* e ge of tr in a r d i n ea c 2 0 0
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UFs Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology is key resource
for state, local agencies charged with risk assessment
BY SARAH CAREY
W hen the presence of pressure-treated lumber in playgrounds drew widespread
controversy in 2001, UF's Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology was
front and center, investigating and evaluating risk assessments at the request of
both state and national regulatory agencies.
The lumber in question had been treated with CCA, a pesticide that contains arsenic, which
can cause neurological problems, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. The state asked the
center to study risk assessments that had been conducted on exposure to arsenic from pressure-
treated wood, particularly exposure of children using wooden play structures. The center found
that a critical weakness in the assessments was the absence of data regarding how much arsenic
children actually receive from contact with CCA-treated wood. Estimates of exposure risk
varied widely, making it difficult to discern the extent to which the wood posed a health
Then the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided to conduct its own assessment of
risks to children from pressure treated wood, relying heavily on technical advice provided by
the UF center.
NI lliiii's been quite comparable on a national level since then," said Steve Roberts,
Ph.D., a professor of physiological sciences at UF's College of Veterinary Medicine and center
director. "We really were at the center of raising issues and questions regarding pressure-treated
lumber, which ultimately resulted in the voluntary withdrawal of chromate copper arsenate
from residential usages."
Roberts can live without the publicity generated by that particular issue, but he stresses
that such visibility is rare for the center because most frequently its work is performed behind
the scenes. Many people may not know the center even exists at UF, although it plays a central
role in evaluating risks from contaminated sites throughout the state.
"We evaluate from 30 to 40 sites a year, all within Florida," Roberts said. "We create
criteria to help evaluate human health and the environment, developing and improving the
process of risk assessment and helping to communicate information about risk to a variety of
His main message: The center's job is not to serve as advocate or activist, but rather as a
resource of pooled expertise that regulators can draw from to make sound policy decisions,
whether having to do with safe levels of chemical concentrations in soil, benzene in drinking
water or, yes, arsenic, which continues to be present in certain materials.
"We want people to know that we are a resource to public agencies, to help them insure that
the technical and scientific approaches to evaluating risk are undertaken using the best
available science," Roberts said. "It's important that we don't make the decision about what is
or isn't acceptable risk. Those decisions are made by regulatory agencies, but we get those
agencies the science to make their decisions."
An example of a site that has drawn much local publicity, but in which UF's role in risk
assessments is not widely known, is a wood treatment facility located in Gainesville near
Northwest 23rd Avenue and North Main Street. The facility, which treats and distributes utility
poles, marine pilings and marine lumber, is currently used by Koppers, Inc., and is in the
process of being closed and sold.
Environmental concerns about the Koppers site have made local headlines for years, but
UF's role in the due diligence performed to regulate contaminants is not widely known.
"If you're going to evaluate the risk from that site, you have to understand where the
contamination is, how much there is, who is being exposed, how they're being exposed, who
might be exposed in the future and what the level of toxicity or potential toxicity is of any
chemicals that might be present there," Roberts said.
All of this information is assembled to assist regulatory agencies and the public in deciding
whether there is a risk to public health, he added.
"For example, if you read in the paper that dioxin levels in neighborhoods are above state
standards, who develops the numbers for those standards? We do," Roberts said. "If you're
going to evaluate a site for soil contamination, you have to follow certain rules, specifically
the Florida Administrative Code. When the state writes those rules, we consult with its repre-
sentatives to make sure site assessments are done properly."
All reviews and reports generated by the center are public record. Roberts says he has to be
Dr. Stephen Roberts, shown at Lake Alice in this file photo.
prepared to defend them in court, and sometimes does.
"At any of these sites, there is a lot of money on the line up to tens of millions of dollars,"
he said. "At the same time there are public health issues at stake. You don't want to remove
contamination you don't have to, because it can be extremely expensive, but you don't want
people to get sick, either."
Doug Jones, chief of the Bureau of Waste Cleanup with Florida's Department of Environ-
mental Protection, said the center has provided invaluable service to the department for over a
"The center provides us a wide range of services everything from the specialized scien-
tific support we need to develop contamination cleanup policy to review of individual risk
assessments for contaminated sites," he said.
Roberts and his colleague, Dr. Leah Stuchal, speak by phone several times a day with
representatives from the state's Department of Environmental Protection as well as from Dade
County, which has its own environmental criteria (developed by the center.) He doesn't
remember a time when the center's recommendations have not been followed.
"That is the extent to which we are relied upon," he said. "It's not like we sort of talk to the
agencies' toxicologists; we are their toxicologists."
Disney, rant in
honor of Dr. Ellis
story, p. 3.
TI-wii i r.
Around the UF VMC.....
Senior UF veterinary student Sarah Burke blows the feathers of this pileated woodpecker out of the way to
examine the skin underneath for bruising. At right is Dr. James Wellehan, a lecturer with the zoological
medicine service. (Photo by Sarah Carey)
This pileated woodpecker was brought to the clinic by a concerned area resident. (Photo by Sarah Carey)
Senior veterinary student Kat Sparado monitors Cinder Buckley in the ICU. Cinder is an oncology patient.
