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Jamie Bartram, PhD (Photo: UNC)

SOUTHEASTERN, NC (WWAY) —  The state has selected who will chair the newly expanded state science panel that will examine a broad scope of potential impacts to  health and the environment from new or emerging chemicals.

Jamie Bartram, Ph.D., a professor and founding director of The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been appointed to lead the newly expanded board.

The newly expanded panel will meet October 23.

The board’s first task will be studying ways to better protect public health and the environment from new or emerging chemicals of concern, including GenX and hexavalent chromium.

According to a news release, Bartram, who is the Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, has multiple interests in the areas of water quality, including management systems for drinking water safety and rural drinking water supply.

State officials plan soon to announce the other new members of the board as well as a location and agenda for the first meeting.

“Dr. Bartram is a leader in the field of water and health, and will help guide a panel of experts in the fields of epidemiology, toxicology and other disciplines,” said Michael S. Regan, secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality. “With these experts, we will have the range of scientific expertise necessary to protect public health and the quality of our water and air.”

Governor Roy Cooper approved a revised charter for the group, which formerly had been known as the Secretary’s Science Advisory Board on Toxic Air Pollutants and based solely at DEQ. It now will be co-managed by Regan and Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

All members will be appointed by the DEQ and DHHS secretaries. Members come from academic institutions, the public and private sectors, and independent research facilities.

“We are eager to convene this panel, conduct inquiries and take actions that will put first the health of our citizens and safety of our environment,” said Cohen.

The panel will meet at least six times each year.

The panel’s new charter directs it to assist DEQ and DHHS in achieving clean air, water and land. Specifically, the panel will perform or recommend reviews and evaluations of contaminants released to the environment; act as consultants on DEQ’s determinations to regulate releases of contaminants; assist both agencies in identifying contaminants of emerging concern and help determine whether the contaminants should be studied further; assist the secretaries in providing expertise to evaluate the human and environmental impacts of exposure to hazardous contaminants; and provide input to DHHS as the agency establishes health goals for emerging contaminants.

“Environmental exposures are important and often overlooked causes of disease worldwide,” Bartram said. “I am extremely pleased to see the leadership of North Carolina tackle emerging hazards. I look forward to seeing the board provide practical, workable support to Governor Cooper and DEQ so that we may effectively address the needs of the people of our state.”

This science panel will conduct business in an open forum to allow for public input as they are considering the latest research and will offer much-needed peer review of available scientific data.

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