Environmental Health News

People and Places 2016, Issue #1

Return to 2016, Issue #1 issue

Safer Chemistry Champion

Safer Chemistry Champions

Staff in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences were honored October 27, 2015, with a “Safer Chemistry Champion” award presented by the Washington Department of Ecology. The awards ceremony was part of the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Roundtable 2015, which brings together businesses and technical assistance providers to discuss pollution prevention topics like green chemistry, stormwater, and energy efficiency. L to R in photo: Ken Zarker from Ecology’s Regulatory Assistance Section; Nancy Simcox and Jill Tepe from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and Darin Rice from Ecology's Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. Photo credit: Department of Ecology. Read more...

EPA Top Official Meets with Faculty

Faculty and Gina McCarthy group shot

Some of our faculty met with EPA's top official, Gina McCarthy, on March 9, 2016, and talked about activities they are doing in the areas of climate change, air pollution, children's environmental health exposures, and health impacts of the Duwamish River Cleanup, among other subjects. EPA's Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran was also at the event. Both he and Gina McCarthy thanked the faculty for the important work they do and for serving on EPA scientific committees. Photo credit: Sarah Fish. See a larger photo on Facebook.

King County Board of Health Appointment

Headshot of William Daniell

Associate Professor William Daniell was appointed to the King County Board of Health in September 2015. The Board sets county-wide policies and regulations to protect and promote the health of King County residents. Over the years, the Board of Health has enacted countless measures to improve the health and well-being of King County residents, including banning trans fats in restaurants, regulating e-cigarettes, and requiring the use of bicycle helmets. Photo credit: Sarah Fish.

AXA Research Fund Chair in Air Pollution and Health

Headshot of Sverre Vedal

Professor Sverre Vedal is the first chairholder of the AXA Research Fund Chair in Air Pollution and Health at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences in Beijing, China, where he is a guest professor. The Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES) held a kickoff presentation for the AXA Chair in Air Pollution and Health in early 2015. Photo credit: Mary Levin.

Outreach to Local Schools

Jill Falman presents to a group of students

Lecturer Tania Busch Isaksen organized the Healthy Choices Fair in January at the Environment and Adventure Middle School in Kirkland, Washington. Among the speakers were MS student Jill Falman (Environmental Health) and Research Scientist Alexandra Kossik. Their talk, "The Science of Poop," covered microbial contamination of drinking water sources, health consequences associated with exposure, the importance of immunizations, and measurement tools and techniques used to detect pathogens of concern. Photo credit: Tania Busch Isaksen.

Heather Fowler speaks to a group of students

Graduate students Heather Fowler, Katie Fellows, and Anika Larson joined the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health (CEEH) 
Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) for Hazel Wolf K-8 school's annual E-STEM Career Day on January 13. Heather Fowler led two sessions of sixth-to eighth-grade students in a presentation and activity that used real-world examples from parasitology to explain how One Health can help keep people, pets, and the environment healthy. On April 1, COEC members provided an Environmental 
Health lesson to six health classes at Bellevue Interlake High 
School. PhD student Heather Fowler gave a presentation on One Health and parasitology. DEOHS students Jill 
Falman and Anika Larson assisted and told about their educational 
journey and career goals. The classroom visits were arranged by Marilyn Hair, CEEH's outreach manager. Photo credit: Marilyn Hair.

EH Major Places in Global Health Business Case Competition

Ryan Kouchakji and teammates holding their awards

Ryan Kouchakji, a junior in the Environmental Health major, was part of a team that won second place in the Global Health Business Case Competition on held January 23 on the UW campus. Teams developed and pitched a program to combat and prevent childhood pneumonia in Uganda. Kouchakji's team focused on symptom recognition and vaccine delivery and planned a campaign to address socioeconomic issues and train and work with Uganda's Ministry of Health and local health providers. The competition was facilitated by the UW Foster School of Business Global Business Center in collaboration with the following groups within the university: the Global Business Center, Department of Global Health, UW Rotoract, Global Case Competition Club, Montlake Consulting Group. Photo credit: Global Business Center.

Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs Appointment

Headshot of Victoria Breckwich Vasquez

Victoria Breckwich Vasquez, director of community engagement & education in the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, was appointed to the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs in January. As mandated by the state legislature, the Commission's functions are to improve public policy development and the delivery of government services to the Hispanic community. Photo credit: Jeff Hodson.

Science Communication Fellows

Professor Marilyn Roberts and graduate students Heather Fowler, Rebekah Petroff, Katie Fellows, and Rachel Shaffer completed the Pacific Science Center Science Communication Fellowship which involves a series of skill-building workshops and support for developing an individual program for the Pacific Science Center's "Meet a Scientist." In the program, scientists share scientific concepts related to their individual research with children. The fellows participate in several public events throughout the year.

Brittany Weldon, who was a Communication Fellow in 2015, was selected to serve on the advisory committee for the Pacific Science Center’s upcoming environmental health exhibit focused on water, "What Goes Around Comes Around." The exhibit opens June 11 and runs through December 4 and will be part of Professor Wellbody's Academy of Health and Wellness. Weldon will be one of the professionals featured in the exhibit's Career Machine, an activity for kids to explore different health-related careers.

