Superfund Program Uses University-Wide Talent to Tackle Hazardous Wastes

The Superfund Basic Research and Training Program at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy's Center for Toxicology has earned a $15 million grant to study hazardous waste issues in the Southwest. Awarded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the five-year grant supports new research into the toxic effects of hazardous wastes in groundwater.

A collaborative effort across five colleges and 12 departments, the Superfund Program draws on UA expertise in toxicology, hydrology, soils science, and environmental engineering. The program fosters a holistic approach to research by encouraging health scientists to work with engineers, ecologists and hydrologists. Sixty faculty, students and staff from the Colleges of Pharmacy, Medicine, Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Engineering & Mines will join together for interdisciplinary research, education and outreach projects. While work will concentrate on hazardous waste issues facing the Southwest, the contaminants under study are found in many places. Information learned from the study can be applied to hazardous waste sites and environmental pollution issues nationally and internationally.

"The Superfund Program serves as a vital resource to local, state and national agencies on environmental chemical hazards and their impact on health," said A. Jay Gandolfi, Ph.D., Superfund program director and assistant dean for research and graduate affairs at the College of Pharmacy. "The program also has been instrumental in collaborative efforts between the United States and Mexico to address common environmental chemical hazards."

The focus of the Superfund Program for the next five years will be on contamination of groundwater with arsenic and solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE). Arsenic is present in groundwater from both natural and man-caused sources. Due to the toxicity of arsenic, lower federal standards for arsenic levels in drinking water are being considered. The Superfund Program is examining the low-level toxic effects of arsenic and techniques for removing it from groundwater. TCE is a well-known contaminant in theTucson area. Over the past ten years, the Superfund Program has delineated some of the toxic effects of exposure to TCE. Now, scientists are developing improved methods for removing TCE (and other solvents) from groundwater.

The Superfund Program is part of the Center for Toxicology, a Center of Excellence at the College of Pharmacy. Founded in 1987, the Center works to understand the processes by which chemicals effect people and to identify factors that influence those processes. For more information on the Superfund Program, please visit: http://dev.superfund.arizona.edu.