(Photo by Sarah Carey)
UF VMC to offer free eye
exams to service dogs
through ACVO event
M I=-FI ock L
Amy Beaver, C.V.T., left, and Lisa Holtzendorf, C.V.T., administer chemotherapy to Scoop Kern, a female
Cocker Spaniel with lymphoma. Scoop has been receiving chemotherapy since her diagnosis two years ago
and is still going strong. (Photo by Sarah Carey)
The UF Veterinary Medical Center will be offering free screening eye examina-
tions to service dogs May 14 as a part of the 3rd Annual ACVO National Service Dog
Eye Exam event.
Service dog groups include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection
dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs and formally trained and certified therapy
Only active "working dogs" that have been certified by a formal training program
or organization, or that are currently enrolled in a formal training program, qualify to
receive the exam.
Dr. Caryn Plummer, an assistant professor and veterinary ophthalmologist with the
VMC, will be providing the examinations. Owners or their representatives must first
fill out a registration form online at www.acvoeyeexam.org anytime after April 1.
Then owners or their representatives must contact UF's small animal hospital at the
VMC to schedule an appointment.
Please help us get the word out!
New Disney grant honors C\/M parasitologist.
will support continuing education
Sn honor of University of Florida professor Ellis Greiner's longtime contributions to
Disney's Animal Kingdom, the company has made a $20,000 gift that will fund
advanced continuing education programs for the attraction's veterinary staff.
The Disney/UF Continuing Education Fund expands a 10-year partnership that Greiner
helped establish between Disney's Animal Kingdom and the UF College of Veterinary Medi-
cine. The fund will compensate UF veterinary faculty, residents, interns and staff who are
willing to provide educational opportunities at Disney.
"One of the biggest comments from our veterinary staff has been that while we have all
these wonderful opportunities with UF, we really need more continuing education for our
technicians and veterinarians," said Dr. Scott Terrell, veterinary pathologist and operations
manager for Disney's department of animal health.
"We wondered how we could inspire faculty from UF to come down and provide CE for us,
and thought one way would be to come up with some funding to compensate people for their
time and travel," added Terrell, who is also a clinical assistant professor in the college's
department of infectious diseases and p.ihlll l :,. "A tremendous amount of work goes into
preparing lectures, particularly when they need to be higher level and created specifically for
In addition, Terrell and his colleagues wanted to recognize Greiner, who will retire later this
year from the college's department of infectious diseases and p.lil, i- ., and whose support has
been germane to the UF/Disney partnership.
"Dr. Greiner has been involved in this collaboration from day one," Terrell said. "He has
been supportive from a programming standpoint and has participated in every single joint UF/
Disney lecture we have ever had."
Terrell said Greiner has served not only as Disney's parasitologist but also as a mentor, not
only for himself but for other Disney veterinarians as well.
"He's always been the guy we could call who would call us right back," Terrell said. "We
knew he could help us administer the money, would be a good ally and would help us figure
out what needed to be done. So it was a combination of wanting to honor him and trusting him
to help us get this program off the ground."
Dr. Rick Alleman, clinical pathologist and professor in the college's department of
physiological sciences, and Katherine Saylor, a biological scientist, presented a three-hour
inaugural lecture to veterinary technicians on Feb. 3.
"Dr. Alleman even left CDs with material for the technicians to review at a later time,"
Terrell said. "They then jetted off for a ride on Expedition Everest and a walk around Animal
Kingdom before heading back to Gainesville."
Call it one of the perks provided to program participants.
"They get the VIP treatment while they're here," Terrell said. "The more relationships we
have, the better."
Greiner was modest about his role in the new endeavor.
"Scott is part of our department and we try to be collegial and help each other," he said.
"Disney's program gives us access to unusual cases that we would not have available to our
students and residents, not to mention faculty and staff."
Greiner said it was important to increase the understanding of animal care needs and
diagnostic capabilities for non-traditional animal species that veterinarians care for.
"We also need those submitting samples to us to know how to prepare them properly so
that they might be useful in the diagnosis of diseases," Greiner said. "It also allows us to help
their staff understand that some of the etiological agents they may encounter might be
zoonotic and thus a risk to their own health."
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Dr. Michael Schaer to give keynote
address at 2010 CVM commencement
Dr. Michael Schaer will be the guest
speaker at commencement exercises for the
Class of 2010, to be held May 29 at UF's
Phillip's Center for the Performing Arts.
The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. and
84 students will be receiving their D.V.M.
Schaer is a professor of small animal
medicine and serves as a special assistant
to the dean.
A member of UF's veterinary college
faculty since 1979, Schaer served as
associate chief of staff of UF's small animal
hospital from 1996 to 2009 and as chief of
the small animal medicine service from
1979 to 2009.
Schaer, who is board-certified in both
internal medicine and emergency and
critical care, assists in advising and Dr. Michael Schaer
orienting veterinary students as well as
with the college's development office. He remains actively involved in programs for interns
and residents at UF's Veterinary Medical Center.