New Faculty

Elizabeth Dykstra, Affiliate Associate Professor, effective 3/1/16
Christopher Gill, Affiliate Professor, effective 3/1/16
Susan Kerr, Affiliate Professor, effective 7/1/15
Kathi Lefebvre, Affiliate Associate Professor, effective 7/1/15

Igor Novosselov, Adjunct Research Assistant Professor, effective 3/1/16
Marguerite Pappaioanou, Affiliate Professor, effective 3/1/16
Pooja Tandon, Adjunct Assistant Professor, effective 3/1/16
Libin Xu, Adjunct Assistant Professor, effective 3/1/16


A number of people from or used to be from DEOHS attended the International Society of Exposure Science Annual Meeting in Henderson, Nevada, October 18-22, 2015. Faculty included: Kristie Ebi, Richard Fenske, Jeremy Hess, Catherine Karr, John Kissel, Edmund Seto, Christopher Simpson, June Spector, and Michael Yost. Postdoctoral researchers included Elena Austin and Erin Riley. Students included Miriam Calkins, Eddie Kasner, and Jane Pouzou. DEOHS alumni included Cynthia Curl, Deborah Havens, and Chang-Fu Wu.

Many faculty, staff, and students participated on January 7-8 at the 2016 Semiahmoo Symposium. The annual joint meeting brings researchers together for cross border conversations and collaborations from the University of Washington (School of Public Health); University of British Columbia (School of Population and Public Health); Simon Fraser University (Faculty of Health Sciences); Oregon State University (College of Public Health and Human Sciences); and University of Victoria (Department of Public Health and Social Policy).

The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) and the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NWCOHS) were involved in two events: the February 24 Agricultural Safety Day in Wenatchee, Washington, and the February 24-26 Western Forum for Migrant and Community Health in Portland, Oregon.

  • The Agricultural Safety Day event, with programs in English and Spanish, brought in 508 employers, supervisors, workers, and safety and health professionals. It is co-sponsored by the Department of Labor & Industries and the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board, and both NWCOHS and PNASH members served on the planning committee.  NWCOHS sponsored a short course on process safety management standards associated with ammonia. PNASH staff members were also involved. Pablo Palmandez proctored several Spanish language sessions and Jose Carmona hosted an exhibit that included a fluorescent tracer demonstration of pesticide contamination.  PhD student Eddie Kasner organized a session on drift management.
  • The Western Forum, sponsored by the Northwest Regional Primary Care Association, brought together health professionals from migrant and community health centers and other organizations to share information and resources for program and policy development. Victoria Breckwich Vasquez, director of community engagement & education for PNASH,  served on the planning committee. PNASH Program Manager Marcy Harrington organized the poster session and a PNASH exhibit. Continuing Education Programs’ (CE) staff members Sarah Wolz and Jill Tepe also organized an exhibit. Presentations featured PNASH projects, one on participatory storytelling methods and Latino forest workers and the other on a partnership between El Projecto Bienestar, a community group, and the University of Washington.

Student Honors 

Headshot of Brittany Weldon

PhD student Brittany Weldon (Environmental Toxicology): Risk Assessment Specialty Section Perry J. Gehring Best Graduate Student Abstract Award and the Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Specialty Section Student Award from the Society of Toxicology; Best Abstract Award from the International Society for Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology; First Place Poster Presentation Award from the Pacific Northwest Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology; Graduate Student Travel Support Award to attend the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting. Photo of Brittany Weldon, credit: Elizabeth Sharpe.

PhD student Shirley Chang (Environmental Toxicology): Colgate-Palmolive Award for Student Research Training in Alternative Methods by the Society of Toxicology.

PhD student Anna Engstrom (Environmental Toxicology): Graduate Student Travel Support Award to attend the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting.

GO Health Fellow Goes to South Africa

Jill Falman works in the lab

With funding from a Global Opportunities in Health (GO Health) Fellowship from the UW Department of Global Health, MS student Jill Falman (Environmental Health) went to South Africa last summer to work in Professor Maureen Taylor’s lab at the University of Pretoria to characterize rotavirus strains found in the environment. Rotavirus can cause severe and fatal diarrhea in children less than five years of age. Falman analyzed water samples from Nairobi, Kenya, to investigate which strains are circulating within three urban communities in Nairobi following a rotavirus vaccine's introduction in 2014 and compare these strains to pre-vaccine data. This kind of environmental surveillance can evaluate the effectiveness of rotavirus vaccines. Compared to clinical specimens, environmental samples can provide a more accurate representation of the rotavirus strains circulating in a community and can indicate new strains before the disease shows up in a clinic. Photo credit: Courtesty of Jill Falman.

Toxicology Interns

Breana Bennett (MS/MPA concurrent degree student in Toxicology and the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance) interned at Veritox, Inc. in Redmond. She wrote a critical review of scientific literature to investigate the link between diacetyl, one of the main components of artificial butter flavoring, and the rare and irreversible lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans. Inconsistencies in terminology and measurement methods has led to differences in association claims. She also assisted in reviewing literature for various consultation cases, particularly investigating clear cause and effect, does x cause y. She enjoyed the brief foray into the litigation world; it impressed upon her how much uncertainty remains in the scientific literature, especially concerning public health.

Carly Wilder (MS student, Environmental Toxicology) interned in the Investigative Toxicology lab at Genentech in South San Francisco. Her project focused on generating an RNA library of Sprague Dawley rat tissue and human in vitro cell lines. This was done in order to run gene expression analysis on approximately 80 targets currently in Genentech’s pipeline. The information was compiled into a database that is currently used in the Investigative Toxicology lab as a starting point for formulating new experiments involving gene expression in these commonly used model systems. She also was involved in developing an in vitro differentiation model of human erythrocytes. She used flow cytometry to assess the effects of a test set of compounds on viability, proliferation, and differentiation in the model system. The goal was to identify compounds with toxicity in erythrocytes leading to anemia. The experience working in the pharmaceutical industry influenced her future career plans, and she is pursuing further education in toxicology and pharmacology.

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