UPenn Awarded $10 Million Grant To Conduct Asbestos Research

The University of Pennsylvania’s (“UPenn”) Perelman School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (“CEET”) has been awarded a $10 million grant to study the various ways in which asbestos exposure results in mesothelioma and other asbestos exposure-related illnesses. This grant, which was awarded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Services (“NIEHS”), will provide the CEET with four years of funding so that bioremediation, exposure pathways and the causes of asbestos-related illnesses can be examined in-depth by CEET research scientists. UPenn was chosen for the grant, not just because of its exceptional scientific research departments, but also because the nearby town of Ambler was declared a U.S. Superfund site. U.S. Superfund sites are those locations declared contaminated due to the presence of hazardous substances such as asbestos.

The Ambler Asbestos Exposure Issue

Since the late 1880s, Ambler, Pennsylvania, located 20 miles north of Philadelphia, PA, has presented extreme environmental and occupational asbestos exposure risks. These asbestos exposure-related issues in both South and West Ambler are a direct result of the presence of a now-closed asbestos factory. Though this asbestos factory closed in 1962, Ambler community members are still at extreme risk for developing mesothelioma and other serious asbestos exposure-related illnesses. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has determined that increased rates of mesothelioma also exist in the areas that are adjacent to Ambler zip codes. This risk of mesothelioma is found to be disproportionately higher for women than men.

The $10 million grant was provided to contribute to the already existing research about asbestos-exposure risks in Ambler. In recent years the CEET’s Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) has been communicating with the Ambler community regarding asbestos exposure-related issues. The EPA also conducted cleanup services after the region was granted Superfund status. Furthermore, both South and West Ambler communities have been conducting studies about the long-term ramifications of the now closed asbestos factory.

The Penn Superfund Research Training Program Center

The NIEHS grant will allow for te creation of the Penn Superfund Research and Training Program Center (“SRTPC”). Provided by the NIEHS and its Superfund programs with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the EPA, this is the first grant offered by the NIEHS Superfund that focuses on identifying and solving issues identified via an academic-community partnership. The Superfund model revolves around conducting the research needed to discover how precision medicine can be brought into the realm of environmental health through the determination of which specific individuals have been exposed to toxic substances such as asbestos, and whether common diseases will arise due to said exposure.

Through the use of the grant money, research and training will be conducted in order to address significant asbestos exposure-related problems so as to facilitate informed risk mitigation and cleanup activities for the greater community. The SRTPC will use the grant to conduct four biomedical science studies and two environmental science studies. The goal of these 6 studies is to address the following community-based questions that the COEC identified, which include:

  • Can asbestos remediation be conducted without spreading asbestos beyond the original site at which asbestos was disposed?;
  • What is currently known about the transportation of asbestos by water and air, and the result of such transfers?;
  • Is the likelihood of mesothelioma diagnosis caused by genetics?;
  • Can blood tests be used to determine if a person will be diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease;
  • Can diseases caused by asbestos exposure be prevented?;
  • Why is mesothelioma more likely to occur in women than men in Ambler?; and
  • What is the relevant information about the exposure pathways that have caused the Ambler mesothelioma cluster?

Concerned that you may be suffering from a lung condition due to past asbestos exposure? Contact an asbestos exposure attorney today.


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