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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Faculty Members Awarded NIH Grant to Study Relationship of Birth Defects, Toxic Metals in Private Wells

Dr. Alexander Keil, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Rebecca Fry, Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering, both at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, are co-principal and principal investigators, respectively, for a new $1.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The researchers will examine the impact of environmental exposure to metals found in well water upon birth defects and will identify priorities for reducing well water exposures.

The award will support work that continues a line of research into the effects of environmental exposures in North Carolina on birth outcomes, and will build capacity for studying and reducing birth defects in the future. The planned analyses will consider the potential for reducing birth defects through use of water filtration systems.

Dr. Keil will lead the initiative with Dr. Fry, who also is director of the Institute for Environmental Health Solutions in the Gillings School.

“This research shifts the paradigm of environmental epidemiology,” Dr. Keil said. “Not only will we examine environmental causes of disease, but also will identify feasible interventions that ensure the best use of available resources.”

Dr. Keil says that cutting-edge epidemiologic methods will use existing data to identify regions and populations that need interventions, while optimizing the use of limited public health funding.

Other key researchers from the Gillings School’s Department of Epidemiology are Dr. Andrew Olshan, Barbara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor in Cancer Epidemiology and associate director of population sciences at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Dr. Daniel Westreich, associate professor.

[Photo: Dr. Alexander Keil (left) and Dr. Rebecca Fry]

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