Research

Department of Environmental & Occupational Health

Areas of department research and academic interest include agricultural health and safety, air pollution, chronic beryllium disease, environmental health law and policy, ergonomics, industrial hygiene, and oil and gas activities.

Research highlights


water with mountains
Reemergence and persistence of schistosomiasis in China 

China has achieved remarkable progress in the control of schistosomiasis, a water-borne pathogen that causes liver fibrosis, anemia and can impair child growth and development. However, schistosomiasis (caused by S. japonicum)  has reemerged and persisted in some areas, despite aggressive disease control efforts. In collaboration with the Sichuan Center for Disease Control and Prevention we are seeking to understand why these pockets of transmission persist. Our work has demonstrated the concentration of infections in a limited number of individuals, and suggested the practice of using human waste as an agricultural fertilizer (often called night soil) may facilitate transmission. We have recently​ developed an efficient, method for sequencing large numbers of loci from field-collected  S. japonicum miracidia. Current efforts are underway to understand sources of infections in residual transmission hotspots.  

Funding: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

oil well in sunset
Development of hydraulically fractured oil and natural gas sites and incidence of atrial fibrillation  

Atrial fibrillation is the most common and clinically significant heart arrhythemia and results in decreased quality of life and serious complications. People living near the development of hydraulically fractured oil and natural gas well sites may be at a greater risk for atrial fibrillation because of the air and noise pollution that is associated with the development. The objective of this study is to use data in Colorado’s All Payer Claims Database and the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System to determine the incidence of atrial fibrillation related health outcomes in populations near the development of hydraulically fractured oil and natural gas well sites.

Faculty: Lisa McKenzie, Ben Allshouse 

Funded by the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute 

Drinking water
PFAS-AWARE: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance- assessment of water and resident exposure 

From 2013 to 2016, PFAS concentrations above the EPA health advisory were detected in drinking water in El Paso County, Colorado. The PFAS-AWARE study was developed to understand the relationship between exposure and body burden of various PFAS and to evaluate how PFAS exposure impacts health. Results of the study showed that in 2018, participants had median perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) serum concentrations approximately 12, 2 and 1.9 times as high as the U.S. population median, respectively. Data analyses for change in serum PFAS concentrations, as well as associations with health effects, are ongoing.  

Faculty: John Adgate, Anne Starling, Chris Higgins 

Funding: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) 

Learn more about the PFAS-AWARE Study >