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Searching for pollution in the Caribbean
Date:5/5/2009

inants, Dr. Sanchez-Cabeza elaborated. "We use techniques to measure the contents of trace metals (like lead or mercury), hydrocarbons and pesticides. For example, using x-ray fluorescence reveals easily the trace metals that are present in the sediment."

These techniques also bring a deeper historical perspective on the nature and causes of pollution.

"Some of the nuclear techniques we are using provide a new specific approach to the analysis," he said. "We call this dating."

"We use the natural radioactive element lead-210," he clarified. "By looking at that radionuclide we can tell what is the age of a particular sediment layer. We can go back in time to tell how a countrys ecosystem was 100 years ago, and what is the status now."

Under the project, scientists collect sediment cores - or vertical pieces of sediments - at the pre-selected sites. Then the different layers of the sediment are examined and analyzed in the laboratories.

"Each layer is actually like a page of history," Dr. Sanchez-Cabeza said. "Nuclear techniques allow us to read that book, and the story written in the sediment."

"In this project we are not only pinpointing which are the polluted areas but we are also telling society and decision makers what are the pollution trends. Are we doing things better? Are things improving or not?"

"We provide them with tools to see if that is the case and, if it is not the case, to correct them if possible. That is the core of IAEA-MELs contribution," he said.

Learning the Science

Manpower development is one of the core elements of the project, according to Dr. Jane Gerardo-Abaya, the projects Programme Management Officer in the Latin America Division of the IAEAs Technical Cooperation Department. It is also an area that has shown the most progress, two years into the project implementation.

"We have trained about 40 counterparts from 12 Caribbean countries in cor
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Contact: Rodolfo Quevenco
r.quevenco@iaea.org
43-126-002-1287
International Atomic Energy Agency
Source:Eurekalert

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