As stated in the Constitution of the World Health Organization (1946), “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” The goal of the field of Public Health, therefore, is to protect the health status of all individuals. This goes beyond viewing the field of Public Health as a biomedical discipline solely concerned with human dose-response relationships. A critical aspect of Public Health is understanding environmental determinants affecting not only human exposure to toxic contaminants but also the effect these contaminants have on the maintenance of an ecological balance upon which all life and well-being depend.
Human exposure to environmental contaminants occurs within a larger ecological context. Failure to understand the interaction of natural physical, biological, and chemical factors affecting source-receptor relationships within this larger ecological context will lead to a failure to act in ways protective of both human and ecological health. Our research group is focused on the role of aquatic ecosystems as a conduit for contaminants relased to the environment. Specifically, we are examining biogeochemical processes affecting the transport and fate of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems. These studies range from detailed laboratory experiments highlighting how changes in the chemical form of contaminants affect their long range transport, bioavailability, and subsequent bioaccumulation in aquatic food chains, to studies evaluating ways in which we can use this knowledge to improve our ability to assess and act upon unacceptable risks.