July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Colleagues mourn passing of leader

Bringing scientists scattered throughout the nation together normally requires a large conference, but on Nov. 12, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI) on Busch campus saw more than a dozen speakers and more guests to celebrate the life and work of Paul Lioy.

Lioy, who died suddenly in July, was one of the original members of EOHSI and at the time of his passing was the director of Exposure Science, said Brian Buckley, executive director of Laboratories. He was instrumental in expanding the field.

“Paul was a force in the field of exposure science, (which) looks at the exposure to contaminants by individuals from the air to soil to water,” Buckley said. “He was a pioneer in the field and folks are just paying homage.”

Lioy’s research in exposure science impacted public policy nationwide, earning recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency and leading to certain policies, Buckley said.

The most notable of these studies were on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which used to be applied indoors, he said.

Lioy was also a part of the team that discovered the compound’s long life indoors, Buckley said.

“When it was applied to a room it stayed around in soft furniture, bedding (and) most importantly it stayed around in soft plush toys for weeks,” he said. “So we did some studies on that ... and on kids and found they had elevated metabolites for an extended period of time.”

How children were exposed to lead and chromium was also researched by Lioy, Buckley said.

“The thing he’s most famous for is he was part of the response team to the World Trade Center five days after 9/11,” he said. “He collected the dust, he analyzed (it and) he eventually wrote a book ... where he discusses the potential human health effects because of (dust).”

When EOHSI was originally founded by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, one of the speakers, Lioy was the first recruit, Kean said. Lioy was responsible for introducing the Institute to “controlled environment studies” and designed the third-floor facility the building still uses.

“It’s where you clean the air, so there’s no contaminants and you ... can compare to people breathing normal air,” Kean said.

This facility helps ensure that the contaminant being studied is not mixed with other airborne ones, he said.

The different researchers and former graduate students Lioy worked with over the last several decades came to the symposium to celebrate the work he did and “relive old stories,” Buckley said. 

He credited Clifford Weisel and Panos Georgopoulos, professors in EOHSI, with bringing the attendees together for the event.

“Some of these folks I haven’t seen in 20 years or more (and) many of these guys are faculty members elsewhere,” he said. “Paul was my very good friend, and ... in addition to all of the science we did together, he was my Yankee buddy.”

Lioy had two unripped tickets to “the perfect game” pitched by former Yankee Don Larsen in 1956, Buckley said. One of these tickets was later donated to the Yogi Berra museum in exchange for a picture signed by both players of Berra jumping onto Larsen after that game.

“He actually became a friend to Yogi Berra too,” Buckley said. “I know he would have loved to be remembered just for being the ultimate Yankee fan.”

Nikhilesh De

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