While drinking water along with diet is a major source of arsenic for the general population, the
The researchers evaluated the association between arsenic in private wells and public water supplies using urinary arsenic biomarkers within U.S. populations. “To date, no nationwide study had evaluated the link between drinking water arsenic with arsenic biomarkers in urine to assess how drinking water contributes to arsenic exposure for both regulated community water systems (CWS) and unregulated private wells,” said Maya Spaur, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry includes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates arsenic in public drinking water supplies and sets the maximum contaminant level (MCL) allowable in public water systems. However, differences in CWS arsenic concentrations persist across the U.S.
Hidden Health Hazard for US Population
In 2006, the EPA reduced allowable maximum contaminant levels to10 µg/L, from 50 µg/L. However, based solely on risk to health, the EPA set an MCL goal (MCLG) of 0 µg/L.
In addition to community water systems, arsenic exposure from drinking water is also a major concern for approximately 40 million U.S. residents reliant on private well water. However private wells are not subject to EPA’s MCL or other federal regulations.
To conduct the study the researchers evaluated 11,088 participants from the 2003-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
For each participant, the researchers assigned private wells and CWS arsenic levels according to the county of residence using estimates previously derived by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey.
Uncover the Alarming Link between Arsenic and Public Water
Participants also completed an in-person interview, dietary recall, and physical examination. The average recalibrated urinary dimethylarsinate (rDMA), the main metabolite of arsenic excreted in urine was 2.52 µg/L among private well users and 2.64 µg/L among CWS users.
Urinary rDMA was highest among participants in the West and South, and among Mexican American, other Hispanic, and non-Hispanic other participants.
Urinary rDMA levels were 25 percent and 20 percent higher comparing the highest to the lowest third of the population distribution of CWS and private well arsenic, respectively.
“We found that higher private well and public water arsenic levels were linked to higher urinary arsenic among NHANES participants,” noted Spaur. “We further observed very similar relationships between water arsenic and urinary arsenic for both regulated public water supplies and unregulated private wells, but did see differences by region with the strongest associations in the South and West, and among Mexican American participants. Our findings show that water arsenic, including in public water, is a major contributor to total arsenic as measured in urine. Additional efforts are needed to target regions and communities that continue to experience higher exposure.”
“Evaluating the link between drinking water arsenic and arsenic levels within U.S. populations is critical for informing drinking water regulatory policies going forward and for identifying communities that need additional financial, technical, and regulatory assistance to reduce the exposure to their residents,” said Anne E. Nigra, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.