Several U.S. Populations and Regions Exposed to High Arsenic Concentrations in Drinking Water

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Odds of going beyond optimum impurity levels were substantially higher for water supply in the Southwest and serving Hispanic neighborhoods.

A brand-new nationwide research study of public water supply discovered that arsenic levels were not consistent throughout the U.S., even after application of the most recent nationwide regulative requirement. In the very first research study to evaluate distinctions in public drinking water arsenic direct exposures by geographical subgroups, scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health validated there are inequalities in drinking water arsenic direct exposure throughout particular sociodemographic subgroups and with time. Community water supply reliant on groundwater, serving smaller sized populations found in the Southwest, and Hispanic neighborhoods were most likely to continue going beyond the nationwide optimum containment level, raising ecological justice issues. The findings are released online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“This research has important implications for public health efforts aimed at reducing arsenic exposure levels, and for advancing environmental justice,” stated Anne Nigra, PhD, postdoctoral research study fellow in ecological health sciences, and very first author. “Systematic studies of inequalities in public drinking water exposures have been lacking until now. These findings identify communities in immediate need of additional protective public health measures.”

‘Our goal was to recognize subgroups whose public water arsenic concentrations stayed above 10 μg/L after the brand-new optimum arsenic impurity levels were carried out and, for that reason, at out of proportion threat of arsenic-related negative health results such as heart disease, associated cancers, and negative birth results,” stated Ana Navas-Acien, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author.

Arsenic is an extremely hazardous human carcinogen and water impurity present in lots of aquifers in the United States. Earlier research study by the Columbia research study group revealed that minimizing the MCL from 50 to 10 μg/L avoided an approximated 200-900 cancer cases annually.

The scientists compared neighborhood water supply arsenic concentrations throughout (2006-2008) versus after (2009-2011) the preliminary tracking duration for compliance with EPA’s 10 μg/L arsenic optimum impurity level (MCL). They approximated three-year typical arsenic concentrations for 36,406 regional water supply and 2,740 counties and compared distinctions in ways and quantiles of water arsenic in between both three-year durations for U.S. areas and sociodemographic subgroups.

Analyses were based upon information from 2 of the biggest EPA databases of public water offered. Using arsenic tracking information from the Third Six Year Review duration (2006-2011), the scientists studied around 13 million analytical records from 139,000 public water supply serving 290 million individuals each year. Included were information from 46 states, Washington D.C., the Navajo Nation, and American Indian people representing 95 percent of all public water supply and 92 percent of the overall population served by public water supply nationally.

Regional Differences

For 2006-2008 to 2009-2011, the typical neighborhood water supply arsenic concentrations decreased by 10 percent nationwide, by 11.4 percent for the Southwest, and by 37 percent for New England, respectively. Despite the decrease in arsenic concentrations, public drinking water arsenic concentrations stayed greater for numerous sociodemographic subgroups — Hispanic neighborhoods, the Southwestern U.S, the Pacific Northwest, and the Central Midwest., in specific. Likewise, neighborhoods with smaller sized populations and reliant on groundwater were most likely to have high arsenic levels.

The percent of neighborhood water supply with typical concentrations arsenic above the 10 μg/L MCL was 2.3% in 2009-2011 vs. 3.2% in 2006-2008. Community water supply that were not certified with the arsenic MCL were most likely in the Southwest (61 percent), served by groundwater (95 percent), serving smaller sized populations (approximately 1,102 individuals), and serving Hispanic neighborhoods (38 percent).

Nigra and Navas-Acien state that approximating public drinking water arsenic direct exposure for sociodemographic and geographical subgroups is crucial for examining whether inequalities in arsenic direct exposure and compliance with the optimum impurity levels continue throughout the U.S, to notify future nationwide- and state-level arsenic regulative efforts, and to examine whether inequalities in direct exposure by subgroup add to variations in arsenic-related illness. “Our findings will help address environmental justice concerns and inform public health interventions and regulatory action needed to eliminate exposure inequalities.”

“We urge continued state and federal funding for infrastructure and technical assistance support for small public water systems in order to reduce inequalities and further protect numerous communities in the U.S. affected by elevated drinking water arsenic exposure,” stated Nigra.

Reference: 9 December 2020, Environmental Health Perspectives.
DOI: 10.1289/EHP7313



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