$1.5 million to Support US-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology

The University of Arizona (UA) just received $1.5 million administered through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set up a Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology (Binational Center) to resolve environmental health challenges along the US-Mexico Border. The Binational Center fosters partnership between UA scientists from six colleges with Mexican scientists from 10 different universities and research institutes. The multidisciplinary international team will jointly conduct collaborative research and human capacity building activities in the areas of environmental science and toxicology.

Purpose:
The environmental contaminants found in the Border region are the same contaminants that have been the topic of research for many years within the UA’s NIEHS – Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP). The Outreach Core of the SBRP has interacted with Mexican scientists for over ten years on resolving environmental health and contamination issues plaguing the Border. (For more information on the history of the Binational Center and hazardous waste and health problems along the border, please visit (http://www.superfund.arizona.edu/outreach/background.html).

In 2003, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Mexico’s Science and Education Ministry (CONACyT) and the UA formalizing the Binational Center. The UA has been active since then, seeking additional funds to support the Binational Center beyond those provided by the SBRP outreach core ($75,000/y). In 2004, funding of $300,000 from the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) of was obtained to support international exchange of graduate students and training workshops. In 2005, CONACyT contributed $100,000 in support of the Binational Center emphasizing the importance of the MOU to the Mexican government. The latest funding addition is the $1,460,000 federal Congressional earmark announced here. This Special Appropriations from fiscal year 2005 will be administered through two EPA grants.

Binational Center Mission:
The mission of the Binational Center is to provide and support environmental science and toxicology training, research, and policy development as well as facilitate a binational dialogue between investigators and stakeholders concerning risk assessment and remediation of hazardous environmental contaminants that are prevalent in the Border region.

The activities of the Binational Center are:

Training Fellowships: Scholarships will be available for Mexican Ph.D. students to enhance their capacity in environmental science, engineering, or toxicology.

Specialized Workshops/Meetings: These workshops target graduate students, environmental professionals, and university faculty interested in topics ranging from the bioremediation of environmental contaminants to the impacts of heavy metals on children.

Spanish Language Online Textbooks and Information Sheets: To further support capacity building and education outreach efforts within border communities, Spanish language textbooks and information sheets will be developed within environmental legislation, environmental engineering/science, and environmental toxicology.

Outreach to Border Communities: Bilingual community meetings on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border will be organized as a forum for stakeholders to obtain information on local environmental and environmental health issues.

Collaborative Projects: To address common environmental contamination problems within the Border region, the following collaborative studies will be undertaken:

Binational Center Contacts

The funding of the of the Binational Center has garnered significant attention, including newspaper articles and radio interviews highlighting the center's efforts.

Newspaper Articles:

Tucson Citizen (March 24, 2006): New center to study border 'green' problems
Tucson Citizen (March 24, 2006): Our Opinion: Border pollution
Arizona Daily Wildcat (March 24, 2006): UA granted $1.7 million

Arizona Daily Star (March 24, 2006): UA, Mexico to study environmental issues under 1.7 million grant

Radio Interviews:

National Public Radio (NPR): March 24, 2005