are of particular concern because their characteristic properties combine to present potential carcinogenic risks to human. These radionuclides are present in subsurface geological deposits where a great deal of drinking water in the state of Iowa is derived. While the potential carcinogenicities are known, concentrations of Pb-210 and Po-210 are not well characterized in Iowa aquifers. This study proposes to determine the concentrations of Pb-210 and Po-210 in 50 privately-owned wells across the state to develop an understanding of the potential contribution to increased lifetime cancer risk to Iowans.It is expected that success in these studies will result in a more detailed understanding of the biogeochemical relationship of increased levels of Po-210 and Pb-210 to other natural radionuclides found in Iowa's well water, and will provide preliminary data for understanding potential risk of natural radioactivity in Iowa's well water.

  • Project Period: 2016

    Effect of co-exposure to air pollution and house dust endotoxin on asthma and wheeze

    Project Investigator(s)
    Angelico Mendy, Peter Thorne, UI Department of Epidemiology
    Darryl Zeldin, Paivi Salo, NIEHS
    Richard Cohen, Jesse Wilkerson, Social and Scientific Systems, Inc.
    Charles Weir, HHS Office of Emergency Management
    Abstract:

    Air pollutants and house dust endotoxin are ubiquitous in our environment. Air pollutants exacerbate pre-existing asthma and evidence is mounting that it may cause the disease through oxidative stress and destruction of the airway mucosa. Endotoxin is also well known to cause bronchial asthma, although research suggests it might be protective against the atopic phenotype, especially with early-life exposure. Animal studies suggest that co-exposure to both air pollutants and endotoxin may have worse consequences on respiratory health than individual exposures. This study will investigate the effects of co-exposure to environmental pollutants on asthma and wheeze in humans in a representative U.S. sample. The research will lead to an increased understanding of environmental risk factors for asthma and wheeze to enhance prevention of these respiratory conditions.

  • Project Period: 2014

    Development of novel, composite nanomaterials for water filtration

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) funds to support GRA
    EPA funds (via Cwiertny/Parkin Labs) for lab equipment and supplies
    Project Investigator(s)
    Sarah Larsen, UI Department of Chemistry
    David Cwiertny, Gene Parkin, UI Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Abstract:

    Approximately 1/3 of the world’s population lacks access to safe drinking water. Human exposures to drinking water contaminants, such as arsenic, have been linked to cancer, neurological, cardiovascular and pulmonary health problems. In a recent survey of private wells in Iowa, 48% were found to contain arsenic and 8% were determined to have arsenic levels greater than the EPA’s drinking water standard of 10 ppb. It is critical, both globally and locally, to develop improved methods for removing groundwater contaminants. Investigators in this study will design, fabricate and evaluate mesoporous silica-coated electrospun iron oxide nanofibers for arsenic adsorption from water. The Larsen Lab is developing functionalized mesoporous silica materials for adsorption of radioactive contaminants; these materials are also promising for application as arsenic adsorbents. The Cwiertny/Parkin Lab is developing electrospun nanofibers for use as chemically active filtration materials. CHEEC funds will allow the two Labs to work collaboratively to develop and evaluate these novel composite adsorbents.

  • Project Period: 2012

    Occurrence of viruses and unregulated contaminants in Iowa public water supply groundwater

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey
    UI Department of Geosciences, U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Project Investigator(s)
    Robert Libra, Iowa Geological and Water Survey
    Michael Wichman, State Hygienic Laboratory
    Abstract:

    Groundwater supplies drinking water to about 80% of Iowa’s population; most Iowans obtain water from public water supplies (PWS), which are required by EPA to monitor finished water for various chemical, physical, and biological contaminants; raw source water monitoring is infrequently required. EPA publishes a Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List detailing contaminants that may require standards and monitoring in the future. A strategy to assess future drinking water regulatory needs, and to guide source water protection activities for both public and domestic wells is targeted sampling and analysis of raw PWS groundwater for currently unregulated contaminants with public health and environmental concerns. This project will sample 66 Iowa PWS wells with known construction and hydrogeologic vulnerability for a number of contaminants. Funding for this project comes from EPA and Iowa DNR Drinking Water and Source-Water Protection programs. CHEEC funds will be used for sampling and analysis of PWS wells for human enteric viruses. The upcoming federal Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule will have an emphasis on groundwater contaminants; this project will complement the national plan and establish Iowa as a leader in monitoring groundwater quality for contaminants with public health implications.

