UNT professor chosen to serve on National Academy of Sciences committee

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Dr. Tom La Point, University of North Texas director of the Institute of Applied Sciences and professor of biology, was recently selected by the National Academy of Sciences to serve on the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST).During a 21-month study, La Point will provide the board with his expertise on heavy metals. His knowledge will be used to help evaluate Environmental Protection Agency conclusions on the Coeur d’Alene Basin Superfund site in northern Idaho.A 1500-square-mile abandoned mining area located near the Coeur d’Alene Tributary, this superfund site has an accumulation of hazardous materials in the soil and water. The affected area was designated a superfund site in part because of potential impact of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury and zinc upon the ecosystems and/or people. “Dr. La Point has a broad range of experience that directly applies to this study,” said Ray Wassel, National Academy of Sciences Research Council senior program manager. “We cast a broad net to get suggestions from different sources about the best scientists to conduct this study. La Point met our criteria.”Board members were chosen not only because of their expertise, but also for their objectivity, he said. The NAS also searched for scientists without a vested interest in the outcome of the Superfund site assessment.The board will serve as an objective advisory panel. Their mission is to appraise the accuracy of the EPA’s scientific and technical approaches in rating the Coeur d’Alene superfund site’s risk to humans and the environment. The board will also review and comment on the agency’s decision-making strategies and recommendations for corrective action. “What the board decides about Coeur d’Alene will impact analysis of other superfund sites around the country,” Wassel said.According to the NAS, lessons from the board’s Coeur d’Alene report could be applied to similar Superfund sites where cases of water and/or air contamination are distributed over extensive geographical areas. The study will determine if other approaches need to be developed in the Superfund program. These suggestions could include new methods for assessing the extent of contamination, the impacts on health and the environment, and possible corrective strategies.La Point has served as professor and senior scientist in UNT’s Department of Biological Sciences and Institute of Applied Sciences since January 1, 1999. He received his doctoral degree in aquatic biology from Idaho State University in May 1980 and his master’s degree in population biology from the University of Houston in August 1975. He received his bachelor’s of science degree in zoology and physiology from the University of Wyoming in May 1971.He is a member of numerous scientific associations, including the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), the American Institute for Biological Sciences (AIBS), and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).He has written more than 40 publications and edited three books. His publications have ranged from studies of acid rain to the effects of metals on fish and studies of pharmaceuticals in streams.

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