The Hale research group focuses on identifying the identities, sources, fate and toxicological consequences of organic contaminants using modern analytical techniques. Chemicals of interest include historicals (e.g. PCBs) as well as emerging contaminants (e.g. polymer additives such as flame retardants). Pollutants may be released during product manufacture, use, treatment or disposal, as well as spills. We also are interested in natural products with analogous structures.
A multi-media approach (air, water, solids, biota) is often undertaken. Media evaluated have included manufactured and recycled products, wastewaters, sludges, sediments, various aquatic and avian species. Chemical fugacity between diverse media and availability to organisms are of interest. Transformations of chemicals by physical, biological and chemical processes are also studied.
Recently funded research has examined PCBs in edible fish tissues in support of human health (VA DEQ), the release of additives from polymers (US EPA), microplastic behavior in the environment (NOAA), contaminants in sewage sludges and the consequences of their land application, sources and redistribution of flame retardants in diverse environments. Study sites have ranged from local Virginia waters to Antarctica.