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UF Conference On Arsenic In Soils Scheduled For March 4-5, 2002

Suzanne Ackermann

Randy Brown, (352)392-1803, ext. 344

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Scientists and environmental decision-makers concerned with arsenic contamination will meet in Gainesville March 4-5, 2002 for a symposium on the principles of arsenic behavior in Florida’s soils. The symposium is sponsored by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other units of the university.

“The two-day program is intended to help participants understand the nature and behavior of arsenic, a carcinogenic heavy metal often used in pesticides and wood preservatives, as it transforms and moves in soils, as well as aspects of human exposure and risk assessment,” said Randy Brown, professor with UF’s soil and water science department.

“This First Annual Soil and Water Science Institute is intended to impart up-to-date, factual, scientific information that can be used to make informed decisions with respect to the occurrence and behavior of arsenic in the environment,” said Brown.

The conference will be held at UF’s DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center in Gainesville. Brown said participants will learn about arsenic chemistry in soils, including its extractability, behavior and mobility; occurrence of arsenic in and across the soils and landscapes of Florida; soil-to-human exposure and associated risks; interaction between chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and soil; and remediation of arsenic-contaminated sites. There also will be a field trip to an abandoned dipping-vat site with a demonstration of a quick test to show arsenic levels in the soil around the site and a visit to a research site to observe leachate experiments with CCA-treated wood.

Keynote speaker for the symposium is John Paling, known for his work as a wildlife photographer/filmmaker, speaker and risk-communicator. Each conference participant will receive a copy of Paling’s book, “Up to Your Armpits in Alligators? How to Sort Out What Risks Are Worth Worrying About.”

Institute instructors will include Lena Ma, associate professor in the soil and water science department who discovered a fern that absorbs arsenic from contaminated soil. Her breakthrough research was reported in the Feb. 2001 issue of Nature and may prove useful in cleaning up thousands of contaminated industrial, mining and agricultural sites worldwide.

Ma, a trace-metals biochemistry expert, recently received the Discovery 2001 Award in London from the Royal Geographical Society and Discovery Networks Europe for her research.

The other seven instructors are faculty members and research associates with expertise in soil and water science, statistics, environmental and human toxicology, and environmental engineering. Co-sponsors of the event, along with the soil and water science department, include the UF/IFAS Center for Natural Resources, the UF environmental engineering sciences department, the Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, the UF/IFAS statistics department and the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology.

Register for the conference by contacting Brown at (352) 392-1804, ext. 344 or by visiting the symposium Web Site:

Brown said the deadline for early registration is Jan. 24, 2002. Hotel accommodations should be made by Friday, Feb. 1, 2001. Call the hotel for reservations at (352) 371-3600.