Aaron Maruzzo

Job title: 
GP Intern - DTSC

Aaron Maruzzo is an MPH student in the Environmental Health Science department at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. He joined UC Berkeley after three years of working as the Water Lab Analyst for the municipal water company in the U.S. territory, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, serving the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. He received his BA in Biology and Comparative Literature, and a concentration in Public Health from Williams College. Originally from the island of Saipan, he and his family moved to southern California where his lived experiences led to a commitment to reduce health inequities in overlooked communities. Currently, his research and advocacy focus on a class of emerging contaminants called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are ubiquitously detected in the water supplies in Guam and Saipan, and in various environmental media and consumer products. His planned project with the Safer Consumer Products program in the Department of Toxic Substances and Control will focus on developing a mechanism to daylight safer alternatives to PFAS treatments for carpets and rugs and plant fiber-based food packaging containing PFAS.

“In my first semester at Cal, I worked on a team in Greener Solutions to identify greener alternatives to short-chain PFAS in molded fiber food packaging. The course exceeded all my expectations. As a public health student, I learned how environmental health scientists have a critical role in ensuring safety is a design constraint and in transforming the chemical market. The course exemplifies the scope of environmental health work from characterizing hazards from toxicity data, to articulating solutions and research needs that could benefit businesses, communities, and future generations.

One of the principles of green chemistry is to use chemicals designed for safe degradation. PFAS, on the other hand, are nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they persist in the natural environment for years after their intended use, accumulating in the environment and inevitably exposing humans to toxicants. My role in the Greener Solutions project was to work through chemical and toxicity data, then characterize our alternatives’ safety profiles using a hazard-based approach. By interpreting toxicological data, we were able to highlight compounds that could perform its task and minimize pollution when the compound is no longer needed”.