  • Project Period: 2012

    Evaluation of a web-based approach to data collection in molecular environmental epidemiological investigations of adverse pregnancy outcomes

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders
    UI Reproductive Molecular Epidemiology Research and Education Program
    Project Investigator(s)
    Paul Romitti, Kristin Caspers, UI Dept. of Epidemiology
    Gabriele Ludewig, UI Dept. of Occupational and Environmental Health
    Michael Wichman, State Hygienic Laboratory
    Peter Weyer, CHEEC
    Abstract:

    Wireless telephone use, caller ID, and call blocking pose challenges to telephone-based data collection for epidemiological studies; smartphones, tablets, and increased access to the internet have removed both time and place demands of home-based communications. Telephone-based data collection in Iowa for the NBDPS has indicated a steady decline in participation rates. This case-control study will evaluate a web-based approach for molecular environmental epidemiological studies of adverse pregnancy outcomes. 240 infants with selected birth defects and 240 infants without defects will be selected and equally assigned to a web-based or a telephone-based group. They will be administered a questionnaire for maternal environmental exposures; mothers in the web-based group will electronically sign a consent form to use residual newborn bloodspots for biomonitoring; for the telephone-based group, the U.S. Postal Service will be used for hand-signed informed consents. Participation rates, sample representativeness, exposure reporting, and costs between the web-based and telephone-based groups will be compared. Investigators hypothesize that improved participation rates will be seen in the web-based group, which will permit increased generalization of study results and increased statistical power for studies.

  • Project Period: 2011

    Influence of Redox Fluctuations on Arsenic Dynamics in Iowa Aquifer Materials

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Cerro Gordo County (IA) Department of Public Health
    Project Investigator(s)
    Michelle Scherer, Gene Parkin, Douglas Schnoebelen, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UI
    Peter Weyer, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, UI
    Abstract:

    Arsenic is an emerging water quality issue in Iowa’s groundwater. According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, there are 69 public water supplies that utilize groundwater with arsenic concentrations greater than the recommended limit and in as recent survey of 473 private wells in Iowa, 48% were found to contain arsenic. This study will help address the issue of arsenic in groundwater by conducting laboratory experiments to better understand the geochemical processes controlling the release of arsenic from soils to groundwater. This project will build on previous work that developed analytical methods for measuring arsenic and investigating the reduction of arsenic by common soil minerals. The objectives of this study are to 1) determine the extent of arsenic incorporation and release from iron minerals commonly found in Iowa aquifers, and 2) measure the release of iron and arsenic from Iowa aquifer materials where arsenic has been identified in the groundwater.

  • Project Period: 2006 to 2008

    Iowa Statewide Rural Well Water Survey Phase 2 (SWRL2)

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Iowa Private Well Owners
    Iowa County Public/Environmental Health Departments
    University Hygienic Laboratory
    UI College of Public Health
    Iowa Department of Natural Resources
    Iowa Department of Public Health
    Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
    U.S. Geological Survey
    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    ISU Department of Geologic and Atmospheric Sciences
    UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination
    Abstract:

    The Iowa Statewide Rural Well Water Survey Phase 2 (SWRL2) was conducted from 2006-2008. It served as a follow-up study to the original SWRL (1988-1989).

    SWRL2 study objectives were to examine trends in water quality since 1988–89 and collect baseline data for emerging contaminants. 473 private rural drinking water wells were sampled in 89 Iowa counties. 116 of the wells were original SWRL study wells; the other wells were randomly selected from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Private Well Tracking System.

