Public health researchers introduce a new approach to assess arsenic in drinking water

December 13, 2011

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A study emerging from the labs of the UNC Superfund Research Program (SRP) introduces a new approach to assess spatial and temporal trends of arsenic in drinking water. The findings may lead to the implementation of enhanced monitoring programs that target regions of concern in North Carolina.

Dr. Rebecca Fry

Dr. Rebecca Fry
Dr. Marc Serre

Dr. Marc Serre

Co-authored by assistant professor Rebecca Fry, PhD, and associate professor Marc Serre, PhD, both in UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, the article, “Arsenic in North Carolina: Public Health Implications,” is featured in the January 2012 issue of Environment International.

 
The research, part of a larger effort conducted in partnership between the UNC-SRP Research Translation Core and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), aimed to identify populations at greatest risk of long-term health effects resulting from exposure to arsenic in drinking water. The larger effort, supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, seeks to understand trends and patterns in well water contamination in North Carolina.
 
The project utilized more than 60,000 domestic well water measures collected by the NCDHHS since 1998. By assigning geographical coordinates to all private well measurements and using spatiotemporal geostatistical methods to estimate the concentration of arsenic in locations for which there were no data available, Fry and her team could identify and predict regions that most frequently exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic in drinking water while confirming elevated levels of arsenic in private wells located along the Carolina terrane and several counties in the coastal plains.
 
Fry and other UNC researchers hope these data can be integrated with biomonitoring and health outcome data to substantiate risk and protect public health in arsenic-endemic areas.
 
The UNC Superfund Research Program advances the scientific bases required to understand and reduce risks to human health associated with several of the highest priority chemicals regulated under the Superfund program, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), halogenated hydrocarbons, and heavy metals.Read more about the UNC Superfund Research Program online.

 

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu.