The Arsenic Project
participant: Julian Tyson, Chemistry
Pressure-treated wood, the timber with the greenish tinge that is used to make telegraph poles, decks, docks, roadside fences, duck-boards, and even children's playgrounds, has been preserved with a mixture of the oxides of chromium, copper and arsenic (dissolved in water) known as CCA (chromated copper arsenate). Although this material (CCA-wood) is being phased out by the timber preservation industry, there is a large amount of it in contact with soil and water in Western Massachusetts (and elsewhere - it is a national issue). Pressure-treated wood (PTW) is not the only source of possible arsenic contamination of our environment, but it is one that is easily visible and accessible. The arsenic project is based on investigations around the general question of to what extent is PTW a source of arsenic? and some closely related questions such as what can be done to minimize the impact of PTW?, and what can be done to remove arsenic from soil and water?
arsenic project has been in operation during the first year of the STEM
Connections program and has proved to be
highly successful, involving several
classes in Forest Park Middle School
in Springfield (teachers Deborah Danoff-Hoppe
and Alison Stefanik) and classes at Agawam High School
(teacher Bob Janik).
The fellows involved were Mary Johnson, Laurin Sievert and Lisa
Provencher. In addition to class projects, students worked on
or small group, science fair projects. There
will be a rich legacy of materials available for the participants in the
year of the program. Much
data that the students produce comes from a simple test kit, which can
in the classroom, that detects down to about 500 ng of arsenic in up to 50
aqueous solution. More complex or
difficult analyses can be done by graduate students in the Tyson
where one student is developing low-cost equipment, which should produce
useful results, to support the project. GK-12
fellows will interact with several researchers in the Tyson group who are
conducting projects to do with aspects of the environmental chemistry of
for their doctoral dissertations.