Environmentally Persistent Free Radicals in Contaminated Soils

Dr. Robert Cook

Environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) have been found at levels 30 times higher in the pentachlorophenol (PCP) contaminated soils from a Superfund site, a former wood-treatment facility, than in pristine soil samples from the neighboring area. This finding is important due to the widespread use of PCP, the potential of toxicity of EPFRs, the potential exposure to these EPFRs due to wind blown dust from the site, their migration to and through ground waters as well as dermal exposure. Thus, a fundamental understanding of how the EPFRs can be formed in soils that have been contaminated with PCP is needed. Due to the complexity of soils, a number of pathways could account for the formation of EPFRs.

Dr. Robert Cook will systematically explore the formation of EPFRs within PCP-contaminated soils through three Specific Aims:

  1. Physically separate, chemically edit and characterize the organic and inorganic components of both contaminated and non-contaminated soils;
  2. Determine the main soil component(s) responsible for the formation of EPFRs in the contaminated soil; and
  3. Utilize model systems based on the findings from Specific Aim 1 to gain insight into the natural in situ formation of radicals in the contaminated soil.

This project is unique as it addresses "real world" samples. This means that this research will act as a testing ground for the universality of some of the concepts derived for thermal EPFR formation pathways in Dr. Barry Dellinger's research, and in doing so, will act as a feedback loop to his research. This feedback loop will be further strengthened by collaborations with Dr. Erwin Poliakoff. Select samples from Aim 1, Aim 2, and Aim 3 will be provided to the biomedical research of Dr. Stephania Cormier, Dr. Kurt Varner, and Dr. Wayne Backes through the collaboration with the Materials Core. In addition to the samples, this research will provide the basic chemistry to understand any observed cardiac and pulmonary dysfunction induced by inhalation of these EPFR-containing samples.