The main research activities in the Environmental Toxicology program are as follows:
The project broadly aims to evaluate the possible harmful effects of environmental pollutants and industrial chemicals on health. Two types of studies have been initiated:
Two specific examples include:
Many forms of nutritional deficiencies are still prevalent in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Among the micronutrients, deficiencies of vitamins, particularly the B vitamin family, are still common and can occur rapidly after inadequate intake of food containing vitamins. The effects of the vitamin B deficiencies on toxicity of industrial chemicals and carcinogens, such as acrylonitrile, styrene, benzene and dimethylnitrosamine, have been studied.
To address long-term health concerns and improve the quality of life of industrial workers, and communities living in industrial areas, a project has been initiated to study the impacts on the environment of potentially toxic chemicals in industry, with regard to their chronic effect on the health of workers and on people living near industrial areas.
The research includes:
Current methods for the detection of toxic substances in bodies of water, ground water and the public water supply rely upon specific laboratory tests and biological tests using aquatic organisms, which have some disadvantages. The rapid detection of environmental toxicants is a key aspect, not only for basic research but also for environmental and industrial monitoring and the enforcement of environmental and health standards. The ability to conduct rapid tests on multiple samples in the field would therefore represent a significant step forward for environmental research and monitoring.
This project, a collaboration with the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA , aims at utilizing the technique of dielectrophoresis in detection of low levels of pollutants arising from industrial and agricultural sources in the water supply. Dielectrophoresis is the motion of particles induced by non-uniform, oscillating electric fields. Subtle responses of cells to agents include alterations in membrane capacitance and membrane conductance, which are two parameters easily assessed by dielectrophoresis.
Dielectrophoresis has been used to study, manipulate and separate both particles and cells. This technique is applied as a contact-free way to sense changes in the plasma membrane capacitances and conductivities of cells. The phenomenon depends on the capacitance, conductivity and size of the biological cells, the frequency of the applied field, and the electrical properties of the suspending medium. DEP has been shown to respond to minute changes in cell properties. However, DEP alone have some drawbacks such as time consuming, tedious work, and impractical for routine measurement. The developed dielectrophoresis field–flow fractionation or dFFF was established to solve said problems.
By applying this technique, it is hoped that a new, low-cost and rapid method of detection of toxic chemicals in the water supply can be developed.