Table of Contents
The issues related to naturally occurring arsenic in well water constitute a substantial social concern. The reason is that if its concentration exceeds the appropriate level, it poses additional threats to people’s health. The researchers offer different approaches and methodologies in relation to determining the scope of this problem and its potential solutions. The distribution of risks associated with arsenic concentration is not uniform throughout the US since people in some regions are exposed to higher risks.
It is necessary to provide the objective assessment of arsenic exposure as well as the assessment of public health impact. The available theoretical and empirical findings will be presented in this context. The situation in the US will be compared with other countries in order to comprehend the general patterns of arsenic contamination. The risk distribution among various US regions should be compared to specify the major national priorities in this regard as well as the optimal patterns of resource allocation. The relevant environmental, geological, social, and economic factors should be reviewed as well. In general, the effective solution of the outlined problem requires the implementation of the systematic and comprehensive approach.
Assessment of Exposure
The excessive concentrations of arsenic may be caused by various reasons. However, it is reasonable to concentrate on naturally occurring arsenic in well water as one of the most urgent problems nowadays. Sorg, Chen, and Wang (2014) demonstrate the substantial variability in the concentrations of arsenic in well water depending on a specific region of the country. The exposure of arsenic is such that it typically leads to the situation when only one species of arsenic becomes dominant in a given area. In particular, As V was the dominant species in almost all American regions while As III was prevalent in Midwest (Sorg, Chen, & Wang, 2014). It means that the correct assessment of arsenic exposure depends on the geographic region.
The general patterns of arsenic contamination are closely associated with geogenic factors prevalent in a given geographical region. Moreover, these interrelationships are observed in other countries such as Turkey. For example, sedimentary rocks may create the appropriate conditions for the naturally growing concentration of arsenic in water (Simsek, 2013). Therefore, such risks should be foreseen in advance in order to develop optimal preventive measures. The serious variability observed in different regions of the world is caused by the existing diversity of geological factors. Rango et al. (2013) examine the observed concentration of arsenic in the Main Ethiopian Rift. Correspondingly, the contamination levels also vary proportionally (from neutral to alkaline) (Rango et al., 2013). It indicates that the variability and intensity of exposure depend on the major characteristics of natural environment.
One of the methods aimed at forecasting the potential risks related to arsenic contamination refers to constructing the complex statistical model that may outline the relationships between the key independent variables and the potential contamination levels. Dummer et al. (2015) suggest the geostatistical modeling is the optimal alternative in this case. It is possible to collect the data about the region under investigation and determine the major factors impacting the dynamics of arsenic concentration. The environmental and geological factors are typically the most important in this regard. However, their relational significance depends on other variable aspects.
The global scale of problem is outlined by Stanisavljev et al. (2013). The authors demonstrate that the existing WHO requirements are not met in the vast majority of regions under examination in Serbia. Moreover, the deviations were critical in some cases (up to 10 times higher than the acceptable level). The hydride generation system confirms the reliability of these conclusions and supports the need for radical reforms in this sphere at the global level.
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The growing concentration of arsenic in well water presents serious environmental threats for different population groups. In relation to the United States, the existing situation in Maine and New Jersey is critical (Flanagan et al., 2016). In addition, it is important to comprehend whether arsenic exposure risks are closely correlated with social and economic conditions in various areas. However, the empirical analysis demonstrates that any correlation is absent (Flanagan et al., 2016). It means that the members of all social and economic classes are exposed to approximately equal degree of arsenic exposure risks. Thus, it is one of the most urgent problems nowadays.
Assessment of Public Health Impact
The public health impact associated with arsenic threats is considerable. As it is naturally present in well water in many countries and regions, these health concerns are relevant for the global community. Although the local conditions in various regions may determine the intensity and structure of corresponding risks, it is possible to outline the major aspects of risks. The prolonged exposure to arsenic from well water may lead to skin lesions. Arsenic distributes the natural balance within the human bodies. The state of skin reveals the negative processes and demonstrates the stage of arsenic exposure.
In general, arsenic obtained from the natural environment including well water affects all human organs. The clastogenic structure of different cell types is also subject to change, and cell mutations may emerge. As a result, it affects the likelihood of cardiovascular disease among people who experience the concentrations of arsenic that exceeds the normal level by several times. The artificially high toxic levels contribute to neurotoxicity among individuals in these regions (Joseph, Dubey, & McBean, 2015). The functioning of the brain system may be affected if the exposure to high arsenic concentration occurs for a prolonged period of time.
