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Published: Tuesday, 5/19/2009

Great Lakes scientists soliciting research topics from the public

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As last-minute preparations were made at the University of Toledo Monday for one of the largest biennial gatherings of Great Lakes scientists, two federal research agencies tried to get a better handle on what the public expects now that the nation's president is from the Great Lakes region.

The first event was a workshop held by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which studies how cancer-causing PCBs, mercury, and other pollutants in Great Lakes fish can impair human health.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a Great Lakes environmental research laboratory in Ann Arbor, held the second workshop.

The agency primarily studies lake levels, transportation and commerce, and climate-related issues.

Both workshops were preambles to the International Association of Great Lakes Research conference, which is expected to draw 650 people and at least 538 research papers.

It is to begin this morning with a keynote address by Howard Frumkin of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. He is director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, both part of the CDC.

Steve Dearwent, chief of the registry's health investigations branch, said his agency wants the public to help it identify research topics that might have been overlooked because it is "off to a fresh start and programmatic switch."

The registry was accused by some members of Congress in 2008 of withholding a three-year study about the degree to which Great Lakes industrial pollution can affect public health.

Agency officials said they did so because they questioned the report's validity, a contention that was backed up in September by an independent review panel called the Institute of Medicine.

At the NOAA workshop, Paul Doremus, the agency's director of strategic planning, said the lakes are affected by climate change, declining water levels, erosion, energy choices, and the collapse of financial markets. Some polls suggest Americans view the environment as less of a priority because of the recession, he said.

NOAA is taking comments on research priorities through July 1, spokesman Jennifer Day said.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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