     

    Map of all the well sampling sites in Iowa

       SWRL 2 well sampling sites

    Findings from all of the sampled wells  include:

    Bacteria: 43% had total coliform  bacteria, 19% had enterococci, 11% had  E. coli

    Nitrate: 49% had nitrate; 12% had ≥10  mg/L (parts per million) nitrate-N, EPA’s drinking water standard for public water supplies

    Arsenic: 48% had arsenic; 8% had arsenic ≥0.01 mg/L, EPA’s drinking water standard for public water supplies

    Pesticides (parent compounds): 8% had atrazine at very low concentrations; 2% had metolachlor; acetochlor, alachlor and trifluralin were detected in <1% of wells

    Herbicide degradates (breakdown products of the parent compound): 11% had desethyl-atrazine, 11% had acetochlor ESA (ethane sulfonic acid), 27% had alachlor ESA, 33% had metolachlor ESA, and 8% had metolachlor OXA (oxanilic acid) 

    Health Assessment: This study did not set out to assess health risks associated with consumption of well water in Iowa. While some analysis showed levels of certain contaminants exceeding maximum contamination levels (MCLs) for public drinking water supplies, water quality in private drinking water wells is not regulated. Study-wide, no parent herbicide concentration was found to exceed a public water MCL. Herbicide degradate values were generally found at very small levels -- the mean for all degradates was 0.7 parts per billion (ppb) or less, with maximum values at 7 ppb. There are no established MCL values for degradates which are generally believed to be less toxic than their parent compound.

    SWRL2 fact sheet and full report are available for download (PDF):

  • Project Period: 2005

    The Iowa Beach Study

    Project Investigator(s)
    Eric O'Brien, Janice Boekhoff: Iowa Department of Natural Resources
    Peter Weyer, David Riley: UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination
    Michael Wichman, Nancy Hall: University Hygienic Laboratory
    Gregory Gray, Troy McCarthy, R. William Field, Tara Smith: UI College of Public Health
    Abstract:

    A prospective pilot study of beach users from three Iowa beaches was conducted in June-August 2005 to determine the number of self-reported gastrointestinal (GI) illness symptoms and skin irritation/rash symptoms in swimmers and non-swimmers, and to correlate those numbers with bacterial levels in beach water. Aims of the study were to determine GI illness and skin irritation/rash symptom numbers at freshwater beaches with nonpoint pollution sources and to evaluate the effectiveness of indicator bacteria as predictors of risk under unique lake conditions found in Iowa. Study staff visited beaches on a daily basis over six weeks to distribute study flyers, recruit participants and take water samples. One-thousand and thirty-nine people were recruited for the study. Of that number, 261 people participated on-line in a web-based system to collect baseline information, and completed follow-up surveys over four weeks which included questions about water activities, time spent at the beach, occurrence of GI illness or skin irritation, etc. Composite water samples were collected daily and analyzed at the University Hygienic Laboratory for E.coli, enterococci, and total microcystin toxin. Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated to compare beach indicator variables to GI illness and skin irritation/rash symptoms. Reported GI illness and skin irritation/rash episodes were correlated with indicator variables at each beach. Multiple regression analyses ranked beach indicator variables, bacterial levels in the water, and various interactions as risk factors for GI illness and skin irritation/rash episodes. Statistically significant associations between bacteria levels and reported illness included enterococci level and diarrhea at Beach 1, enterococci level and skin irritation/rash symptoms at Beach 2, and microcystin toxin level (<1 μg/L) and skin irritation/rash at Beach 1. The results of this pilot study indicate that more research is needed to determine if these associations exist on a larger scale at other inland beaches and to further explore the positive correlation between low levels of microcystin toxin and skin irritation/rash.

    A poster titled Microcystin Toxin and Enterococci Indicator Levels Associated with Freshwater Recreational Waterborne Illness was presented at the 2007 American Society for Microbiology conference by Nancy Hall.

