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Balsam Alessa (HWU)

I am Balsam Alessa a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS) in Institute of Life and Earth Sciences.

Project title: PVC fate and toxicity in soil systems

Project funding: Saudi Arabia Cultural Bureau in the UK

Supervisors: Prof Ted Henry and Dr Liz A Dyrynda.

I received my Master in Biology from the USA. The Thesis title was “Linear alkyl benzene sulfonate concentration varies daily, weekly and seasonally in Pittsburg’s wastewater: it is possible that the college student population influences the variation, Crawford County, Kansas.”

Description: PVC plastics with phthalate plasticizer are widely used in industries including food manufacture and processing. Although phthalates are known toxicants, we know little about their input to and output from soil systems. Further, the fate and toxicity of PVC polymer in soil systems are poorly understood. This project will look to better understand the inputs of PVC with/without phthalate plasticizers from aerobic and anaerobic waste treatments (composting and anaerobic digestion) to soils and, their subsequent fate and toxicity in the soil environment. Characterisation of PVC will be by FTIR spectroscopy and phthalates by a combination of FTIR spectroscopy and gas/liquid chromatography. The effects on soil systems will look at key biological soil quality indicators including soil respiration and earthworm survival/fitness, the latter using histology and/or gene expression assays. Finally, the project will initiate work to consider transport from the soil system to wider environment and toxicity to freshwater inhabitants.