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Arsenic in water
State ramps up its study of uranium and arsenic in wells

03/09/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 The state Department of Health and Human Services is entering into Phase 2 of its efforts to learn more about naturally occurring arsenic and uranium levels in our groundwater and in our bodies. 

 
Scope 
Unlike statewide studies that seek to create a random sample from each county and population center of New Hampshire, the Targeted Arsenic and Uranium Public Health Study is focusing on specific communities.
“We’re only looking in select areas,” said Amanda Cosser, the biomonitoring program manager at DHHS.
Cosser said the study began in August in just Bow and Dunbarton, and to a smaller extent in Epsom. Researchers hosted town hall meetings to explain the process and recruit participants. Now, officials are broadening their efforts by extending the study into Deerfield, Goffstown, New Boston, Weare and more fully in Epsom. 
Researchers are selecting communities in southern and southeastern parts of the state where the United States Geological Survey determined a high probability of increased arsenic based on the bedrock geology of those regions. By testing well water and residents’ urine, officials will have hard data.
“We’re looking at private well water quality as well as body burden. So, how much, if wells are contaminated and they’re not being treated, how much of that arsenic and uranium is getting into people’s bodies?” Cosser said.
Ultimately, Cosser said, researchers aim to complete the study in 26 communities they’ve targeted, from which they hope to test at least 500 individuals and their wells. 
Invitations will be sent to residents in “recruitment postcards” and if residents agree to participate, they’ll get a free well water testing kit.
After the broader study is complete, participants will see the result of their own tests so they can compare it with others who were tested.
 
Health issues
The potential side effects of prolonged low-level exposure to arsenic and uranium are varied, but one thing Cosser has her eye on is bladder cancer.
“Studies of long-term exposure to arsenic in rodents and humans in other countries have shown that there’s an increased risk of skin, lung and bladder cancer,” Cosser said. “And with New Hampshire having such high rates of bladder cancer compared to other states in the country, this is especially interesting to us, and another reason why we are conducting this study.”
According to 2013 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, New Hampshire had a rate of bladder cancer of 26.5 per 100,000 population. That’s higher than the national rate of 20 and the third highest after Rhode Island and Connecticut.
With more than 40 percent of Granite Staters getting their drinking water from wells, establishing a link between local groundwater and bladder cancer would be a critical step in preventing future cases. 
Arsenic has also been linked to childhood developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, skin discoloration and skin hardening. Uranium has been known to cause respiratory disease and affect kidney function.
Besides drinking water, arsenic can also be found in some foods like rice, as well as cigarettes, paints, pesticides and industrial chemicals. In order to take those environmental exposures into account, participants will also be asked to complete a survey.
The study is part of a $5 million, five-year program with the CDC that will include a second statewide study to determine a baseline for environmental contaminants like perfluorochemicals. That study has not yet begun.





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