  • Project Period: 2004

    Fate of Endocrine Disruptors, Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater Treatment Plants

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
    Project Investigator(s)
    Gene Parkin, Craig Just, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Iowa
    Abstract:

    Biosolids are generally defined as the end-product of production and treatment of sludges generated during wastewater treatment. Beneficial uses of biosolids (e.g., land application, landfill covers, etc.) are expected to increase in the coming years. Wastewaters from domestic and industrial sources are known to contain relatively low concentrations of endocrine disruptors, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. Most of what is known about the fate of these compounds comes from measurements taken before and after treatment of the liquid component of the wastewater. Very little is known about the fate of these compounds during processing of the solids generated during wastewater treatment. Many of these compounds are likely to partition onto particulate matter due to their hydrophobic nature. Thus, it is important to understand the fate of these compounds during the production and use of biosolids. Aqueous samples collected at points throughout a wastewater treatment plant were processed and analyzed for acetaminophen, caffeine, cotinine, ibuprofen, 4-nonylphenol, sulfamethoxazole, triclosan, and trimethoprim. Most aqueous phase removal occurred during primary clarification and/or activated sludge treatment while little or no aqueous phase removal resulted from secondary clarification or chlorination/dechlorination. Sorption isotherms determined for each compound on biosolids from the plant indicated compound specific sorption behavior. Caffeine, cotinine and acetaminophen were significantly removed from the aqueous phase during activated sludge treatment. This implicates biotransformation as a primary removal process given the low sorption potential of these chemicals. Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim also have low sorption potential, but are more chemically stabile such that only a small quantity of each was removed during activated sludge treatment. Ibuprofen, 4-nonylphenol and triclosan were significantly removed from the aqueous phase during activated sludge treatment, likely as a result of sorption processes as evidenced by high log Kow values and high concentrations of triclosan and 4-nonylphenol in analyzed biosolids.

  • Project Period: 2003

    Urinary Pesticide Metabolite Levels and Reproductive Effects: A Prospective, Pilot Study of Partners of Pregnant Women in Iowa

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    Study for Future Families
    Project Investigator(s)
    Paul Romitti, Department of Epidemiology, The University of Iowa
    Amy Sparks, Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Urology, The University of Iowa
    Abstract:

    This study hypothesized that the variance in semen quality between geographic locations may be related to recent exposure to environmental toxins, particularly agricultural chemicals. Prospective, multi-center studies have demonstrated geographical variations in semen quality. A recent study of semen quality in four US cities found male partners of pregnant women a rural center (MO) to have significantly lower sperm counts and motility than men recruited from urban centers (NY, MN and CA). A small study of men from this population residing in MO demonstrated an association between semen quality and levels of urinary pesticide metabolites, while men in MN had few detectable levels. The study proposed to examine the relationship between semen quality and urinary pesticide metabolites in partners of pregnant women receiving obstetrical care at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. 

  • Project Period: 2002

    Iowa Community Private Well Study

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    The University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory
    the UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC)
    UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC)
    the United States Geological Survey
    the Iowa Department of Natural Resources
    County Environmental Health Specialists
    Project Investigator(s)
    Peter Weyer, David Riley: University of Iowa (UI) Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination
    Jessica Ferrie, UI Dept. of Occupational and Environmental Health, UI College of Public Health
    Michael Wichman, Lorelei Kurimski, Terence Cain, UI Hygienic Laboratory
    David Osterberg: UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center
    Brent Parker, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
    Douglas Schnoebelen: U.S. Geological Survey
    Abstract:

    Conducted from June 2002-January 2003, the study aimed to achieve a better understanding of private drinking water wells in incorporated Iowa towns not served by a public water supply system. Water samples were analyzed by the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory (duplicate samples analyzed at USGS laboratories) for common use pesticides, nitrogen compounds, inorganics, bacteria, and VOCs. The study design contained a random and focused component. * Random Study Methodology: Approximately 103 drinking water wells from towns that did not have a public water supply were selected. A weighted distribution of households from US Census data was employed to select wells (i.e.- towns with a higher number of households stood a greater chance of having a well selected). County environmental health specialists visited these towns, located randomly generated points on maps, and found the nearest building to draw a water sample. Fifty distinct towns had one or more wells sampled. * Focus Study Methodology: The focus study employed the use of existing databases of potential contamination sources to intensively sample 15 communities. Selection criteria for these towns considered: towns utilizing private septic systems, existence of underground storage tanks, location of agricultural grain and chemical storage dealerships, regional hydrogeology, active and closed landfills, feedlots, railroad systems, industries in violation of wastewater permit applications (including stormwater permits), nearby uncontrolled sites identified by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)/Superfund sites. 

