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11/2/2017

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations | Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

| Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health … Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations

Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH , COMMUNITY HEALTH , HEALTHCARE

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations

STUDY SHOWS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLAYS CRITICAL ROLE IN PROTECTING HUMAN HEALTH

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ew research conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health finds

exposure to arsenic in drinking water was significantly reduced among Americans using

public water systems following a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency regulation on

maximum levels of arsenic. Compliance with the regulation led to a decline of 17 percent in levels

of urinary arsenic, equivalent to an estimated reduction of more than 200 cases of lung and bladder

disease every year. However, there were no improvements in arsenic exposure rates among users of

11/2/2017

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations | Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

and protecting human health.

“EPA regulation was associated with a significant decrease in urinary arsenic concentrations among Americans who use public water systems,” said Anne Nigra, ScM, in the Mailman School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and the study’s lead author. “Levels of arsenic in private wells, estimated to provide water to roughly 45.5 million Americans, vary significantly throughout the U.S. Because of the cost of testing and treating contaminated water, private well- water users remain inadequately protected against arsenic exposure in drinking water, especially residents of lower socio-economic status.”

Arsenic is an established carcinogen and naturally occurs in drinking water. In 2006, public water systems were required to meet the new EPA 10 µg/L regulatory limit for the maximum arsenic level in drinking water, down from 50 µg/L. Particularly in the Southwest, public drining water originates from sources containing naturally high levels of arsenic, with affected cities including

Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, and Tucson.

The researchers compared data from 14,127 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2014, who tested for dimethylarsinate—the main metabolite of inorganic arsenic in humans. Arsenic was also measured in spot urine samples collected from a random

subsample of participants 6 years of age or older. Data analysis adjusted for other sources

of arsenic such as diet and smoking. The study is the first to evaluate the impact of the 2006 maximum contaminant level regulation on reducing arsenic exposure at the individual level or by using biomarker data.

Among public water users—approximately 70 percent of participants—arsenic levels decreased

from 3.01 μg/L in 2003-2004 to 2.49 μg/L in 2013-2014, or 17 percent. The decrease was only

observed after 2009-2010, consistent with the EPA regulatory compliance process, which dictates time for testing, and time to address the problem by changing the source or installing water treatment.