A major conference, organised by scientists at The University of Manchester to showcase vital work on the effect of geographic chemicals begins today.
The ‘Geographic Chemicals in Groundwaters and Soils’ event will showcase the work of researchers in the AquaTRAIN Marie Curie Research Training Network.
This network, coordinated by The University of Manchester’s Professor David Polys, aims to highlight the environmental effect – including the effect on human health – of chemicals of natural origin in groundwater and soils.
Held today and tomorrow at the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM), a major geoscience centre in Orleans, France, the conference will have a number of important speakers from universities and research institutions all over the world.
There is a widespread perception that all detrimental chemicals in the environment are of anthropogenic origin – caused by human activities such as chemical industries, burning of fossil fuels, mining or the production and application of agrochemicals.
But significant detrimental health outcomes are arising across the globe because of exposure to geogenic chemicals.
Arsenic is the most significant of these in terms of tens of millions of people exposed, resulting in millions suffering ill-health and thousands of premature deaths each year.
Professor Polya, from the School of Earth, Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, said: “Effective development and implementation of environment policy requires well-trained scientists, engineers and social scientists who have a substantive understanding of the many relevant disciplines.
“Such training at postgraduate level has been the main aim of the AquaTRAIN MRTN”.
AquaTRAIN researchers have already made important advances in detecting arsenic exposure in humans from eating rice and biogeochemical modeling of the behaviour of arsenic in soils.
The work of former University of Manchester Environmental Science graduate, Julia Leventon (pictured), has highlighted how many of the difficulties around the effective formulation of government policy and action in reducing groundwater-arsenic caused detrimental health impacts may be due to differential understanding of the issues amongst the various types of stakeholders.
In addition to AquaTRAIN researchers and lead scientists from 15 partners across the European Union, the Orleans meeting includes presentations from workers from USA, China, Japan, the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asia as well as from other European institutions.
The AquaTRAIN MRTN is funded under the European Commission FP6 (2002-2006) Marie Curie Actions, Human Resources & Mobility Activity Area – Research Training Networks.