Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On-Line Great Lakes Chemicals Fate Model

Jan 29: Syracuse Research Corporation (SRC) has produced an online, interactive modeling application for predicting the fate of chemicals within the Great Lakes environment. The project, led by Dr. Mario Citra of SRC, set out to produce an easy-to-use application that would allow users to determine several important factors relating to how chemicals behave once they have been released into the Great Lakes environment. These include: Where in the environment does the chemical tend to accumulate (such as in water, soils, sediments, air or fish)? How long is the chemical retained in the Great Lakes environment before it degrades or is transported to another region? What concentration in the environment would be produced by a given level of emission? What is the potential for a chemical to travel to the Great Lakes region from far away? And more.

By providing this capability through an online interface that is easy to access and use, the model gives users a powerful tool for answering their questions about the behavior of a given chemical in the Great Lakes system. The modeling program may be run with as little input as the chemical’s Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) identification number (of which 33 million are available) although more detailed characteristics may be input as well. The model’s ease of use and availability over the Internet make it a great tool for use in educational settings.

While much information can be generated by the model without specifying chemical quantities, knowing how much of a chemical is emitted into the environment allows a user to obtain even more information, such as predicted concentrations in air, water, soils, sediments and fish. It also allows the user to determine the likelihood that a certain concentration known to be a high-risk level would be exceeded. While users can enter their own emissions information, the website also includes links to pesticide application data from the CropLife Foundation and air emissions data from the Great Lakes Regional Toxic Air Emissions Inventory, which together provide useful release information on more than 350 toxic substances.

The model is configured to represent each of the five Great Lakes basins (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior). The user is able to choose which of these five they would like to use as the basis for the model. While other models may be more complex or offer additional capabilities, this modeling program has the advantage of being easy to access and use. Potential applications include investigating the behavior of new or unstudied chemicals; comparing emissions and monitoring data; and calculating expected concentrations of chemicals in the environment or the likelihood that such concentrations will exceed known risk values.

Access an announcement on the model (click here). Access the model on the SRC website (click here). Access additional model documentation (click here).