1. Bioaccessibility, interaction effects and risk assessment of mixed metals

Lead supervisor: Professor Jack Ng

Contact: j.ng@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Metals and metalloids are widespread in the environment. In elevated concentrations, they may exert harmful effects on humans. The sources of metal contamination may be of natural or anthropogenic origin, and they often co-exist at contaminated sites. There is a scarcity of data for the health risk assessment of mixed metals. This project aims to understand the interaction between As, Cd and Pb, and soil properties and how these factors influence bioaccessibility (a surrogate measurement of bioavailability) for health risk assessment of metal mixtures in various soil types.

The PhD study will build on previous projects to further evaluate the effect of soil aging, the sequence of contaminants entering the soil matrix, soil properties, absorption capacity and speciation on bioaccessibility of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb). Elemental concentrations will be measured using ICP-MS or ICP-OES. Bioaccessibility will be assessed by several in vitro gastrointestinal simulation methods. Cellular uptake will be studied in a human liver cell-line system. The study will afford a more refined health risk assessment framework.

Preferred education background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA Honours or Masters Degree in Biological or Environmental Science, with a strong interest in environmental contaminant exposure and effect assessment.

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2. Occurrence and health risk assessment of rare earth elements in the food chain

Lead supervisor: Professor Jack Ng

Contact: j.ng@uq.edu.au

 

Project description

Australia is a mineral rich country and mining is a major industry. There are significant resources of rare earth elements (REE) in Australia, and its production of REE ranks among the top three countries globally. REE are high-value products used in electrical and hybrid-vehicles, alternative energy storage and electronic instrument. However, very little data are available about the occurrence of REE in the human food chain, and their individual and combined potential health effects upon exposure are largely unknown. This project aims to understand the soil/water-plants(food)-humans food-web relationship of  REE in terms of their potential health risk implication.

The PhD study will develop ICP-MS and ICP-OES methods for the analysis of REE and other key elements in various environmental matrices, apply an in vitro gastrointestinal simulation method for the prediction of bioavailability, and in vitro human cell model for the effect assessment. The project will fill a significant knowledge gap for the health risk assessment of REE.

Preferred education background: Undergraduate Class I or IIA Honours or Masters Degree in Biological or Environmental Science, with a strong interest in environmental contaminant exposure and effect assessment.

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