  • Project Period: 1999

    Antibiotics in Surface Water

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    United States Geological Survey
    Project Investigator(s)
    Peter Weyer, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, The University of Iowa
    Dana Kolpin, United States Geological Survey, Water Resource Division, Iowa District
    Abstract:

    In 1999, CHEEC and the Iowa District of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) joined in a collaboratively funded project investigating the presence of antibiotics/antimicrobials in Iowa surface waters. The study objectives are to provide baseline data for types of antimicrobial compounds present, concentrations, and geographical distribution. Thirty sites from across the state were selected representing a cross section of large and small watersheds and stream flows. Of secondary importance of this study was for laboratory methods development for detection of these compounds. Thirty-one sites from across the state were sampled, representing large and small stream flows. Streams were sampled once during the first peak runoff event following snow melt in April 1999. These 15 distinct antibiotics were sampled: carbadox, spectinomycin, sulfamethoxazol, erythromycin, sulfamethazine, trimethoprin, erythromycin - H2O, sulfachloropyrizadine, tylosin, ivermectin, sulfadimethoxine, virginiamycin, lincomycin, sulfamerazine, and tetracyclines (total). Analytical results show that 16 of the 31 stream samples had positive detections for antibiotics. Sulfamethazine was detected in 10 samples, tetracycline (total) in 6, and lincomycin in 1. One stream had two detections of a single compound. All of the concentrations were below .5 micrograms/L (parts per billion). The results of this work were first presented at a 1999 USGS meeting titled Effects of Animal Feeding Operations on Hydrologic Resources and the Environment. Proceedings are available at http://water.usgs.gov/owq/AFO/proceedings/afo/index.html.

    Findings from this initial reconnaissance laid the groundwork for the the Kolpin et al journal article in Environmental Science and Technology, titled Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams, 1999-2000: A National Reconnaissance; Environ. Sci. Technol., 36 (6), 1202 -1211, 2002

    For a more thorough discussion of emerging contamination of water sources, see the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program.

  • Project Period: 1999

    Analysis of Environmental Exposures in Hoop Structures and Conventional Confinement Swine Barns

    Collaborating Institution(s)
    The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University
    The University of Iowa Office of Vice President for Research
    Project Investigator(s)
    Peter Thorne, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The University of Iowa
    Dwaine Bundy, Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University
    Abstract:

    A major health concern in swine farming is inhalation of toxicants, which may lead to significant morbidity among swine farmers. Exposures to hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, dust and endotoxin have been linked to a number of health problems in workers, including upper airway diseases, lower airway diseases and interstitial diseases. In addition, outdoor air quality in proximity to swine operations has become a major concern in recent years. Neighbor complaints have been increasing as swine units become larger and more densely located in the neighboring community. While health effects related to odors from livestock units are very difficult to determine, the public perception that odors contain toxic substances has resulted in reports of headaches, nausea and other health complaints in neighbors. In recent years, hoop structures have emerged as an alternative method of housing hogs, and appear to have environmental benefits (related to air and water quality) in comparison to conventional confinement facilities. The purposes of this study are to 1) quantify airborne contaminant concentrations and exposure duration in hoop barns and conventional confinement barns controlling for location, season, micrometeorological conditions, animal density and other factors, and 2) to compare the exposure of airborne contaminants around and downwind of hoop structures and conventional confinement structures. The study will be conducted utilizing a pork producing farm with 3-5 hoop barns and 3-5 confinement buildings on a nearby site. The 15-month project will be a joint effort of researchers from The University of Iowa and Iowa State University; field sampling will be coordinated between study staffs, and laboratory analyses will be conducted utilizing labs at both institutions (ISU Odor Laboratory, ISU Animal Science Department, UI Inhalation Toxicology Facility), which specialize in specific contaminant identification and quantification.
    CHEEC, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and the UI Office of the Vice President for Research conducted a study titled 'Analysis of Environmental Exposures in Hoop Structures and Conventional Confinement Swine Barns' . The study was an effort to quantify and describe airborne compounds present in both both types of swine production facilities and potential exposures to workers and area contaminations. Research was completed 2000.