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Significant baseline levels of arsenic found in Ohio soils are due to natural processes
Date:4/16/2014

RICHLAND, Wash. Geologic and soil processes are to blame for significant baseline levels of arsenic in soil throughout Ohio, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

The analysis of 842 soil samples from all corners of Ohio showed that every single sample had concentrations higher than the screening level of concern recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The findings should not alarm the public, say the authors, who note that regulatory levels typically are set far below those thought to be harmful. Rather, the findings pose a real challenge for regulators, who must determine what levels should trigger action when natural arsenic levels everywhere are above suggested screening standards.

The researchers found that the patterns of arsenic in Ohio soils are most closely related to the arsenic content of the underlying bedrock, which was formed approximately 250 to 300 million years ago. Glacial and soil processes have modified the landscape since.

"The distribution of arsenic throughout Ohio appears to be the result of natural patterns," said first author Erik Venteris of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who was with the Division of Geological Survey of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources when the study was done.

Researchers from PNNL, Ohio State University, and the state of Ohio's Division of Geological Survey did the study, one of the most thorough analyses of arsenic levels to date over a broad area.

Arsenic and Old Ohio

Scientists have long known that arsenic levels in Ohio and many other parts of the world are consistently high, even beyond spikes of the element due to smelters, herbicide use, and other human activity.

Arsenic's reputation as a poison is warranted. High levels can cause cancer, neuromuscular damage, skin diseases, and death. People can be exposed to arsenic found in the soil
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom.rickey@pnnl.gov
509-375-3732
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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Significant baseline levels of arsenic found in Ohio soils are due to natural processes
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