ARLINGTON - A University of Texas at
Arlington environmental science professor will soon begin testing a unique
method for cleaning up dangerous lead contamination in urban soil with the help
of a new $498,138 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development.
an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, will use a
phosphate called Apatite II to treat plots of vacant land in New Orleans. Years
of leaded gasoline use and repeated applications of lead-based paint to the outside
of homes have left many areas in New Orleans and other urban environments with
unsafe levels of lead in the soil, Hunt said.
Lead exposure can result in
behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity, as well as other
ailments. Babies and young children are particularly susceptible because they
are more likely to put unwashed hands and objects in their mouths.
“The type of phosphate we’re
using has been shown to work before,” said Hunt. “It binds with the lead in the
soil to form a very insoluble lead phosphate mineral called Pyromorphite that,
if children ingest it, will likely pass through their system harmlessly.”
Hunt has been studying problems
relating to health and environmental hazards in urban and indoor environments
for more than two decades. He was recently appointed to serve on a panel
of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.
His new study aims to prove that
Apatite II is more environmentally friendly than other phosphates for lead
clean up because it does not leach excessively into surrounding soil. Using
Apatite II also provides a more cost-effective model than traditional methods,
“At Superfund sites, where clean
up has few financial constraints, the method of choice to decontaminate is
excavation and removal,” he added. “In an urban environment you don’t have that
option as you don’t have lots and lots of money. So, we’ve been looking at low
tech, cost effective remediation methods.”
Hunt is receiving assistance from the EPA and
colleagues at Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research on the new
He is also collaborating with Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill
Project, which is
committed to helping make lead-contaminated soil in urban areas safe.
Mel Chin, a conceptual artist, started the nation-wide arts education
project to bring attention, engagement and solutions to the lead-contaminated
areas of New Orleans. Chin’s team approached Hunt about demonstrating cleanup
methods in residential soils and helped Hunt identify suitable sites in
New Orleans to conduct testing.
Chin said Hunt’s work has the
potential to greatly improve the lives of children in urban areas.
“We are grateful that HUD saw
the importance of what Dr. Hunt is trying to do and what we’re trying to do too
to alleviate conditions that should not be there, conditions that harm
children,” Chin said.
Andrew Hunt’s work is representative of the
scientific exploration taking place at The University of Texas at Arlington, a
comprehensive research institution of 33,800 students in the heart of North
Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.