2009 Superior Accomplishment Award winners
honored at banquet
The college's winners of the 2009 Division Five Superior Accomplishment Awards were honored at an awards
luncheon held in March at the Paramount Hotel. From left to right are: Mary Ring, Superior Accomplishment
Award Selection Committee, Barbara Dupont; Dr. Dana Zimmel; Hasuna Hines; Elliot Williams; Glen Hoffsis,
Dean; Dr. Lisa Farina; Michael Sapper; Jude Kaufmann; Kelly Higgs-Rick and Megan Elliot. Winners Glen
Mapes and Jessica Markham could not attend. Mapes, Williams and Hines were selected in the
Administrative/Supervisory category; Williams and Sapper were selected from the USPS Scientific/Technical
category; Farina and Zimmel were from the Faculty category and Dupont and Markham were from the Clerical/
Office Support category. Congratulations to all! (Photo by Ray Carson)
Abused animal gets life-saving veterinary help,
hope for better life, thanks to UF vets
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In late December, Dr. Julie Levy, director
of the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at
UF, received a desperate call for help from
Alachua County Animal Services. A starving
dog rescued by animal control officers was in
critical condition, suffering from abuse, and
was in dire need of a blood transfusion the
shelter was unable to provide.
Although in many cases dogs in similar
straits are not able to be saved, Levy and
others at UF agreed to take the animal, which
they named Holly in light of her rescue over
the holidays. According to Levy and Dr. Laura
Andersen, who has cared for Holly in her
home, a miracle happened: In less than three
months, Holly appears to be thriving and may
soon have a permanent home.
"Holly is one of the lucky ones, since
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Crash course in politics for CVM
students visiting Washington, D.C.
Four students from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine
traveled to Washington, D.C. Feb. 1-2 to participate in the second annual Student
Veterinary Legislative Day.
The students included Benjamin Carter, Melanie Anderson and Stephen Garafolo
from the Class of 2013, and Van Brass from the Class of 2011.
Attending the convention were 60 students representing 27 of the country's 28
"The purpose of the visit was to learn about the legislative process, for example,
how to gain support for a cause and then how to move that cause or issue through the
process to become a passed bill or law," Carter said, adding that the group also met with
staff members of each state's Senators and Congressmen to recruit their support for three
"On the first day, we were taught about advocacy issues, grassroots politics and how
to navigate Capitol Hill," Carter said. "We also listened to guest speakers, who are or
were former AVMA Congressional Fellows, talk about the impact that veterinarians have
on policy that shapes the way our country is run."
He noted that the group learned about The Veterinary Services Investment Act, The
Veterinary Public Health Workforce and Education Act, and the current appropriations
for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program.
Armed with new knowledge about all of these bills and programs, the UF group set
out to visit the offices of Senator Bill Nelson, Senator George LeMieux, and members of
Congress, Clifford Steams, Ginny Brown-Waite and Corinne Brown.
"We advocated on behalf of the profession as to why these public figures should
support these bills that would help veterinarians and the veterinary profession as a
whole," Carter said.
Added student Garafolo, "Learning about how veterinary medicine and political
advocacy come together is something I find fascinating. This was a great outside-the-
classroom educational experience."
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many dogs just like her die before they can be rescued," Levy said. "It's also not possible for
the vet school to provide lifesaving care for all of the neglected dogs in our community. I think
Holly appreciates the second chance she's been given by our team."
Dr. Carsten Bandt, a critical care specialist at UF's Veterinary Medical Center, supervised
Holly's care after her arrival. She received an initial laboratory work up, then two blood
transfusions as well as fluid therapy and treatment for both internal and external parasites.
"Her rapid improvement allowed us to transfer her out of ICU and into the Shelter Medi-
cine wards within 24 hours after admission, where she remained for continued rehabilitation to
address her starvation and until she was released from custody of Animal Services and could be
placed in a foster home," Andersen said.
Holly received vaccinations, heartworm preventative and treatment for two Mycoplasma
species discovered through the PCR panel performed, Andersen said, adding that Holly was
also spayed and had a microchip implanted to aid with identification in case she should ever
"Following her initial stabilization, Holly's physical condition quickly improved with
little more than deworming medication and food," Andersen said. "Considering what we know
of her background, it is little surprise that she has shown signs of poor socialization but we
have been working with her behavior as well and she is likewise making rapid progress."
"I am prepared to continue to foster Holly for as long as it is necessary to find her the right
home," Andersen said. "If a better match for her is not found, she is likely stuck with me."
However, following a story on Channel 20/WCJB TV news, several calls were received
from individuals interested in adopting Holly and Andersen is optimistic that a good match for
her has now been found. Holly has recently started a two-week trial period in what could
potentially be her new forever home.
Holly's medical expenses were covered by a grant from the Helping Alachua's Animals
Requiring Treatment and Surgery (HAARTS) program, which is overseen by Dr. Natalie Isaza,
clinical assistant professor with the shelter medicine program.
The Veterinary Page is the UF College of Veterinary Medicine's monthly
S electronic internal newsletter. Please send stories to Sarah Carey at
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