LSU SRP Open Forum Seminar on EPFRs and Human Health

The Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) hosted three scientists who are experts in lung disease and the dangers of environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRS) from the University of Queensland in Australia. These LSU SRP collaborators traveled to Baton Rouge to speak at the LSU SRP Open Forum Seminar on EPFRs and Human Health on May 25, 2023.

collage of open forum speakers

Dr. Dwan Vilcins, Dr. Ayaho Yamamoto, and Dr. Paul Robinson (left to right) of the University of Queensland.

The seminar began with morning talks on the main LSU campus in Baton Rouge by Dwan Vilcins, PhD, Group Leader in Environmental Epidemiology in the Children’s Health and Environment Program, and Ayaho Yamamoto, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, both at the University of Queensland’s Child Health Research Centre. Dr. Vilcins, an expert on the effects of environmental exposures on children’s health, presented research on how EPFRs, dangerous combustion by-products, accumulate in homes in household dust and what people can do to protect themselves.

Stephania Cormier, PhD, LSU SRP Director, commented on the importance of this series of talks for the university and broader community:

“EPFRs are formed during the thermal treatment of hazardous wastes. Across the country, approximately 30% of all Superfund sites are remediated by thermal treatment. In Louisiana, 12 out of 14 active Superfund sites have been or are being remediated using thermal treatment. This implies that these Louisiana sites are likely to have produced or are producing EPFRs as part of the remediation process, which can have environmental implications due to their persistence and toxicity.”

Dr. Yamamoto’s research contributes to understanding the mechanistic links between environmental exposures and negative health effects in the lungs and airways. She especially focuses on air pollution exposure and is investigating early intervention strategies with dietary antioxidants to improve respiratory health and reduce the risk of long-term effects. At the LSU SRP Open Forum, Dr. Yamamoto’s talk explained how the dietary antioxidant astaxanthin (found in foods loved by Louisianians including shrimp and crawfish) can protect against EPFR exposure.

Dr. Yamamoto behind lectern speaking to audience

Dr. Ayaho Yamamoto presents her work on LSU’s Baton Rouge campus at the LSU SRP's Open Forum Seminar on EPFRs and Human Health.

Photo Credit: Stephania Cormier.


The seminar continued into the afternoon, with a talk by Paul Robinson, MBChB, FRACP, PhD, at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. Dr. Robinson is Deputy Director of the Children’s Health and Environment Program at the Child Health Research Centre at the University of Queensland and Senior Staff Specialist in Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. He is an internationally recognized expert in translational research on early lung disease detection and ongoing monitoring of established disease. His work has led to the development of remote monitoring strategies to detect clinically meaningful outcomes that conventional approaches often miss. As part of the LSU SRP Open Forum, Dr. Robinson discussed recent advances in lung function testing allowing earlier diagnosis of pediatric pulmonary diseases, including asthma.

Dr. Robinson behind lectern speaking to audience

Dr. Paul Robinson presents his work at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge as part of the LSU SRP's Open Forum Seminar on EPFRs and Human Health.

Photo Credit: Stephania Cormier.


The researchers not only presented their advanced research in a public setting, but also had the opportunity to enhance crucial collaborations with members of the LSU SRP team. Dr. Cormier highlighted several key areas of collaboration, including “gaining a deeper understanding of the respiratory health impacts of EPFR exposures on individuals residing near Superfund and other hazardous waste treatment facilities employing thermal processes. They also discussed the possibility of conducting dietary intervention studies based on emerging data from research projects within the LSU SRP.”

Researchers sitting at outdoor table

After their talks, Dr. Paul Robinson, Dr. Ayaho Yamamoto, and Dr. Dwan Vilcins (left to right) discuss their research with LSU SRP team members in Baton Rouge.

Photo Credit: Stephania Cormier.