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A Pilot Study of Tobacco & Cannabis Contaminants in Protec

Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Investigator(s): Patricia Holden, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 29) Grant #: 29NP-0001 Award: $531,982
Subject Area: Unknown
Award Type: NRS Pilot

Initial Award Abstract
Parks and nature preserves are not only 'protected areas' that can be used for recreation, but are an 'ecosystem service' benefitting humankind more generally through such activities as bee pollination, maintenance of food webs, and nutrient recycling for plant growth. Parks and preserves, depending on their location, can be contaminated by pollutants that can negatively affect their 'ecosystem services'. Some of these pollutants can be prevented by changing individual human behavior. This project evaluates pollutants emanating from tobacco product and Cannabis (marijuana) use and cultivation for their presence in four protected areas in California. We will develop a methodology to assess the effects of discarded cigarette butts and e-cigarette waste products as they may contaminate sewage and storm water drainage with pollutants such as nicotine, metals, and plastics. Questions addressed will include: Where are people smoking and tossing their butts and e-cigarettes? Where are tobacco products sold vis-à-vis protected areas? Where is tobacco-related pollution leaking into protected areas? This research will uncover how, and to what extent, remote versus urban protected areas are polluted by tobacco products. Similarly, we will evaluate if Cannabis cultivation "whether in greenhouses or outdoors and whether legally or illegally grown" can pollute protected areas. Where Cannabis is grown illegally, many chemicals that are used in this activity may poison wildlife. Where Cannabis is grown in legal greenhouses, pollutants can also be emitted into surrounding air, soil, and water. With either illegal or legal Cannabis cultivation, the use of Cannabis products and the chemicals in its waste products could affect protected areas. Questions to be addressed include: Where does this Cannabis cultivation exist? How and to what extent might Cannabis use and cultivation affect protected areas? This pilot research will attempt to identify where selected University of California Natural Reserve System protected areas ('Reserves') might be polluted, given surrounding land uses, businesses, infrastructure such as roadways and sewers, population size and makeup, regional climate conditions, and aspects internal to the Reserves. We will conduct field sampling of water, soil, and sediments, and then analyze samples for tobacco product or Cannabis (cultivation and use) pollutants. Results will be compared to existing pollution predictions as a test of our methodology. This research will lay the groundwork for future studies of tobacco product and Cannabis (cultivation and use) effects on other protected areas. This project supports the TRDRP priority on environmental exposure and toxicology regarding tobacco and Cannabis use, by developing methods to estimate and mitigate risks to ecosystem services degradation and delivery and to human health through new policy approaches." Tracy and Ginny asked if you can please tag this one under Environmental Exposure and Toxicology, as it is currently flagged as Unknown.