CORVALLIS - Nancy Kerkvliet, a professor of toxicology in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University, has been appointed to two federal committees of The National Academies that plan to explore different aspects of environmental toxicants.
Kerkvliet will join the Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides, a long-standing committee of the Institute of Medicine. This group will review the latest studies on the association between diseases and exposure to dioxin and other compounds in herbicides used during the Vietnam War, and will pass present their findings to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress and other interested parties.
She will also join the Committee on Toxicity Testing and Assessment of Environmental Agents, a committee of the National Research Council. Among other tasks, this newly appointed committee will assess approaches to toxicity testing and how they meet regulatory needs. It will also develop long-range plans to improve toxicity testing for human health assessment, and address how data obtained using new techniques - such as genomics or transgenics - can be incorporated into the risk assessment process.
Both groups will function in a climate of considerable public controversy about the health effects of low-level exposure to man-made chemicals in the environment, Kerkvliet said, driven at least in part by advocacy groups that are trying to get the usage of some chemicals banned. This has led to federal requirements for many new and expensive tests, she said, which may or may not shed much light on actual human health risks. The entire field of environmental health and toxic chemicals may require development of new ways of evaluating risks, she said.
Kerkvliet is an expert on the way in which environmental chemicals can affect the immune system, especially such toxic compounds as dioxins and PCBs. She received her doctorate from OSU in 1976 and has been on the OSU faculty since 1977.