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College of Pharmacy receives $15 million grant

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 14, 2000
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Funds will study toxins in Tucson groundwater

The UA College of Pharmacy's Center for Toxicology has received a $15 million grant to study toxins in Tucson's groundwater.

The grant, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, will give the center funding as it attempts to find a new, quicker way to remove the toxins.

The study will continue for the next five years. The grant took effect April 1, said David Von Behren, pharmacy administration editor.

The grant will allow the College of Pharmacy to collaborate with other University of Arizona colleges - including Agriculture, Engineering and Mines - and 12 departments, including molecular and cellular biology.

Jay Gandolfi, assistant dean of the College of Pharmacy, said there are two toxins - arsenic and trichloroethylene - that the center plans to study to determine their source and ways to eliminate them from the water.

"Arsenic is present in a lot of well water," Gandolfi said. "It is a very potent toxicant."

Currently there are 50 parts of arsenic per billion in Tucson's groundwater supply. Gandolfi said they hope to decrease that to five parts per billion.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE, can have an effect on the cardiovascular system and on fetuses, Gandolfi said.

"TCE is present in waste dumps," he said. "We're trying to get it out of the subterranean water faster."

Gandolfi added that mines also allow for TCE to enter the groundwater by means of percolation from dry areas.

"Can we degrade them more quickly?" Gandolfi asked.

By bringing in multiple colleges and departments, researchers can not only study these toxins but find ways to treat the people affected by them and prevent any future toxins from entering the water supply.

"We've turned into a full scale study and are addressing social issues," Gandolfi said.

Ryan Gabrielson can be reached at Ryan.Gabrielson@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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