Evan Gonzalez, DetroitStockCity.com

From PBB to PFAS: Research and Action to Address Michigan’s Large-Scale Chemical Contaminations


Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, DABT, ATS

Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, DABT, ATS is the former Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). As a retiree, she was granted scientist emeritus status. As a board-certified toxicologist, Birnbaum served as a federal scientist for 40 years. Prior to her appointment as NIEHS and NTP Director in 2009, she spent 19 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research.

Birnbaum has received many awards and recognitions. In 2016, she was awarded the North Carolina Award in Science. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. She was also elected to the Collegium Ramazzini, an independent, international academy comprised of internationally renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health and received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Rochester and a Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Illinois. She also received an Honorary Doctorate from Ben-Gurion University, Israel and Amity University, India; the Surgeon General's Medallion 2014; and 14 Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA's external Science Advisory Board, for specific publications.

Birnbaum is an active member of the scientific community. She was vice president of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries, and former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world. She is the author of more than 800 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and reports. Birnbaum's own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of action of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking of real-world exposures to health effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program at Duke University.

A native of New Jersey, Birnbaum received her MS and PhD in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Courtney Carignan, PhD

Dr. Carignan is an exposure scientist and environmental epidemiologist whose research helps protect reproductive and child health by investigating exposure to contaminants in food, water, consumer and personal care products. She conducts biomonitoring and health studies for a wide range of populations, including preconception and birth cohorts as well as communities exposed to contaminated drinking water. Her research has contributed to public health interventions aimed at reducing exposures to flame retardants, perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and arsenic.

Marcus Cheatham

Marcus Cheatham is Health Officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, serving Clinton, Gratiot and Montcalm Counties. MMDHD is nationally recognized for seeking innovative solutions to local public health challenges. He has worked closely with the Pine River Superfund Citizen’s Task Force and researchers at Emory University to identify and mitigate adverse health effects stemming from the 1973 PBB contamination in Michigan.

Dana C. Dolinoy, PhD

Dr. Dana Dolinoy serves as NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health as well as Director of the Michigan Lifestage Environmental Exposures and Disease (M-LEEaD) Center. She leads the Environmental Epigenetics and Nutrition Laboratory, which investigates how nutritional and environmental factors interact with epigenetic gene regulation to shape health and disease. Dr. Dolinoy holds a PhD in Genetics and Genomics and Integrated Toxicology from Duke University, and MSc in Public Health from Harvard University, and serves as Associate Editor of Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental Epigenetics, and Toxicological Sciences, and served as Chair of the Gordon Research Conference in Cellular & Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity. She has been an invited speaker at numerous national and international meetings and authored more than 100 peer reviewed scientific manuscripts and 10 book chapters. In 2011, Dr. Dolinoy received the Norman Kretchmer Memorial Award from the American Society for Nutrition and the Classic Paper of the Year Award from Environmental Health Perspectives. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH)/Pfizer Research Award for the article, “An Expression Microarray Approach for the Identification of Metastable Epialleles in the Mouse Genome.” This work was cited as a model approach that may allow for directly assessing the role of early environmental exposures in human adult disease. Dolinoy received the 2015 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award to develop novel epigenetic editing tools to reduce disease risk and served as the Co-Chair of the 2016 meeting, ToxicoEpigenetics: The Interface of Epigenetics and Risk Assessment.

Brittany Bayless Fremion, PhD

Brittany Bayless Fremion is an Associate Professor of History at Central Michigan University. She is an environmental and U.S. historian by training with special interests and expertise in oral history. Her research focuses on twentieth-century environmental initiatives in the American Midwest, particularly the intersection of gender, race, and class in those efforts. She is project director for the Michigan PBB Oral History Project, a proud member of the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force (St. Louis, Michigan), and board member for the Michigan Oral History Association.

Jennifer A. Haverkamp

University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, a Professor from Practice at Michigan Law School and a Professor of Practice at the Ford School of Public Policy. Before coming to Michigan, she served as the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador and Special Representative for Environment and Water Resources, where in 2016 she led the Department’s successful negotiations of the Kigali HFC Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s landmark CORSIA agreement to control global greenhouse gas emissions. Previously, Ms. Haverkamp directed Environmental Defense Fund's International Climate Program, spent nearly a decade as the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Environment and Natural Resources in the Executive Office of the President, and held posts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. She has taught at Cornell Law School, George Washington University’s law school and Johns Hopkins graduate school, and has served on USTR's Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee and a number of nonprofit boards. Ms. Haverkamp earned a law degree from Yale Law School, earned a master’s degree in politics and philosophy at Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar) and majored in biology at The College of Wooster (on whose board of trustees she has served for many years).

