Research in Occupational & Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Jae Hong Park’s primary research thrust is to develop novel ways to assess and control exposures to aerosols in occupational and environmental settings. Producing and controlling aerosols are of enormous interest in virtually all fields of science, especially chemistry, biomedical and environmental engineering, and toxicology. In those fields, aerosolized particles are needed to study exposure to airborne materials and must also be controlled so as to be sampled or to prevent exposure. He has applied his expertise in the generation of aerosols by spark discharge to develop novel ways to study topics in industrial hygiene and toxicology. He has applied the spark discharge system for industrial hygiene purposes: 1) simulation of welding fumes; 2) control of bioaerosols; 3) fabrication of antibacterial air filters; 4) test of aerosol samplers and instruments. He has also applied the spark discharge system to toxicological research in partnership with toxicology faculty. His other research interests include developing a wearable personal aerosol/health sensor, a personal bioaerosol sampler and an assessment kit for skin and lung deposition, and a dynamic model for predicting indoor air quality and energy consumption in ventilated livestock housing.

Dr. Ellen Wells conducts environmental epidemiology studies exploring how exposure to metals or endocrine disruptors impacts cardiometabolic and neurologic health.  Much of her work focuses on children’s environmental health and how early life exposures may impact health in later life.  She has conducted extensive work looking at the relationship of metal exposure during pregnancy with cardiovascular risk factors, including work which identified an association of lead exposure with blood pressure at very low exposure concentrations.  She has also conducted research related to metabolic and other health impacts resulting from children’s exposure bisphenol A and related compounds.  Her new projects focus on improving our understanding of the neurologic impact of occupational exposure to multiple metals among welders and smelters from Indiana and China.

Dr. Wei Zheng's long-term research goal has been to explore the occupational and environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease (PD) for better diagnosis, prevention and intervention. His group has more than 25-year experience in mechanistic investigation of manganese (Mn) – induced Parkinsonian disorders. With the support from NIH/NIEHS since 1994, he has conducted human epidemiological studies in workers who are occupationally exposed to Mn in working places such as among welders and smelters. For prevention and therapy, he has developed unique techniques to study Mn, iron (Fe) and most recently copper (Cu) distribution and transport across the blood-brain barrier and blood-CSF barrier. He used these techniques to depict the mechanism by which these metals get in and out of brains and how the disruption may contribute to the etiology of PD. By working with his collaborators on the field, he and his student supported by NIOSH training grant has extended the laboratory discoveries to search for biomarkers for early diagnosis of PD syndromes among welders and smelters. Most recently, Dr. Zheng has established the collaborations with Dr. Linda Nie to use her noninvasive neutron activation X-ray fluorescence technique to investigate the body burden of Mn, Pb and aluminum (Al) among workers and control populations.

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