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University of Balamand > News > PhD in Toxicology

PhD in Toxicology

Pamela Melki was awarded a PhD in Toxicology within a co-tutorship agreement between the University of Balamand (UOB) and the Université du Littoral-Côte d’Opale (ULCO), France. Her PhD dissertation entitled: “Health impact of air pollution in Northern Lebanon: from a pilot epidemiological study to physico-chemical characterization and toxicological effects assessment” was supervised by Dr. Roula Abdel-Massih (Department of Biology) and Dr. Samer Aouad (Department of Chemistry) from UOB and Pr. Dominique Courcot and Dr. Sylvain Billet from ULCO.

The aim of Dr. Melki’s work was to study the health impact of the atmospheric particulates in Northern Lebanon. This was achieved by: i) examining the levels of perceived air pollution annoyance and health risk ii) characterizing the fine particulate matter samples and iii) assessing the mutagenic and genotoxic effects of the collected particles.

The experimental work required Pamela to spend six months a year in each university over a period of three years. Her work was financed by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, the Balamand Research Grant, The Faculty of Sciences (UOB) and the Unité de Chimie Environnementale et Interactions sur le Vivant (UCEIV-ULCO). Two international journal articles from Ms. Melki’s work are already submitted and several others are in preparation.

The first part of the work was a survey conducted in one rural area and one other industrial area in Northern Lebanon. Results suggested that industrial air pollution may be a risk factor for the increase in breathlessness, asthma, allergies and heart problems at the industrial site. 

A second part dealt with the collection, quantification and physicochemical characterization of air particulates collected in the surveyed areas. Higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), trace metals and dioxins (125 greater) were recorded in samples collected in the vicinity of the industrial zone.

The third part proved that particulates collected in the vicinity of the industrial area, have more pronounced genotoxic and mutagenic potential compared to the rural particulates. 

Pamela’s work is of great importance, given that the study area is heavily industrialized with several cement factories and quarries, a phosphate fertilizer industry, in addition to the transport sector, and other human activities, all of which are known sources of air pollution. However, toxicity, and knowledge about air pollutants and their impact on health remains patchy in the region.

Pamela presented her work on Thursday March the 2nd in front of a jury chaired by Dr. Charbel Afif (USJ) and including Pr. Zeina Dagher (UL), Dr. Véronique André (Université de Caen), Pr. Hervé Sabourin (Université de Poitiers/Directeur BMO AUF) and Dr. Fédéric Ledoux (ULCO).

Dr. Melki plans to join a post-doctoral research position in Europe and eventually come back to Lebanon to share her expertise, depending on opportunities.

Good Luck to Pamela Melki and Congratulations to the Faculty of Sciences!

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