Mercyhurst University

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EPA selects Mercyhurst to research toxins data

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thomas Cook, Ph.D.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has chosen three academic partners: Mercyhurst University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Purdue University, to research the waste management of certain toxic chemicals in order to better inform communities, manufacturers and government of ways to protect human health and the environment.

Mercyhurst was chosen for the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program on the strength of its application, authored by assistant professor of public health Thomas Cook, Ph.D., and submitted on behalf of the university’s School of Health Professions and Public Health.

“The project is an exciting hands-on learning experience for our students,” Cook said. “It will provide opportunities for students to interact with the EPA on a regular basis and present their collaborative research at national and regional EPA meetings. Students will also provide workshops and develop case studies to demonstrate and showcase the new tools they have helped to develop with the overall goal of providing greater public access to environmental health data.”

Every year, thousands of U.S. manufacturing and other industrial facilities submit reports on their waste management practices of certain toxic chemicals, including the release of those chemicals into the environment. The TRI Program makes data about management and release of these chemicals publicly available.

“Through the 2015 TRI University Challenge, we hope to raise awareness of this valuable data among students and professors, and engage them in research that will benefit their communities and further our work to protect human health and the environment,” said Ann Dunkin, EPA chief information officer.  

Cook said that the two-year program will engage more than 60 Mercyhurst students, including eight to 10 student leaders from the university’s Department of Public Health, who will work with the EPA to integrate TRI data with other sources of environmental health data to make it more  readily usable by both researchers and the general public.

He said the project will involve developing data analysis tools that will allow individuals and organizations to better identify health priority areas; for example, locating geographic areas with a high burden of toxic chemical releases and environment-related health outcomes.

More information on the TRI University Challenge: www.epa.gov/tri/university.