Colorado State University announced in November the formation of a new international environmental medicine center looking at tainted food and other consumer products at home and abroad. The Center for Environmental Medicine was launched during Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's trade mission to Asia when the University signed rare research and education partnership agreements with Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS), 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,” said Dr. William Hanneman, Director of the Center for Environmental Medicine and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.” 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 United States, Japan is one of China's largest importers of goods, although many products from both countries are exported globally.”
The Center, based in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, anticipates initial projects in Asia to 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 percent of the world's vitamin C is produced in China.
Also on the trade mission to Asia with Gov. Ritter were Dr. Tony Frank, Interim President of Colorado State University; Dr. Lance Perryman, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (and Acting Provost); Dr. Jac Nickoloff, Head, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences; Dr. Pete Hellyer, Associate Dean, Professional Medical Program; and Dr. Hanneman. It was through Dr. Hanneman’s long-term research and connections in Japan that major steps were taken toward a successful signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with NIRS and Gifu University.
"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 Dr. 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.
"This partnership is unique in that the memorandums of understanding that we have signed with Japan very specifically lays out mutual activities that Japan and CSU have agreed upon that will benefit research, education and public health in both countries through cooperative interactions," said Dr. Hanneman. "We'll engage countries as consumers and producers of goods and take a hard look at the products we exchange and the environments in which they were created and which they create."
Dr. Hanneman said future projects may include investigations into pesticide use on products that could be imported into the United States and Japan. In addition, the Center will provide extraordinary national and international opportunities to students.
"The partnership gives our students the opportunity to lead the world in solving some of these critical issues," said Dr. Perryman. "It brings together world-class educators and researchers to provide students with graduate-level degree programs, arming them with the skills needed to address environmental health and toxicology issues around the world and, in the future, helping to prevent tragic illnesses such as those reported recently from melamine in products."
Additional faculty members affiliated with the Center for Environmental Medicine include Drs. Marie Legare, Ron Tjalkens, Howard Ramsdell and Richard Slayden. To learn more about the Center, visit their Web site at www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/cem.