Science for Toxic Exposure Prevention

Program Directors


Active Projects

Tapwater Analysis Project (TAP): Testing Chemicals in Drinking Water in California

California drinking water is threatened with chemical contamination from multiple sources. This project will test tap water at the homes of California teachers living in multiple parts of the state for pesticides and other chemicals that are known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, or that may be linked to cancer

Fire and Water Study: Drinking Water in the Area Affected by the Camp Fire

The 2018 Camp fire burned much of Paradise and nearby areas, Returning residents reported odors in the drinking water. Testing found benzene and other volatile organic compounds in the water. We tested at the tap at about 130 homes, returned results to residents, and are investigating what happened and how to prevent it from recurring.

Filtration for Respiratory Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

Wildfires continue to grow in number and severity in the Western U.S. In California's San Joaquin Valley, wildfire smoke often gets trapped in the region which leads to high concentrations of particulate matter for many weeks. This smoke disproportionately impacts agricultural workers who must spend long periods of time working outdoors.

In the San Joaquin Valley, many low-income families and agricultural worker homes have evaporative or "swamp" coolers, which are often in use during wildfire season and high heat events. Families report that their indoor air becomes unbearably smoky, exposing these workers to dangerous air both at work and at home. There is no existing filtration for swamp coolers.

Led by PHI's Gina Solomon and Paul English, the Filtration for Respiratory Exposure to wildfire Smoke from Swamp Cooler Air (FRESSCA) study aims to reduce wildfire smoke exposures and health risks among agricultural workers and other low-income families by designing and field testing an affordable, effective filtration system for swamp coolers.

California Water: Assessment of Toxins for Community Health (Cal-WATCH)

This project will enhance California's ability to reliably track and prevent harmful algal bloom illnesses, while also working in Lake County, California to improve outreach, illness reporting, and drinking water monitoring. Clear Lake has experienced an increase in Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) activity due to climate change and other stressors. Over 60% of Lake County residents receive their drinking water from the Lake. We are identifying and testing drinking water from wells and small water systems around Clear Lake for algal toxins, nitrates, coliform bacteria, and herbicides. This project is led by PHI's Gina Solomon and Susan Paulukonis.

Brawley Health ACTION

Community members in Brawley, California, have long expressed concerns about suspected exposures and health outcomes related to pollution from nearby sources, including a former agrochemical plant, an animal rendering and slaughterhouse, pesticide applications on nearby farms, a cooling facility, and mobile source emissions from roadways.

The Brawley Health ACTION Environmental Study is a four-phase study that aims to engage residents living near these sources to document community concerns and oral histories, design and conduct a health assessment and environmental monitoring, report results back to the broader community and other stakeholders, and conduct activities that empower the community to protect their own health. This project is led by PHI's Paul English and Gina Solomon.

Completed Projects

California Green Chemistry Evaluation Project

California has unique laws intended to protect public health and exceed federal protections against pollution and toxic chemicals. Two laws enacted in 2008 built on a foundation of other policies related to clean air, clean water, and children’s health protection: AB 1879 established the Safer Consumer Products Program at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and SB 509 established the Toxics Information Clearinghouse. The laws focused on green chemistry with the goals of providing more information about chemicals in products and encouraging substitution of toxic chemicals with less toxic or non-toxic alternatives. A decade later, this project evaluated the progress made under these two laws, which collectively enacted the California Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI). The project also considered how the GCI addresses breast carcinogens.

Hormones And Meat: does Beef Under-Regulation Generate Estrogenic Residues? (HAMBURGER)

Breast cancer continues to be a leading cause of illness and death for women in the United States. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 39 women will die from breast cancer. To reduce this high public health burden, it is important to investigate risk factors for breast cancer, including the link to diet and environment.

In the U.S., it is legal to dose cattle with hormones such as estrogen and related chemicals. Because estrogens are known to increase the risk of breast cancer, there is reason to be concerned about potential hormone residues in beef. Unfortunately, there is very little information about hormone residue levels in beef and the potential impact on human health.

Led by PHI's Gina Solomon and Paul English, this project is a preliminary investigation into the potential impact of hormone residues in beef on breast cancer risk.

Residential Air Purifiers: Product Performance and Safety (RAPPPS)

With the regular occurrence of wildfire smoke events, many people are buying air purifiers in an effort to protect themselves and their children. Unfortunately, air purifiers are a bewildering thicket of consumer products. These devices vary in performance and safety—some are very effective, others are marginally effective, and some are dangerous because they produce ozone—a gas that damages the lungs. Led by PHI's Anne Kelsey Lamb and Gina Solomon, this project will produce well-researched, culturally relevant educational materials on air purifiers, dissemination of these materials to community service organizations across California, and conduct product surveys to ensure that hazardous ozone-generating air purifiers are not being sold to vulnerable low-income consumers in California.

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