US border security recently prevented two Chinese-born University of Toronto environmental toxicology graduate students from presenting papers at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) in Austin, Texas. Despite applying early for visas, booking their hotel, purchasing air tickets, and preparing their posters and presentations for the sessions, scheduled for November 9–12, 2003, the two graduate students never left Canada.

The two students—Hang Xiao and Yushan Su—told The Scientist this week how, after receiving the invitation to SETAC on September 20, they found US Consular officials in Toronto concerned over any work involving toxic chemicals. But, Xiao said, “I only do some modeling research and [don't] use those so-called toxic chemicals at all.” Xiao studies how persistent organic pollutants partition between the air and organic surfaces, while Su studies environmental monitoring of the effect of pesticides on the environment.

SETAC's president sent officials a letter...

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