Environmental Health Program

Program Director: Dr. Valerie T. DiVito


More soldiers become ill or injured from disease and non-battle injuries than from combat, and providing good quality water supplies to the warfighter is a key element in preventing such injuries. Basic field water tests can detect only a few high priority threat chemicals, and comprehensive testing for additional chemicals can take days or weeks. The ESB provides rapid toxicity identification for many industrial and agricultural chemicals in water. Rather than evaluating individual chemical constituents, the ESB system uses two separate biological-based sensors to identify toxic responses associated with the presence of chemicals: an electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) device that measures changes in electrical characteristics of a layer of vertebrate cells grown on fluidic biochips, and a pesticide sensor (also known as the ACE™ Rapid Test for Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors, or ACE™ sensor) that measures enzyme inhibition caused primarily by carbamate and organophosphorus pesticides. By testing water with both the ACE™ and ECIS sensors, toxicity resulting from a wide range of chemicals can be identified, including unsuspected or unknown materials and chemical mixtures.

The ESB will become part of the Water Quality Analysis Set - Preventive Medicine that is now used for testing Army field drinking water supplies. The ESB has met Milestone C requirements and is on-track for fielding in late 2017.

The Environmental Health Program (EHP) group is a multi-pronged, multi-million dollar research program aimed at delivering diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic solutions to Service members exposed to hazardous environmental chemicals and materials. Our aim is to develop surveillance tools and countermeasures based on molecular pathways of toxicity, the individual host response to exposures, and next generation diagnostic systems. We place a strong emphasis on delivering medical products to help avoid illness or injury of Service members from environmental toxic exposures in the operational and training environments. Recent projects to support the medical mission include developing rapid, field-deployable water toxicity sensors to detect the presence of likely harmful toxicants in Army drinking water supplies. Building upon this experience and success, the EHP will continue to utilize innovative research methodology to develop capabilities to address emerging environmental health threats and novel toxicity detection capabilities for air, water, and soil to protect Service members in operational and training environments.


Conduct world class toxicogenomic research and lead the Department of Defense in new technologies that support Environmental Health Protection.


Develop surveillance tools and molecular diagnostics to prioritized health effects that result when Service Members are exposed to hazardous environmental chemicals and materials.


Our group has over $2.5M in state of the art research equipment including:

  • Aquaculture facilities
  • Rodent facilities
  • Tissue culture facilities
  • in vitro toxicology
  • Molecular biology capabilities
  • Full suite of analytical chemistry capabilities
  • Multiple microarray platforms and high throughput capacity
  • Multiple platforms for mass spectrometry
  • Next generation sequencing capability
  • Fully-automated, multiplex testing platforms using magnetic beads for a range of immunoassays
  • iABS fish ventilatory biomontoring systems
  • Electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS)
  • Microtox/Deltatox and other rapid toxicity sensor technologies
  • Rapid pesticide detection assays
  • Water quality monitoring sensors and instrumentation

Current Projects

Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP) Funded Projects:

  • Biomarkers of Adverse Health Effects Following Exposure to Industrial Chemicals (Host Response to Environmental Hazards)
  • Toxicogenomics of Metal Exposures
  • Establish Toxicogenomic Models of Chemical Exposure to Predict Organ-specific Toxicity Pathways and Injury Biomarkers
  • Identification and Analysis of Metabolomic Signatures Related to Heat Injury/Stroke-Induced Organ Injury
  • Establish Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamics Models of Chemical Exposure to Predict the Distribution of Metal Toxicants in Organs
  • Evaluation of the Potential Medical Effects of Nanomaterials in Army Systems

Defense Heath Program Funded Projects:

  • Utility of Microbiome in Environmental Health Assessment
  • Safe Water Assessment for Microbial Pathogens and Toxicants

Defense Threat Reduction Agency Funded Projects:

  • The Development of in silico and Utilization of Rapid, High Throughput Tools to Predict Toxicity of Engineered Nanomaterials

Army Institute of Public Health Collaborations:

  • Comparison of Developmental Effect in Xenopus laevis of Perchlorate and Periodate Salts
  • Investigation of Interactions between the Human Microbiome and Threat Chemicals

Advanced Development and Small Business Innovation Research Awards:

  • Environmental Sentinel Biomonitor (ESB) System for Drinking Water Protection (USAMMDA)
  • Coliform Analyzer Market Research (AFMESA)
  • Multiplexed Organ Failure detection (MORF): Pharmaco-Kinesis Corporation
  • Mulitplexed Bioassay for Early Predictions of Multiple Organ Injury: Nanhomics Inc.
  • Microfluidic Cartridge for Organ-Injury Prediction (MCOP): Physical Optics Corp.
  • A NANOeSPRi-Based IVD Assay for Multiple Organ Injury: Luna Innovations Inc.