Barbara A. Israel, MPH, DrPH

Barbara A. Israel, MPH, DrPH, is a Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan. She has published widely in the areas of: the social and physical environmental determinants of health and health inequities and community-based participatory research (CBPR). Dr. Israel has extensive experience conducting CBPR in collaboration with partners in diverse communities. Since 1995, she has worked together with academic and community partners to establish and maintain the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center. The Center facilitates the development of affiliated CBPR partnerships that have conducted multiple NIH and Foundation-funded basic etiologic research and intervention research projects aimed at increasing knowledge and addressing factors associated with health inequities in Detroit.

Jane Keon

Jane Keon is a founding member of Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, an EPA-sanctioned Community Advisory Group that is overseeing the cleanup of chemical contamination in St. Louis, Michigan. In recognition of her efforts, she has been elected to the Pine River Superfund Citizen’s Task Force Hall of Fame. She recently published a book about the first 16 years of the Task Force, entitled Tombstone Town.

Theresa Landrum

Theresa Landrum, a community organizer and activist, has been fighting against Environmental injustices over twenty years. She is co-founder of the 48217 Community and Environmental Health Organization, a resident-based advocacy group that fights heavy polluting industries’ encroachment on residential neighborhoods. Ms. Landrum is a member and volunteer of the Sierra Club (a national organization fighting to restore the great lakes and protect the environment). She is acting Communications Liaison for the Original United Citizens of Southwest Detroit and a member of the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) at the Marathon Petroleum Corporation and newly elected board member at Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision. Presently, Ms. Landrum is the Community Education Specialist for the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition’s Clean Air Council. Ms. Landrum is a former member of the 2017/2018 Environmental Justice Work Group convened under former Gov. Rick Snyder. A life-long resident of the triple cities, Ms. Landrum is one of Southwest Detroit 48217’s (an area deemed as the most polluted zip code in Michigan) most outspoken community activist where she promotes “Green Jobs less Emissions” for a cleaner environment. Her commitment is to assure that community has a seat at the table.

Monica Lewis-Patrick

Monica Lewis-Patrick (aka The Water Warrior) is a mother, educator, entrepreneur, and human rights activist/advocate. She is co-founder of We The People of Detroit and has served as Director of Community Outreach & Engagement since 2009 and was unanimously elected by the Board to become the President & CEO in 2014.

She is an active member of the People’s Water Board Coalition, US Human Rights Network, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), HOW (Healing Our Waters)/ Equity Advisory Action WeCouncil, PolicyLink-WERC, Flint Strong Stones (Co-founder), Freshwater Futures/All About Water (Advisory Committee), Lead and Copper Rule Advisory Group at University of Michigan/ Ann Arbor- Water Center, The Nature Conservancy and Michigan State University Water Fellow 2019, Michigan Water Table: PFAS Workshop, Michigan Water Unity Table, Water Affordability- Flint/ Mayor Karen Weaver, Detroit Equity Action Lab (Fellow 2016), Michigan Water Table, International Joint Commission/ Water Quality Board- Committee Member, Michigan Environmental Justice Advisory Council, Michigan Lifestage Environmental Exposures and Disease Center- Stakeholder Advisory Group and was named to the World Water Justice Council in October 2015.

She is actively engaged in every struggle on behalf of Detroit residents. As a former Lead Legislative Policy Analyst for Detroit City Council under the mentorship of former City Councilwoman, the Honorable JoAnn Watson, Monica has authored legislation, conducted research and delivered constituency services to tens of thousands of city residents.

Lewis-Patrick attended the historic Bennett College, is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a B.G.S.(Bachelors of General Studies) degree in Social Work and Sociology, a M.A.L.S. (Masters of Arts of Liberal Studies) degree with a concentration in Criminal Justice/Sociology and Public Management, and was a Ron McNair Scholar.

