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Environmental Factor, January 2013

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ASU appoints Halden to lead new Center for Environmental Security

By Sara Mishamandani

Rolf Halden, Ph.D.

In addition to leading CES, Halden formed In Situ Well Technologies, a spinout company that focuses on remediation for contaminated water resources and aquifers. (Photo courtesy of ASU)

Rolf Halden, Ph.D., an Arizona State University (ASU) environmental engineering professor and NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee, is the new director of the Center for Environmental Security (CES) at ASU, an innovative initiative to manage environmental stress to protect human health and critical ecosystems.

Halden sees CES as a way to address the need to work on a regional, national, and global scale to protect environmental quality and human health, using both traditional and innovative public health strategies.

“The goal of CES is to protect human populations and our planet by detecting, minimizing, and ultimately eliminating harmful chemical and biological agents through engineering interventions,” said Halden. “We will be utilizing a proactive approach to examine chemical and biological threats in the environment locally and globally, to track human diseases of environmental etiology, and to develop intervention strategies suitable for mitigating these threats.”

Uniting public health engineering and global security

The center will be the first of 11 research centers at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, which will partner to leverage expertise and resources from ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative (SDSI). By using environmental engineering to anticipate threats and prevent avoidable diseases, Halden’s center will focus on national and global security, through a transdisciplinary approach, to help answer numerous present-day sustainability challenges and to offer a notable return on investment.

“Public health engineering saves lives and money,” Halden explained. “More than half of humanity’s health problems are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on environmental factors. People get exposed to potentially harmful agents through food, air, water, and soil. We are looking at all relevant exposure routes with the goal to intervene early.”

The major research themes of CES include environmental monitoring as a means of threat detection; environmental epidemiology for health impact assessment; public health preparedness for bioterrorism prevention; innovative environmental diagnostics and management strategies using microcosm arrays and policy interventions; and food safety and security through microbial drug-resistance tracking.

The center was established in late 2012, with funding from the Piper Charitable Trust, as well as the ASU SDSI, Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. CES also has support from the Department of Defense for two projects.

A focus on Superfund research

Halden’s past and current NIEHS-funded research concentrates on the development of an in situ microcosm array (ISMA) remedial design device and a sampling tool for assessing bioavailability and toxicity of sediments. Both projects address the pressing need of Superfund stakeholders to determine, in a convenient and reliable way, both human health risks from contaminated sediments and the effectiveness of implemented remediation strategies.

His team at the ASU Biodesign Institute recently reached an arrangement with Geosyntec Consultants, an international environmental remediation firm, to jointly develop the NIEHS-funded ISMA technology for commercialization.

Halden has received SRP funding since 2006, resulting in over 35 peer-reviewed publications, multiple patent applications, and three SRP Research Briefs (169(, and 199( Halden's research has also sparked two startup companies.

(Sara Mishamandani is a research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program and Division of Extramural Research and Training.) 

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