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Pilot Investigation of Tobacco and Cannabis Contaminants in an Urban Natural Reserve

Institution: San Diego State University Research Foundation
Investigator(s): Eunha Hoh,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30IP0974 Award: $602,000
Subject Area: Environmental Exposure/Toxicology
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract
Few studies have examined the environmental pollution caused by tobacco's use and disposal. Information on the pollution's impact is even rarer in protected areas such as California natural reserves, even when these natural reserves are next to urban areas and receive contaminated inputs such as storm water after rain events. Environmental impact assessments require the measurement of chemicals that accurately represent their original source, and/or toxicants or other compounds that have a biological impact. The overall aim of this project is to identify chemical markers associated with tobacco-use pollution sources to natural reserves, and to make a determination of the potential biological impacts to these environments. The project will examine a natural reserve directly adjacent to a major metropolitan area that likely receives urban inputs containing tobacco product waste. Due to the preliminary nature of this work, we will primarily utilize laboratory studies to enable controlled conditions. Currently, optimal chemical markers can be hypothesized, but there is little experimental evidence to guide their selection. In addition to tobacco-use related chemicals, we will examine potential environmental contaminants resulting from cannabis use and production. We will perform the following. 1) A test to determine the toxicity of tobacco product waste. 2) A test to determine the tobacco product waste chemicals that accumulate in animals that live in the natural reserves. 3) Experiments to identify specific chemical markers of tobacco product waste pollution in water and sediment. 4) Experiments to investigate the utility of a water sampling method that may allow the detection of very low concentrations of tobacco and cannabis pollution markers in natural environments compared to conventional sampling methods. The outcome of this pilot project includes determination of target chemical markers representing tobacco and cannabis contamination, the toxicity of tobacco-related contaminants, methodological assessments, best-practices (QA/QC guidelines informed by experimental data), and policy implications specific to the contamination of natural protected areas by tobacco and cannabis contamination.