Researchers introduce a new approach to assess arsenic in drinking water

December 09, 2011
A study emerging from the labs of SRP researchers Rebecca Fry and Marc Serre is featured in the January 2012 issue of Environment International. “Arsenic in North Carolina: Public Health Implications” introduces a new approach to assess spatial and temporal trends of arsenic in drinking water and may lead to the implementation of enhanced monitoring programs that target regions of concern in North Carolina. The goal of this specific study was to identify populations at greatest risk of long-term health effects resulting from exposure to arsenic in drinking water. This study is part of a larger study being conducted in partnership between the UNC-SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to understand trends and patterns in well water contamination in North Carolina and is supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.The project utilized more than 60,000 domestic well water measures collected by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (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 were able to 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 (Carolina slate belt) and several counties in the coastal plains. Fry and other researchers at UNC hope that these data can be integrated with biomonitoring and health outcome data to substantiate risk and protect public health in arsenic endemic areas.