It is worth noting that the threats of diabetes also demonstrate the growing dynamics while people face arsenic exposure. However, the direct correlation between these two parameters is observed only when there is high concentration of inorganic arsenic. In relation to organic one, the existing correlation is weak, and diabetes typically emerges only if several other contributing factors exist. For example, some individuals receive additional exposure to arsenic through smoking. In this case, both organic and inorganic arsenics impact the human health.
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The recent studies also indicate that the exposure of arsenic contributes to the likelihood of skin and other types of cancer (Huy et al., 2014). Cancer mortality risks are statistically higher in those areas that have high levels of arsenic concentration. Moreover, the development of skin cancer may have several forms. On the one hand, it may emerge as an independent disease due to the changes observed in the cellular level. On the other hand, the cancer may progress form Bowen’s or similar diseases (Joseph, Dubey, & McBean, 2015). In the latter case, the latency period of several decades may exist.
In general, numerous skin lesions often serve as the first indicators of serious cancer threats. Unless urgent measures are taken, and the source of arsenic exposure is not neutralized, the cancer may progress either in the short or long run. The high arsenic toxicity also creates the optimal conditions for the negative impact of other environmental carcinogens. Thus, arsenic demonstrates both direct and indirect impacts on the development of skin cancer.
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Although, nowadays, skin cancer constitutes the major public health threat, the empirical findings also demonstrate that the likelihood of lung and bladder cancer exceeds the normal levels. These risks tend to increase disproportionally if a given individual obtains some concentrations of arsenic not only through water but also through other sources (for example, inhalation). Thus, high levels of arsenic in well water lead to a large number of health threats and risks of different types. The complex strategies should be developed to minimize public health threats especially in those regions where the analyzed concentrations are critical.
Current Status of Action and Proposed Action
It is reasonable to analyze the existing measures implemented for improving the existing situation in this sphere in the US. As different regions face unequal conditions, it is necessary to examine them and adjust the potential recommendations accordingly. Currently, the major strategy pursued by the US government at different levels includes several stages. Firstly, the corresponding norms and regulations regarding the appropriate and inappropriate concentration of arsenic are developed. In addition, the general recommendations of the WHO are often used for determining the marginal levels (Stanisavljev et al., 2013). Secondly, the existing levels of arsenic concentrations and its prevalence in well water are assessed.
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Thirdly, the obtained results are compared with the existing norms, and the degree of deviations is assessed. Fourthly, if the observed deviation is substantial, the state and local governments provide the corresponding funding for improving the state of water and ensuring its correspondence with the national and international requirements (Flanagan et al., 2016). Although this strategy demonstrates some effectiveness, it should be improved in several ways. The current application of norms and regulations is mechanistic as the major differences among various regions of the country are not addressed properly.
For this reason, it is important to determine the major type of risks associated with high arsenic concentrations in well water in a given region. For example, As V is dominant in the vast majority of regions while As III is dominant in Midwest (Sorg, Chen, & Wang, 2014). Correspondingly, the intervention strategies should be developed in a way that addresses a specific type of arsenic. Moreover, it is possible to determine other potential sources of arsenic exposure in various regions in order to adjust the general recommendations. For example, if people also face arsenic exposure through inhalation, even the generally acceptable arsenic levels in water may possess substantial threats for their health.
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Thus, the methods and mechanisms of interventions should become more flexible and objective in relation to the proper assessment of all forms of arsenic exposure. In addition, the potential development of international cooperation in this field should presuppose the large-scale of financial and organizational assistance to developing countries facing the maximum risks of arsenic exposure. As many developing countries do not possess the needed resources for meeting the existing standards, the international assistance is necessary.
To summarize, the naturally occurring arsenic in well water creates a large variety of health risks. The distribution of arsenic contamination in well water is very different throughout the country. Moreover, different types of arsenic may be dominant including As V and As III. The analysis reveals crucial significance of geogenic factors in the ultimate risks of arsenic exposure in different countries. The socio-economic status of population does not have any statistically significant impact on the risks of arsenic exposure. The major public health risks include skin lesions and cancer of different types. Moreover, arsenic may exercise both direct and indirect influence on the emergence of cancer and other health problems. The existing approach in this sphere used in the US is highly formalistic and inflexible. It is reasonable to assess the existing difference among various US regions as well as take into consideration the hidden factors. International organizations should provide financial and organizational assistance to developing countries in order to help them address the major arsenic-related problems.