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Tuskegee University professors receive grant to focus on pesticide risks near urban agricultural communities

July 01, 2020

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr. Gamal Salah El Afandi
El Afandi

Tuskegee University faculty in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) have entered a new partnership that will study pesticide risks near urban agricultural communities.

The three-year grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is entitled “Risk Assessment of Pesticide use and Air Dispersion in urban agricultural interface communities.” The $500,000 project will overall award Tuskegee $332,025 and UIS receiving the remaining $167,975. The study is part of an effort to learn about the risks of pesticide use and air dispersion in urban agricultural communities.

The grant will be administered by Dr. Gamal Salah El Afandi, professor in Tuskegee’s Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who will lead Tuskegee’s portion of the project alongside Dr. Ramble Ankumah and Dr. Souleymane Fall, both professors in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences.

The study will identify methods for monitoring and modeling the atmospheric spread of pesticide pollutants under numerous weather conditions, identify hotspots of occurrence, and assess the vulnerability of affected communities.

“Due to proximity, pesticide concentrations in ambient air are higher in agricultural communities and near treated fields. During the pesticide application, the direction drift of pesticide is critical to its impact on nearby communities,” said El Afandi. “Some of the health problems that affect populations living in the urban-rural interface is believed to stem from exposure to pesticide vapors that are present in the atmosphere following the application of the product by farmers.”

El Afandi said the study will also investigate the links between pesticides and health effects. The extent of this on populations living in the urban-agricultural interface is not clear, although some residents in the urban agricultural interface have attributed various ailments – including allergies, cancer, birth defects, male sterility, contamination of breast milk, genetic mutations, respiratory diseases, as it relates to the pesticide exposure.

“There is a need for developing methods for further investigating the extent of pesticide exposure and its effect of weather patterns on pesticide drift,” explained El Afandi. “This study will offer the opportunity to improve long term planning and management pesticide risks as well raise the awareness of residents in urban-agricultural interfaces about the possible risks posed by such type of pollution.”

During the study Tuskegee University undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to receive technical and research education.

“The project will provide an excellent platform for training students to run simulation models in the past, present, and future situations and to make use of the high-performance computing at Alabama supercomputer,” noted El Afandi. “The project will improve modeling capabilities to estimate future scenarios to develop new ideas for field management practice.”

Researchers expect at the projects conclusion, a better understanding and management of pesticides risk based on the use of air dispersion modeling and geographic information technologies. In addition, it will also provide data and information to enhance the preparedness of local communities dealing with such issues.

Partners at UIS include assistant professor of Public Health Dr. Egbe Egiebor and associate professor of Public Health Dr. Dorine Brand.

© 2020, Tuskegee University