By Ana Corado
I would like to tell you the story that leads to my leaving the Sava Center in Belgrade, Serbia, on a late foggy Friday evening, after a long week of discussions on international chemicals management.
My story begins many years ago, as a child in Guatemala, where I was born and raised. My parents worked with grassroots and international organizations devoted to rural education in a country that has over 20 different ethnic indigenous groups. As early as I can remember, my school vacation consisted of living in remote villages where other children wore non-western clothing and spoke indigenous languages. To this day I recall the mountain air, clean water springs, pine forests and starry nights. The villages lacked electricity and most didn’t have running water. Our days were filled with basic chores: collecting water, washing clothes by hand, helping set the fire, cooking, or walking through corn fields discussing agricultural practices. Despite their scant material comforts, peasants in the communities welcomed us into their lives.
These childhood experiences taught me an invaluable lesson in appreciating other cultures. These lessons would again be applied when I came to the United States to pursue advanced studies in environmental engineering and became a U.S. citizen. I started my professional career in Los Angeles working on water resources issues, later moved to work for EPA’s regional office in San Francisco, and then to EPA headquarters in Washington, where I was introduced to the Office of International and Tribal Affairs.
My interest in technical issues led me to the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at
EPA where I work on international chemicals management issues. On a day-to-day basis, I provide technical support to U.S. efforts with international partners. I attend international meetings where countries discuss how to work together to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimize potential adverse effects on human health and the environment. Again, my childhood experience with different cultures helps me to better understand the need for diplomatic engagement with partners around the world. This work took me to that cold night in Belgrade, where despite feeling tired after a long-week of discussions, I had the satisfaction that 150 delegates at the meeting agreed to continue efforts to reduce the use of lead in paint globally and promote the use of alternatives to perfluorinated chemicals.
About the Author: Dr. Ana Corado is an Environmental Engineer with the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and member of the international team. She has worked on environmental issues for 20 years in the U.S. where she resides with her husband and daughter. She still continues to support educational initiatives in Guatemala.