What We Do

Superfund site managers lack basic information that would allow them to select the most environmentally sound and cost-effective remediation strategies. To make a rational decision, they must understand where those chemicals move. Today they lack the tools to acquire this information.

We propose to develop generalizable technology to measure the movement of PAHs into and out of Superfund sites. We will apply passive sampling devices (PSDs) to discover the fate of bioavailable PAHs and to assess bioavailable PAH flux between environmental compartments. We will also explore individuals’ exposures to PAH mixtures in communities near Superfund sites. We will answer these questions: “Where and how are PAHs at Superfund sites moving, and what personal PAH exposures can we expect near Superfund sites?”

We will conduct the first passive sampling wristband measurements of external exposure to PAHs for people near Superfund sites. We will study people’s exposure near PHSS. This aim will give our partners and communities a quantitative understanding of people’s external exposure and its dependence on distance, geographic factors, housing, and personal characteristics. We will also test external exposure to PAHs for the same individuals after remediation.

Our project asks the following questions

What generalizable technologies could be applied to measure movement of PAHs at Superfund sites? 

We are applying established technologies including low-density polyethylene passive air samplers and person silicone wristband samplers.

How much PAHs are individuals near Superfund sites exposed to?

Understanding an individual’s personal exposure is a critical step to understanding whether that individual is at increased risk to adverse health outcomes from that exposure. We will be assessing individual exposures using silicone wristbands.

How do their exposures vary as a function of location?

Defining the effects of distance from a contaminant source and additional environmental effects such as wind direction and speed will provide a better understanding of the impacts on personal exposures. That understanding is critical in assessing potential adverse health effects from Superfund exposures.

How does remediation of the local Superfund site influences people’s external exposures?

Remediation/removal is considered the best available solution for reducing contaminant release from Superfund sites. Removal or remediation of the contaminant source is expected to reduce personal exposures. We will assess exposures over the course of a site remediation.

Our Current Research

  • We are currently assessing the data from a completed installation of 11 arrays of passive sampling devices and advective meters at the Port of St. Helens Creosote Site (PSHCS). We haven measured 85 bioavailable PAHs with passive sampling to assess the diffusive and advective flux between sediment porewater, river water and atmosphere. We are assessing magnitudes and spatial variations of bioavailable PAH movement at the sediment-river and river-air interfaces. We will quantify net movement of PAHs into the local environments via diffusive and advective flux in waters at different locations, at different times of the day, and in different seasons of the year.
  • We are currently sampling in a concentric ring design around the Port of St. Helens Creosote Site (PSHCS). This sampling design will provide information on PAH movement in areas near the site.
  • We have LDPE samplers in place extracts from which will be assessed for toxicological profile. Those extracts will be fractionated and the bioactive fractions identified in a process called Effects Directed Analysis or EDA. This analysis will allow us to identify potential sources of toxicological impact from complex exposure scenarios.


  • The Anderson team is collecting real-world exposure data from the Portland Harbor Superfund Site (PHSS), McCormick & Baxter, the Port of St. Helens, Tribes, and Oregon DEQ. Anderson measures PAH composition, environmental flow, and the success of remediation; exposure information is used to inform the toxicological testing conducted by Tanguay, Tilton and Teeguarden teams.

Our Previous Research

  • Collect mixtures of chemicals at Superfund sites with complementary PSD materials and identify the components of those mixtures that induce biological responses.
  • Apply additional stressors to PSD extracts and characterize the chemical and biological effects.
  • Develop PSD-bioaccumulation models that can predict chemical load in aquatic tissues with useful accuracy on the basis of measured PSD extracts.