The Environmental Exposures, Genomes, and Health focus area will stimulate integrated, multidisciplinary research and education at UB to conduct innovative, cutting edge environmental research.
This focus area will address the grand challenge to better characterize environmental exposures, and understand the impact of environmental stressors and genomes on health across generations, with the ultimate goal to promote health and prevent disease, locally, nationally, and globally.
Historically, Western New York is an important area with diverse environmental health challenges that are a legacy of chemical companies that located here in part because of plentiful and cheap electrical power and fresh water. Multiple superfund sites including the Love Canal, Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corp., Waste Management Inc. are located here. Nearly 800 hazardous waste sites are located in Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus counties, and the majority of them are a potential threat to the Great Lakes. In more recent years, environmental health issues, ranging from Great Lakes contaminants to air pollution associated with high traffic at the Peace Bridge and the Tonawanda Coke facility have gained attention locally and nationally. Although air quality in western New York has improved in more recent years, due to the closure of Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, and the recent reductions in benzene emissions from Tonawanda Coke, there remains a great need to not only characterize current environmental exposures and but to reconstruct historical air pollution data in western New York since cumulative past environmental exposures from multiple sources remain a potential concern for the health of current and future generations.
Advance, innovative approaches are needed to better characterize historical and current environmental exposures and resulting health outcomes across the lifespan. A related challenge is to utilized recent advances in human genetics, the microbiome and the big data available from digital health records to evaluate gene-environment interactions or the impact of both environmental exposures and genomes on health outcomes across multiple generations.
Environmental stressors are not limited to chemical toxins, but also include biological (bacterial, viral; microbiome), and physical stressors, such as radiation and the impacts of climate change. Efforts to understand the impact of chemical exposures and gene-environment interaction must also consider these other environmental stressors which are a public health concern locally, nationally, and globally. Ultimately, the health of the planet depends on mitigating the potential impacts of chemical, biological and physical stressors on human health. What is protective of human health is generally also protective for our planet.
UB Distinquished Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health
James Olson, Ph.D. joined the faculty of the University at Buffalo in 1980, where he serves as a UB Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Epidemiology and Environmental Health. He also serves as the Director of the Environmental Health Sciences Division, School of Public Health and Health Professions and Director of the Pharmacology and Toxicology undergraduate program in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is nationally and internationally recognized for his research in toxicology and environmental health sciences and has recently served as a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides- 8th and 9th Biennial Updates. Dr. Olson’s research experience and expertise ranges from basic research on xenobiotic metabolism and global gene expression to assessment of biomarkers of exposure, effect and susceptibility in large, international, population-based studies. He currently has funding from the Fogarty International Center and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to assess exposure and health effects in Egyptian pesticide applicators and build research capacity at Menoufia University, Egypt.
“Characterizing and Mitigating the Health Effects of Environmental and Occupational Exposures Across the Lifespan”
The grand challenge will address the important, unmet need to understand the impact of a life-time of environmental stressors (chemical, biological, physical) and genomes on health outcomes across multiple generations.
There is interest in the following activities:
A RENEW Focus in Environmental Exposures, Genomes, and Health Environmental Health requires collaborative multidisciplinary approaches to address key research questions.
A number of UB faculty have actively participated in developing a strategic plan for this renew focus area. A total of 43 faculty from 14 Departments, representing the Schools of Public Health a Health Professions, Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Nursing, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Architecture and Planning and Social Work have expressed an interest in the RENEW Focus in Environmental Exposures, Genomes, and Health. Faculty with backgrounds in epidemiology and environmental health, toxicology, chemistry, engineering, geography, biology, public health, medicine, nursing, urban planning, and communications are part of this focus area.
UB has additional unique strengths with centers and communities of excellence which directly support Environmental Health research and education, including:
· Civil and Environmental Engineering
The combination of 1) geographic location with numerous environmental concerns, 2) a strong interdisciplinary faculty, and 3) specialized research centers and communities of excellence sets UB apart from other Institutions with Environmental Health Centers.
Environmental Health at UB is poised to become a leader in the areas of Exposure Science and Gene-Environment Interactions by focusing our efforts to better understand the impacts of a life-time of environmental stressors (chemical, biological, physical) and genomes on health outcomes across multiple generations.