(Overall Center: Maier, Lantz) The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) is investigating the human and environmental risks associated with metal mining. A majority of metal mining takes place in the Western United States and other arid and semi-arid parts of the world. A central challenge for arid environments is that human exposure routes and the fate and cleanup of mining contamination are different than for areas that receive more rainfall. This has led to a large knowledge gap in regard to health and environmental effects of mine waste systems. Our Center will address two major issues within this overall gap. The first is the lack of understanding of mining waste behavior and containment and the relative impacts of airborne and waterborne spread of mine waste into arid environments. Mine wastes, in particular legacy mine tailings, generate dust- borne toxic metals (for example, arsenic and lead). These wastes also generate acid mine drainage, resulting in contamination of groundwater which is often the primary potable water source for surrounding communities. The second knowledge gap is a lack of understanding of the human health consequences of inhalation of mine dusts, specifically regarding the development of chronic lung diseases. The UA SRP has an unparalleled group of scientists to address these knowledge gaps. The three UA SRP environmental projects are focused on developing new technologies for site cleanup and on characterizing surface (dust) and subsurface (water) transport and fate of metals associated with mining waste both before and after cleanup. The two biomedical projects center around defining the importance of inhalation exposures and health impacts of metal toxicants in mine wastes, focusing on arsenic and its effects on lung disease. Results will be used to build conceptual and quantitative models to describe mechanisms of metal toxicity and movement from waste areas into neighboring communities or ecosystems. Together, our environmental and biomedical researchers will use these models to: 1) develop exposure assessment tools that can be used to evaluate the risk for communities that neighbor mine waste or smelter sites; 2) evaluate the effectiveness of new surface and subsurface cleanup technologies; and 3) provide critical information on how arsenic, one of the most prevalent toxicants in mine waste, exerts its effects. Project teams work seamlessly with Research Translation, Community Engagement, and Training Cores to support the dynamic translation of this research to communities adjacent to Superfund sites, federal (EPA, ATSDR) and state (AZ Dept. Environmental Quality, AZ Dept. Health Services) stakeholders, and the mining industry. To further its impact, the UA SRP will continue to develop complementary initiatives, such as the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining, an industry-academic cooperative to move research results into the field in real time. The principle guiding the UA SRP is that its research should be innovative in advancing individual scientific fields. More importantly, it should transform industry-wide practices in mining to improve environment/ecosystem preservation and protect human health.
(Overall Center: Maier, Lantz) Human and environmental health risks associated with metal mining in arid environments are not presently well defined. The University of Arizona Superfund Research Program will work with relevant stakeholders (e.g., EPA, ATSDR, as well as state, tribal and local regulatory agencies, the mining industry and communities, as appropriate) to define these risks and develop innovative, cost-effective, long-term, evidence- based solutions that can effect change in current practices in the mining industry for the protection of human health and the environment.
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