Our Program

The theme of the University of Arizona NIEHS Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) is “Hazardous Waste Risk and Remediation in the Southwest.” Our goals are to address the health effects of contaminants of concern in the U.S. Southwest (and Mexico border), and to characterize, contain, and remediate hazardous waste sites.

Hazards Emphasized:

We focus on the arid Southwest, where water is precious, and dust is ever-present. However, the results of our studies are directly relevant to problems faced in many areas of world. Currently one-third of land surfaces are arid or semi-arid, and this proportion is expected to increase with climate change. Exposure routes, contaminant characterization, and remediation in such environments differ from temperate regions of the world. Furthermore, the main toxicants being examined, arsenic and chlorinated solvents, are of significant concern throughout the world. Thus, our program will also provide principles of toxicology and remediation that can be applied both nationally and internationally, regardless of climatic conditions.

Projects and Cores:

Our program is comprised of nine research projects: five biomedical projects and four environmental science projects. Our biomedical projects explore the mechanisms of arsenic toxicity, the susceptibility of populations to arsenic, and potential therapeutic approaches. Our environmental science projects investigate how hazardous wastes (arsenic, TCE/PCE, and mine tailings dust) can be optimally characterized and contained. The projects are supported by five support cores comprising: administration, research translation, analytical services, community outreach, and graduate training.

Our interdisciplianry program includes over 70 people, comprising faculty, staff, and students from seven colleges and 12 departments. The colleges include: Medicine; Pharmacy; Science; Agriculture and Life Sciences; Atmospheric Science, Engineering, and Public Health. The departments include: Soil, Water and Environmental Science; Pharmacology and Toxicology; Hydrology and Water Resources; Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine; Chemical and Environmental Engineering; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Material Sciences and Engineering; Veterinary Science and Microbiology; Atmospheric Sciences; Physiology; and Respiratory Sciences.

The UA SRP program has been continually funded by NIEHS since 1989. Our current funding period began April 1, 2010 and continues through March 31, 2015. For this funding period, the UA SRP will receive more than $14 million in direct and indirect costs.


Our current research objectives are to:

  • Improve assessment of toxicological effects of environmentally-relevant arsenic exposure.
  • Better understand the long-term stability of arsenic-bearing residuals, generated to meet drinking water standards, that are disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Begin a characterization of wind-borne mine tailings particulates as a vehicle for distribution and exposure to metal contaminants (e.g., arsenic and lead).
  • Develop cost-effective approaches for containing mine tailings in the Southwest.
  • Continue our long-term and extremely relevant effort to better understand the transport, dynamics, and remediation of chlorinated solvent plumes found in the deep vadose zone.
  • Communicate research results to appropriate audiences, including government, industry, and community.
  • Apply the knowledge gained from our research to empower affected populations to tackle the health and environmental challenges they face.
  • Train the next generation of scientists to handle hazardous waste issues.
To learn more about our past research projects and objectives, please visit the NIEHS-Superfund Research Program website.

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