LSU’s Barry Dellinger, Patrick F. Taylor Chair for the Environmental Impact of Hazardous Waste in the LSU Department of Chemistry, recently received more than $11 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue the LSU Superfund Research Center and focus its research on Environmentally-Persistent Free Radicals, or EPFRs, according to a LSU news release.

The center was originally funded $3.8 million in 2009.

EPFRs are pollutants generated by hazardous waste and, just like their name suggests, they remain readily available in the environment for long periods of time. EPFRs are introduced to the environment in a variety of ways, most commonly through the combustion process often found in industrial sites. Those generated from superfund sites, an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people, are particularly long-lived. And they’re definitely bad for a person’s health.

“Simply breathing on a worst-case scenario day in Mexico City, for example, is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day,” said Dellinger. “EPFRs are essentially incomplete molecules. We believe, when pollutants are attached to fine particles in the environment, they actually exist as EPFRs, rather than molecules.”