Edward Lorenz, PhD

Ed is Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Alma College and Vice-Chair of the Pine River Superfund Task Force. He has a PhD from the University of Chicago, an M.A. from Georgetown University and a BS from Towson University. He is the author of a book on the company that produced PBB, Community Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed (MSU Press, 2012), which won the Best Book Award in 2012 from the Michigan Historical Society and the Silver Medal for Business Ethics from Axiom. He also was a contributing author in Building a Green Economy: Perspectives from Ecological Economics (MSU Press, 2013) and with Brenda Eskenazi et al., “The Pine River Statement: Human Health Consequences of DDT Use,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 4 May 2009. He served on the U.S. EPA, National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, Superfund Subcommittee (2002-2004) and served as founding chair of the Pine River Task Force from 1998-2002.

Michele Marcus, PhD

Dr. Marcus is a Professor of Epidemiology, Environmental Health and Pediatrics at Emory University. She received her MPH and PhD from Columbia University and has served on advisory committees for the National Academy of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and Kaiser Permanente. She also received an award for Outstanding Scientific Contributions from the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Marcus has worked for more than 25 years to research the health effects of PBB, working closely with the impacted community.

Carmen Marsit, PhD

Carmen Marsit, PhD, is Associate Dean for Research and Professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the developmental origins of health and disease utilizing state-of-the-art genomic and epigenomic tools, applied to research questions and cohorts in reproductive and children’s health. Dr. Marsit broadly interprets the environment to include the chemical, physical, internal, and social factors that impact health, and applies this philosophy as the Director of the Emory HERCULES Exposome Research Center. He also directs the T32 Training Program in the Environmental Health Sciences and Toxicology, and is committed to the education, training, and mentorship of the next generation of researchers.

G. Tim Neyer

PBB Citizens Advisory Board since March 2013

Mr. Neyer’s dairy farm was contaminated with PBB and lost over 386 head of dairy animals. Following this devastating event, Mr. Neyer left farming permanently. Forty years after this event, PBB can still be detected in his body. As a PBB Citizens Advisory Board member, Mr. Neyer helps continue medical research in conjunction with Emory University for all Michigan's victims. Mr. Neyer is now a Corporate Environmental Management System Coordinator with American Mitsuba Corporation.

Angela G. Reyes, MPH

Angela G. Reyes, MPH, is the founder and Executive Director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. Ms. Reyes was born in Southwest Detroit, where she continues to reside, and is the mother of 4, grandmother of 8, and great-grandmother of 5 children. She has been committed to working in and serving the Latino community for over 40 years, and founded DHDC in 1997 from her living room, “because I was tired of burying children”. She has developed and managed several successful programs for youth, young adults and families.

Ms. Reyes has a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan, and has been the recipient of several awards for her community work, including the 1992 Michiganian of the Year, Corp! Magazine’s Michigan’s Most Influential Hispanic Leaders; the E. Hill Deloney Youth Development Award, Community-Based Public Health Caucus (CBPH) of the American Public Health Association, 2009; “Closing the Gap” Award, New Detroit, 2011; and the Liberty Bell Award, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, 2011; “Reconocimiento Ohtli” Mexican Consulate Community Service Award, 2016; and the Mary Turner Center for Advocacy, Nida Donar Social Justice Award, 2017, and the Ford Hispanic Network, Espiritu de la Comunidad Award, 2019 .

Ms. Reyes is a founding board member of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, which was established in 1995 to address health disparities of residents in Detroit. Ms. Reyes serves as a co-chair for the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Children, a diverse cross-section of Detroit leaders that been working together since 2015 to improve the city's education system. She is also one of the founders and the current Board Chair of the Southwest Detroit Community Justice Center, providing wrap-around services to the 36th District Court - SW Community Court Section, which focuses on restorative justice and addressing the underlying causes of quality of life crimes.

Ms. Reyes is an international consultant and speaker about issues affecting the Latino community, including cultural awareness, youth gangs and violence, substance abuse, immigration, education reform, community-based participatory research, policy development and community organizing.

Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, MD

Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, M.D. is a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan and is affiliated with Hurley Medical Center. He received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Dr. Lawrence served as a member of Governor Snyder’s Environmental Justice Task Force, providing recommendations based on the Flint water crisis. He serves as co-Chair for the Community Advisory Board for the Flint Registry.

