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UK Students Discover How to Combat Effects of Toxic Chemicals


by Jenny Wells and Alicia Gregory 

Through the National Institute of Environmental Health Science's Superfund Research Program (SRP), University of Kentucky students are discovering ways to improve human health and diseases caused by chemical exposures near hazardous waste sites.

Kentucky has more than 200 hazardous waste sites on the active list for control, cleanup or monitoring under the federal Superfund program. The UK SRP focuses on the health impacts of exposure to different chlorinated organic compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and trichloroethylene (TCE), both of which are prevalent at Superfund sites in Kentucky and nationwide. PCBs are a class of hazardous chemicals used in coatings for electronics, sealants, adhesives, paint and flame retardants that were banned in the 1970s. However, their toxic compounds continue to linger in groundwater and soil.

REVEAL Research Media caught up with three of these UK students currently doing research with faculty members working in the UK SRP.

Li Xiao

Third-year Ph.D. student Li Xiao is using green tea to create nanoparticles that can degrade highly toxic pollutants like PCBs to non-toxic chemicals. View a video of Xiao here.

Video by REVEAL Research Media. For more information about Li and her research, visit

Brad Newsome

Fifth-year graduate student Brad Newsome develops composite nanomaterials for sensing and capture of PCBs. View a video of Newsome here

Video by REVEAL Research Media. For more information about Brad and his research, visit

Maggie Murphy

A marathoner and fourth-year Ph.D. student, Maggie Murphy is studying the effect of running on PCB exposure. View a video of Murphy here

Video by REVEAL Research Media. For more information on Maggie and her research, visit

For more information about the UK Superfund Research Program, visit