chemicalsThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded nearly $11 million in grants to enable eight universities to develop fast and effective methods to test chemicals’ toxicity to people and the environment. The testing methods will be used to predict a chemical’s potential to interact with biological processes that could lead to reproductive and developmental problems, and disruption of the endocrine system.

The grantees will focus on developing methods and models to predict how exposure to environmental and synthetic (man-made) chemicals and chemical mixtures may harm the public. Some synthetic chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, which interfere with or even mimic natural hormones and cause damage to the development and function of vital organs, particularly in young children and developing fetuses. There are currently thousands of chemicals in use and hundreds more introduced every year.

The universities receiving grants are:

• University of Texas at Austin – testing chemicals that impact fertility and embryonic development, and developing a model to classify chemicals according to the risks they pose

• North Carolina State University – developing innovative methods to understand how chemicals influence the regulation of development, reproduction, and metabolism

• University of Oregon – using zebrafish testing methods to determine if they have results  similar to traditional toxicity tests and to determine if these methods could be used as alternatives for existing toxicity tests

• University of California Davis – investigating the effect of environmental agents on thyroid hormones and modeling how the chemicals affect organism health

• Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Division, state of Washington – working with assay systems of the rainbow trout pituitary, liver and ovary to screen for environmental toxins and measure reproductive endocrine functions impaired by these toxins

• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – developing chemical effect testing for in vitro systems and computational toxicology solutions to measure risk in populations, and creating models based on the resulting data

• University of Michigan – improving upon an existing in vitro, neurochemical screening assay platform, and modeling adverse reproductive effects associated with toxic exposure in wildlife

• University of South Carolina – developing a targeted innovative animal imaging method to screen and identify chemicals that exhibit abnormal development in the cardiovascular and nervous systems that lead to indirect adverse effects on muscle development within zebrafish larvae

More information on the grant awards:

More information on STAR grants:

More information on EPA’s chemical safety research: