PROTECT Center

Supported with funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Superfund Research Program, the PROTECT Center studies exposure to environmental contamination in Puerto Rico and its contribution to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth (less than 37 completed weeks of gestation). Rates of preterm birth and infant mortality in Puerto Rico are among the highest of all US states and territories.

There are 18 Superfund sites in Puerto Rico, and evidence of contamination of the drinking water is extensive. Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, or flooding, may also result in elevated exposures to Superfund chemicals. Although Puerto Rico is an island with an unusually high burden of pollution, PROTECT is the first project to investigate the causal relationships between environmental pollutants and adverse pregnancy outcomes in this at-risk population.

The PROTECT Center seeks to understand the mechanisms by which exposure to mixtures of suspect chemicals contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes. To conduct these analyses, the PROTECT Center develops new statistical methods and data mining, machine learning, and visualization tools. The Center also investigates the impacts of extreme weather events on contaminant transport and exposure, and new water treatment technologies are being developed for portable and robust water treatment systems. The PROTECT Center continues to employ innovative approaches to engage and educate the community, involve study participants, report data, and communicate with stakeholders.

PROTECT is a multi-project, multi-institution collaboration that involves five primary institutions: Northeastern UniversityUniversity of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences CampusUniversity of Puerto Rico, MayaguezUniversity of Georgia, and University of Michigan. Collaborators also include Cornell UniversityWest Virginia UniversitySilent Spring Institute, and EarthSoft Inc.

For more information contact:


Akram N. Alshawabkeh
Senior Associate Dean for Research and Global University Campus,  Office of the Dean
George A. Snell Professor of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor,  Civil and Environmental Engineering
Director,  PROTECT Superfund Research Center
Director,  Center for Research on Early Childhood Exposure and Development in Puerto Rico (CRECE)

Geoenvironmental engineering, soil and groundwater remediation; electrokinetic and electrochemical processes; contaminant fate and transport environmental restoration

Recent News

photo of Akram Alshawabkeh outside

PROTECT Research Center: Continuing a Bold Mission for Environmental Health

This week, the PROTECT multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research center, led by Akram Alshawabkeh, Director of PROTECT, and Snell Professor of Engineering and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, was awarded a five-year $10.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue and expand its work. This next phase of PROTECT research will include the study of an additional 1,000 pregnant women and look at a mixture of chemicals beyond the initial two suspect chemical classes.

PROTECT Researchers evaluate Hurricane Maria’s Impact and suggest a ‘Visionary Rebuilding’ plan for Government Institutions

The PROTECT Center, led by CEE Professor Akram Alshawabkeh, studies exposure to environmental contamination in Puerto Rico and its contribution to preterm birth. It is funded through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Superfund Research Program. Source: PROTECT The impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the island is massive, with over a thousand […]