What is Superfund?

The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed.

The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) is a network of university research centers that are designed to seek solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation's hazardous waste sites. The research conducted by the SRP is a coordinated effort with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), which is the federal entity charged with cleaning up the worst hazardous waste sites in the United States. Funding is received through an Interagency Agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency using Superfund Trust monies.

What is the OSU Superfund Research Center?

The federal Superfund Program's primary objectives are to expand the base of scientific knowledge, reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances and, ultimately, to prevent adverse human health effects. The mission of the Oregon State University Superfund Research Center is to identify Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the environment, to characterize their toxicity, and to determine what levels of those chemicals in the environment are safe for human health.

Directed by Dr. Robyn Tanguay, the Superfund Research Center at OSU was established in 2009 and brings together a multidisciplinary team with years of experience in PAH and environmental health issues. The Center currently has five Research Projects working together with Support Cores from both Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Investigators emphasize basic and applied research using state-of-the-art techniques to better understand PAHs and their impacts on human and ecological health. Since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, OSU SRC has an additional focus on petrogenic forms of PAHs found within crude oil.

The Superfund Research Center values the voices of all people. As such, we recognize the social barriers that have excluded people and communities based on socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, age, disability, national origin and religion. We are committed to the equity of opportunities, and strive to promote and advance diversity, equity, inclusiveness and excellence. We value and seek participation from these historically under-represented groups, and recognize them as essential to create a welcoming and impactful environment for everyone. Learn more about the ways we, and Oregon State University, are committed to diversity and inclusion at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr. David Williams was Director of the OSU SRC from April 2009 until December 2014.

The Center is federally funded and administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS grant #P42 ES016465), an institute of the National Institutes of Health.

What are PAHs?

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are an environmental pollutant of concern to public health. PAHs, found at Superfund sites and in urban settings, are formed in the burning of carbon-based energy sources such as diesel, gasoline, coal, petroleum as well as in cooking and tobacco smoke. Learn more about PAHs.