My project is to determine whether parabens and sunscreen agents are present in the sediment of the Potomac River and to quantify their presence. Parabens are a type of preservative that are used in many household items such as cosmetics, deodorants, and shampoos. Sunscreen agents are the compounds in sunscreen that absorb UV light. Both parabens and sunscreen agents have a small amount of estrogenic activity, meaning that that the compounds can act like estrogen. When we take showers, wash our faces, etc. these parabens and sunscreen agents wash away into our sewage to be treated by wastewater treatment plants. Local wastewater treatment plants (WTPs) have been investigated for the presence of different compounds with estrogenic activity and findings indicate sunscreen agents and parabens may be in the discharge of the WTPs.
I was interested in this project because I want to understand the impact of humans on the environment and the impact of these environmental changes on human health. Before I can research the direct impact of human-caused environmental changes on human health, I need to understand the impact of human consumption and waste on the environment through this project examining the contamination of parabens and sunscreen agents in the Potomac River. I am currently on the pre-med track. This research will inform my understanding of our exposures to compounds with estrogenic activity. Changes in our hormonal activity have been a source of increasing interest in the medical community with connections to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis.