Columbia U receives $16.9M award to study origin and health effects of arsenic in ground water

ater has been associated with the development of skin, bladder, kidney and lung cancers as well as non-carcinogenic effects such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and cardiovascular diseases, public health intervention strategies to reduce arsenic exposure are critical."

The latest Superfund grant also includes a component studying the effects of environmental arsenic on children's health. While exposure to arsenic has long been known to have neurological consequences in the occupational setting, to date there have been limited well-controlled studies of children or of the potential effects of chronic exposure to arsenic in groundwater used for drinking and cooking.

Since the early 1990s, when the epidemic of arsenic poisoning began to emerge in Bangladesh, India, and other countries in South Asia, it has been estimated that as many as 100 million people worldwide regularly drink or cook with well water with arsenic concentrations greater than 10 micrograms per liter (g/L) or 10 parts per billion (ppb), the World Health Organization's maximum exposure level. Until the early 1970s, people in Bangladesh generally did not drink well water, but rather relied on microbially-contaminated surface water, which caused a host of infectious diseases, particularly fatal diarrheal diseases in young children. Ironically, the arsenic crisis arose as a result of the well-intentioned efforts of non-governmental organizations, which installed millions of tube wells throughout the country in an attempt to shift communities away from the consumption of microbially-contaminated surface water, not realizing that the ground water was naturally enriched with arsenic. "I am delighted that we have been given the opportunity to continue our efforts to link our growing understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of arsenic release to groundwater with more effective mitigation in the U.S. and in Bangladesh," said Alexander van Geen, Doherty Senior Research Scientists at Lamont-

Contact: stephanie berger
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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