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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Brick-makers to demonstrate NMSU filter in Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian Institution recently recognized the work of New Mexico State University researchers in introducing environmentally sound kiln-firing practices to the Mexican brick-making industry. It plans to highlight the research next summer as part of the Year 2000 Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.


The research was supported by the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy (SCERP), a border-wide environmental research consortium with a statewide base at NMSU. Antonio Lara, NMSU chemistry professor, and graduate student Roberto Marquez, with a $50,000 grant from SCERP, developed a filtering system that fits inside the chimney of a brick-making kiln. The filter captures airborne pollutants that are emitted during the firing process.

"This low-tech approach to environmental protection has a number of advantages," said Erin Ross, SCERP campus director. "The filter is made from available brick-making materials and costs very little to make. It's a perfect solution for a border environmental problem."

Lara and Marquez worked closely with a number of Juarez brick-making families in developing the filtering system. One family will be chosen to demonstrate the brick-making process during the festival. A small brickyard will be recreated on the Mall for the exhibition.

The Smithsonian chose the project because of its environmental and cultural significance, said Cynthia Vidaurri of the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival presents free, public programs on nations, states and regions, sponsoring outdoor exhibits that demonstrate unique cultural traditions.

"This is a good example of an activity that brings together regional economics, environmental concerns and traditional practices," Vidaurri said.

The festival's Rio Grande/Rio Bravo theme for the year 2000 will include exhibits on culture and identity, sustainable development and traditional knowledge of land management. Exhibits will demonstrate food preparation, music, occupations, traditions and regional crafts.

The festival is scheduled June 23 to 27 and June 30 to July 4, 2000. Last year's festival attracted more than 1 million visitors. To learn more, contact SCERP at (505) 646-5255.

Rachel Kendall