Dr. Jim Field, University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Investigator and Director of the Dean Carter Center for Environmental Health Sciences, has received a binational grant. The grant was funded by a partnership between the UA and Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology, also known as CONACyT, which is the equivalent of the National Science Foundation.
Entitled “Implications of a drying climate on the health risks to humans from toxic metals in mine tailings of arid zones shared by the US and Mexico,” the grant provides $25K to Field and his Mexican colleagues Dr. Mario Villalobos and Dr. Francisco Romero (Geology Institute, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) to study mine tailings dust. Wind-blown dust from mine tailings is of concern to human populations on both sides of the border.
The research will focus on highly bioavailable surface-layer sulfate salts (efflorescent salts) containing heavy metals and arsenic, which will most likely become more prevalent as the climate becomes hotter and drier. Work to characterize the salts will be carried out at mine tailing field sites in NW Mexico and Arizona. It is expected that this pilot project will lead to more in-depth future projects including remediation solutions. Importantly, says Field, the project will create a new team of scientists from UA and UNAM that can pool research resources and human capital to improve the welfare of citizens living in the semiarid US-Mexico Border region.