DETROIT – There are hidden metabolic health impacts in things most people encounter every day.
From surface cleaners to silicone bracelets, from fracturing fluids to wastewater—even household dust—these diverse environmental mixtures have the potential to disrupt human health.
Christopher Kassotis, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology, received a grant to take a deeper dive into evaluating environmental mixtures.
“Anything we know about chemical toxicity is based on testing that individual chemical, but we’re never exposed to just one single chemical alone,” Kassotis said. “People are regularly exposed to hundreds or thousands of chemicals every day. Our regulatory system completely ignores it, partly because of difficulties in sorting out how to investigate mixtures and predict effects.”
Thanks to a $598,487 grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kassotis will develop and evaluate methods and approaches to understand human health risks that may result from exposure to chemical mixtures in the environment.
According to the EPA, toxicology studies have traditionally focused on the effects of single chemicals on human health. However, humans are constantly exposed to mixtures of numerous chemicals found in the environment, including in the air, water, soil, food and household products. These chemical mixtures include polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are often considered “everywhere chemicals” because they have become so common in everyday products. Other well-characterized mixtures include phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and disinfection by-products (DBPs).
There is a need to assess the toxicity of these chemical mixtures and understand how their combined effects on human health and the environment differ from what is known about individual chemicals.
Kassotis and his research team will use household dust samples to develop a receptor bioactivity component model to predict adipogenic health outcomes. Through their dust extract testing, WSU researchers expect to support a new method of mixture risk assessments
“Our study was designed to provide a more concrete foundation for chemical mixture assessments, a better understanding of where the available mixture models succeed and fail in predicting toxicity,” he said. “In short, I hope that these experiments will help shift the regulatory structure toward including more considerations of mixture exposure to better protect public health. We need to have a better understanding of how exposure to a single chemical differs from continuous exposure to hundreds of other chemicals.
“If I had to try to distill it into a simple statement, I hope to improve chemical risk assessment models to account for everyday exposure to hundreds of different chemicals and, as a result, lead to better protection of human health.”
Learn more about Kassotis and his research projects on his webpage.
The project number for this EPA grant is R840459.
About Wayne State University
Wayne State University is one of the nation’s premier public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university aims to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and around the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.