Oct. 26, 2015
Dartmouth College researchers and their collaborators are making progress in efforts to reduce human exposure to arsenic.
A paper published in Current Environmental Health Reports summarizes the outcome of the “Environmental and Human Health Consequences of Arsenic” summit last August. The two-day meeting was organized by Dartmouth’s Superfund Research Program (SRP), the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDI) and partners. During the summit, scientists, college and secondary school educators, environmental lawyers, industry, consumer groups, science writers and local, state and federal government representatives discussed emerging evidence that arsenic in drinking water and food is a global public health crisis.
“The summit brought together leaders in their fields to work on reducing human exposure to arsenic in our food and water,” says the summit’s organizer Bruce Stanton, director of Dartmouth’s SRP. “The group was able to make great strides because we had such diverse representation.”
The summit’s paper sets a number of goals:
• establish science-based evidence for setting standards at the local, state, national and global levels for arsenic in water and food.
• work with government agencies to set regulations for arsenic in water and food, establish and strengthen non-regulatory programs and improve collaboration between government agencies, NGOs, academia, the private sector, industry and others.
• develop novel and cost-effective technologies for identification and reduction of exposure to arsenic in water.
• develop novel and cost-effective approaches to reduce arsenic exposure in juice, rice and other relevant foods.
• develop an arsenic education plan to guide the development of science curricula, community outreach and education programs that inform students and consumers about arsenic exposure and engage them in well water testing and development of remediation strategies.
Building on the summit, Dartmouth’s SRP and the MDI are using an Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education grant to create a national model of environmental education that helps schools and community organizations to work together to address public health risks from toxic contaminants in drinking water, while offering teachers and students opportunities to participate in research and work towards eliminating arsenic from drinking water in New Hampshire and Maine.
Human exposure to arsenic represents a significant health problem worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). One billion people are exposed to arsenic in food and more than 200 million people ingest arsenic via drinking water at concentrations greater than international standards. Although the EPA has set a limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in public water supplies and the WHO has recommended an upper limit of 10 ppb, recent studies indicate these limits are not protective enough. In addition, there are currently few standards for arsenic in food.
A PDF of the “Environmental and Human Health Consequences of Arsenic” summit paper is available on request.
Professor Bruce Stanton is available to comment at Bruce.A.Stanton@dartmouth.edu.
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