Before widespread distribution of natural gas, combustible gas for municipal heating and lighting was supplied by manufactured gas plants (MGPs). The predominant waste product from MGPs is coal tar, a dense liquid that contains very high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A 1987 MOE inventory indicates that there are at least 41 former MGP sites in 36 Ontario communities, and public health units are required to comment on the human health hazards posed by the complex contamination at these sites. However, hazard/risk assessment of former MGP sites is hampered by the complexity of the chemical mixture of contaminants. Traditional assessments focus on only a small number of targeted, priority substances. Research being conducted at Health Canada is evaluating the utility of the targeted approach, relative to an approach that examines chemically-distinct, complex mixtures.
About the Speaker
Dr. White, a research scientist at Health Canada in Ottawa and Professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa, is a genetic toxicologist with over 20 years of experience using a variety of in vitro and in vivo tools for the assessment of genotoxic, mutagenic and clastogenic activity. His current research efforts include the use of a variety of in vitro and in vivo tools to assess the mutagenic potency of priority PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), several of which are known mutagenic carcinogens, as well as non-priority PAHs, simplified synthetic PAH mixtures, complex PAH mixtures, and mixtures of more polar aromatic hydrocarbons.
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