UMD: A Globally Connected University

UMD Collaborates With China To Address Heavy Metal Soil Pollution

UMD Collaborates With China To Address Heavy Metal Soil Pollution

February 17, 2016


The University of Maryland has integrated climate change and sustainability into the heart of its research and education mission. One way it contributes to these efforts is by disseminating knowledge, technologies, and best practices to stakeholders all over the world.

Recently, the University of Maryland’s Office of China Affairs hosted a government training group from Sichuan Province, China. Officials from Sichuan’s Ministry of Environmental Protection came to UMD to learn about best practices in heavy metal soil pollution assessment and remediation.

While efforts to curb carbon emissions and to reduce sulphur dioxide pollution in China have begun to bear fruit, heavy metal pollution in soil and water continues to be one of the most significant threats to public health. Preventing this pollution is among the highest priorities in China’s next “Five-Year Plan.”

Progress has been made in China in curbing lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic pollution emissions, but daunting legacy problems remain. These carcinogens lurk in soil and water, and enter the food supply. Ingestion can cause severe developmental problems in both children and adults.

The two-week training program at UMD combined both theory and practice, giving trainees opportunities to interact with speakers from key institutions in the field of environmental protection. After an overview of U.S. heavy-metal-related environmental policies and standards, the group had intensive lectures on U.S. environmental law with a focus on heavy metal issues.

Trainees heard from U.S. EPA experts on heavy metal pollution monitoring, environment restoration, and the superfund projects. From the Maryland Department of the Environment, they heard about the wide variety of Maryland’s heavy metal-related programs. They also paid professional visits to a wide variety of other key governmental, scientific, and advocacy organizations such as the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee of the Maryland General Assembly and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Topics covered during their training included cadmium and arsenic in rice, phytostabilization and phytomining as remediation measures, the biological, chemical, toxicological effects of heavy metal pollution, and the impacts of heavy metals on wildlife. Trainees also had an exchange with policy experts at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum, sharing thoughts on China-U.S. collaboration on heavy metal pollution management.

These and related environmental challenges in China are not going to be easily solved, but the University of Maryland will continue to be part of the solution by acting as a convener and as a platform for the exchange and dissemination of best practices.