Team Science Applied to Environmental Health Research: Karst Hydrogeology and Preterm Birth in Puerto Rico
Understanding the interaction of environmental contamination and its impact on human health stretches the disciplinary demands required for effective research. Team science is required to understand the origin of contaminants, their pathways to human, their health effects, and for development of effective mitigation. We describe a team science model applied to the study of preterm birth in a region of karst hydrogeology, the Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT). This research program uses an innovative, holistic, source-to-outcome transdisciplinary approach that integrates epidemiological, toxicological, analytical, fate-transport, and remediation studies, along with a unified sampling infrastructure, a centralized, indexed data repository and a data management system. PROTECT is contributing new knowledge about the risk that contaminants may pose in pregnancy resulting in preterm birth, how these contaminants reach karst aquifers, and what are the biological mechanisms by which environmental contaminants may promote preterm birth. PROTECT also is developing novel remediation approaches that will target removal of contaminants linked to preterm births from ground water. These integrated efforts offer unique opportunities to address a serious public health problem and its solution would result in a healthier population and a healthier environment.
Support of the work described is provided through Award Number P42ES017198 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the PROTECT research project and partial support from RCMI grant G12 MD007600 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views or policies of NIEHS, NIMHD, or NIH.
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