Natalie Sampson, PhD, MPH

Natalie Sampson, PhD, MPH is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at UM-Dearborn, where she teaches courses in environmental health, community organizing, and health promotion. Grounded primarily in Southeast Michigan, she studies transportation and land use planning, stormwater infrastructure, vacant land reuse, and climate change planning efforts, particularly their implications for health. She applies participatory research approaches with diverse partners using a broad methodological toolkit, including photovoice, concept mapping, and health impact assessment. In 2017, Dr. Sampson received the American Public Health Association’s Rebecca Head Award, which recognizes “an outstanding emerging leader from the environmental field working at the nexus of science, policy, and environmental justice.” Dr. Sampson holds a Bachelor of Science from U of M’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment (now U-M SEAS), an MPH from the Portland State University, and a PhD from U-M’s School of Public Health.

Amy Jo Schulz, PhD

Dr. Schulz received her PhD in Sociology and her MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on social factors that contribute to health with a particular focus on social and physical environmental factors and their effects on health, health equity and urban health. A majority of Dr. Schulz's research is conducting with partners in Detroit, using a community-based participatory research approach. She has been involved in working with Detroit partners to understand and address factors that contribute to excess risk of cardiovascular disease in Detroit, conduct health impact assessments of proposed policies, and develop public health action plans to reduce air pollution and promote health in Detroit and the surrounding area. She teaches master's and doctoral level courses focused on social and environmental health equity, and on survey research. Dr. Schulz's research appears in the American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Health and Place, Social Problems, Health Education and Behavior, The Annual Review of Public Health, The Journal of Urban Health and Health Education Research.

Anthony Spaniola, JD, AB

Anthony Spaniola, JD, AB, Ufer, Spaniola and Frost, P.C. Tony founded the firm with Bob Ufer in 1987. His practice is focused on the representation of corporate and other business entities in various contexts. Tony has previously been active in politics and government, running two of his father’s successful campaigns for the Michigan House of Representatives and working for various government officials, including the Secretary of Transportation for the State of Massachusetts. He is also a former news reporter and radio announcer. In the wake of Michigan’s PBB public health crisis, Tony initiated legislation (enacted as Public Act 82 of 1984) creating the Michigan Cancer Registry to promote and facilitate epidemiological research in the state. In 2004, he served as a legal work group advisor to the Governor’s Commission on Mental Health.

Francis “Bus” Spaniola

Francis "Bus” Spaniola represented Shiawassee County in the Michigan House of Representatives longer than any other Democrat or Republican in history (1975-1990). He sponsored the legislation which lowered the PBB levels, instituted a public health study regarding the human health impact of PBB and provided low to no interest loans to PBB distressed farmers in Michigan.

Among many awards, the Booth Newspapers named him one of Michigan's Ten Best Legislators in 1978, Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Association of Regions 1986 and the Legislative Leadership Award by the Area Agency on Aging, Region 1-B in 1989.

A native of Corunna, he is a graduate of Corunna High School and Michigan State University where he earned a BA degree in Political Science. He did graduate work at Michigan State and was a Taft Fellow at the Robert A. Taft Institute of Government at Michigan State.

A former commissioned officer in the United States Army, he taught history and government at high schools in East Lansing, Durand and Corunna. He was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to serve two terms on the Library of Michigan Board of Trustees and the Michigan Judges Retirement Board. He served on the staff of United States Senator Donald Riegle, was a member of the Board and President of the Friends of Michigan History and Commander, Region IX the Military Order of the World Wars.

Donele Wilkins

Donele Wilkins, CEO of Green Door Initiative (GDI), an organization committed to creating a world where everyone can enjoy clean air, toxic free communities, access to trusted transportation, and healthy food. She has been involved with the environmental justice movement for over 30 years, working to assure that Detroit residents understand local air pollution issues and understand how they can be agents of change. Ms. Wilkins served on Governor Granholms Environmental Justice Task Force, was a member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and is a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

Sandy Wynn-Stelt

Sandy Wynn-Stelt, is a resident of Rockford, MI, living near the House Street dump, where PFAS and PFOS were dumped for many years. Her well water registered extremely high levels of PFAS. She has been actively involved with speaking about the PFAS contamination in Rockford at the state and national levels.