The Center for Environmental Medicine was launched last week when Colorado State University signed research and education partnership agreements with Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences, which is Japan's equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and Gifu University's School of Medicine.
The center will focus on research that could mitigate the effects of chemicals and infectious agents that contaminate food, consumer products and the environment. While global in mission, the center will begin work immediately looking at environmental health issues related to commerce in Asia. The center's partnership with Japan allows it access to products manufactured there and in other countries with high exports.
For example, along with the U.S., Japan is one of China's largest importers of goods. Anticipated initial projects in Asia include research and educational efforts into issues such as melamine in food products; heavy metal levels in water sources for agricultural products that are distributed globally including soybeans; and the quality and purity of vitamin C. About 90% of the world's vitamin C is produced in China.
The mission of the Center for Environmental Medicine to protect the health of people, animals and the larger ecosystem of the planet -- from pollution and toxins -- is critical in today's global marketplace. In response to an urgent need that has become all too familiar in today's headlines, this unique center will play a crucial role in educating businesses and bringing together government agencies to better agree on and monitor health and safety product standards, said Colorado State Interim President Tony Frank.
Neither China nor Japan has the equivalent of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and center officials expect to play an international role in education and team building between countries.
William Hanneman, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences and the director of the new center cited future projects such as the use of pesticides in foreign countries that are banned in the U.S. for agricultural products but that are used on foods that could be imported into the U.S. and Japan.
The Center for Environmental Medicine will provide:
- Access to the production of foreign products and manufacturing plants in other countries not normally granted to the U.S.
- The combined resources and access to non-United States produced foods and products will create a research and educational powerhouse to investigate the impacts of environmental contaminants on consumers of food and products.
- A heavy metal research and client services laboratory to evaluate levels of heavy metals in water sources, foods and products and their impact on animal and human health and the environment.
- Access to equipment and environments for research not currently available to researchers from both countries, such as access to the state-of-the-art heavy ion cancer treatment and research center run by Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences. Cyclotrons, of which there are five in the world, accelerate particles to extremely fast speeds.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008