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11/2/2017 Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations | Columbia University Mailman School

lman School of Public Health

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines Following EPA Regulations

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, COMMUNITY HEALTH, HEALTHCARE POLICY Oct. 23 2017

Arsenic Exposure from Public Drinking Water Declines


Following EPA Regulations
STUDY SHOWS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLAYS CRITICAL ROLE IN PROTECTING HUMAN
HEALTH

N
ew research conducted at Columbia Universitys 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 Agencyregulation 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
private wells, which are not federally regulated. The findings, publishedin The Lancet Public
Health,confirm the critical role of federal drinking water regulations in decreasing toxic exposures

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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 Schools
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and the studys 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 g/L regulatory limit for the maximum arsenic level
in drinking water, down from 50 g/L. Particularly in theSouthwest,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 dimethylarsinatethe 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 analysisadjusted 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 usersapproximately 70 percent of participantsarsenic levels decreased

from 3.01 g/L in 2003-2004 to 2.49 g/L in 2013-2014, or 17 percent.The decrease was only
observed after 2009-2010, consistent with the EPAregulatory compliance
process, which dictatestime for testing, and time to address the problem by
changing the source or installing water treatment.

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