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Environmental Factor, February 2012

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NTP toxicologist Kamal Abdo remembered

By Eddy Ball

Kamal Abdo, Ph.D.

Shown at an NTP Board of Scientific Counselors meeting circa 2000, Abdo was known for his sense of humor and endearing smile. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS/NTP colleagues were saddened by the death of Kamal Abdo, Ph.D., Dec. 22, 2011 in Bahama, N.C. at age 73. Abdo is survived by his widow Jeanette, three sons, three daughters, nine grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.

Writing of his longtime friend and colleague, NIEHS toxicologist James Huff, Ph.D., told Jeanette Abdo, “The world, science, and public health and humanitarianism, especially, have lost a great man.” Another of Abdo’s associates, retired NTP toxicologist Ron Melnick, Ph.D., said, “Kamal was a very dear friend and I will always think of him as a cheerful individual who cared about people and worked to promote a healthy environment for everyone.”

“Kamal’s death is a loss to the toxicology community,” said NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “He combined his genuine concern about people and their public health with scientific rigor to help make a real difference in the quality of their lives.”

Testing environmental chemicals for carcinogenicity

One of the first NIEHS scientists to join NTP, Abdo was a 25-year veteran of the Institute who retired in March 2005 after a career overseeing contract studies on the toxicity and carcinogenicity of high-profile chemicals and compounds, such as hexavalent chromium, rotenone, and naphthalene. Through his work at NIEHS/NTP, Abdo was one of several researchers whose scientific rigor and integrity helped the NTP two-year rodent study emerge as the gold standard of toxicology testing and contribute to reducing cancer risks from environmental exposures.

Abdo was the NIEHS originator long-term director of the Project on the Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides that was requested by the U.S. State Department to coordinate a Middle East regional program to reduce exposures to pesticides by farmers, farm families, and other agricultural workers in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestine Territories as part of the Multilateral Middle East Peace Process. This project involved the joint effort of scientists in Middle East nations working together to address their regional agricultural, health, and environmental problems.


A devout Muslim born Aug. 28, 1938 in Shuwaikah, Palestine, Abdo was memorialized with a service at Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, a Sunni Mosque in Durham, N.C., before he was laid to rest at Union Grove United Methodist Church in Bahama. Abdo’s family requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in his honor to Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, 3034 Fayetteville St., Durham, N.C. 27707 or Union Grove United Methodist Church, 8009 Bunny Road, Rougemont, N.C. 27572.

Friends and colleagues from NIEHS/NTP gathered for a second memorial Jan. 14 at Union Grove United Methodist Church in celebration of Abdo’s life.

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