BACKGROUND: The Superfund Research Program (SRP) is an academically based, multidisciplinary, translational research program that for 25 years has sought scientific solutions to health and environmental problems associated with hazardous waste sites. SRP is coordinated by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). It supports multi-project grants, undergraduate and postdoctoral training programs, individual research grants, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grants.

RESULTS: SRP has had many successes: discovery of arsenic's toxicity to the developing human central nervous system; documentation of benzene toxicity to hematologic progenitor cells in human bone marrow; development of novel analytic techniques such as the luciferase expression assay and laser fragmentation fluorescence spectroscopy; demonstration that PCBs can cause developmental neurotoxicity at low levels and alter the genomic characteristics of sentinel animals; elucidation of the neurodevelopmental toxicity of organophosphate insecticides; documentation of links between antimicrobial agents and alterations in hormone response; discovery of biological mechanisms through which environmental chemicals may contribute to obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer; tracking the health and environmental effects of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina; and development of novel biological and engineering techniques to facilitate more efficient and lower-cost remediation of hazardous waste sites.

CONCLUSION: SRP must continue to address the legacy of hazardous waste in the United States, respond to new issues caused by rapid advances in technology, and train the next generation of leaders in environmental health science while recognizing that most of the world's worst toxic hot spots are now located in low- and middle-income countries.

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Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, v. 123, no. 10, p. 909-918.

Environmental Health Perspectives is a publication of the U.S. Federal Government, and its content lies in the public domain.

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