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New risk model highlights arsenic risk in China's groundwater
Date:8/24/2013

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Long-term exposure to arsenic is a major health risk. It is shown to cause hyperpigmentation of the skin, disorders of liver and kidney function, and various types of cancer.

In 1994, as Chinese people continued to report these symptoms, the country's government declared arsenic poisoning an endemic disease and created a committee of experts to evaluate the situation. The Chinese Ministry of Health conducted a massive screening campaign to sample individual wells. Called the "Chinese National Survey Program", and lasting from 2001 to 2005, this effort tested about 445,000 wells for arsenic contamination in approximately 12% of China's counties. Since that time, the screening of wells has continued, costing the government millions. China is so massive, however, that it could take decades to survey the counties that remain.

It was in this setting, and recognizing this problem that Rodriguez-Lado and his colleagues began to think about building a predictive tool for groundwater contamination.

Their idea was also motivated by a map of locations of known arsenic contamination released by the World Bank in 2005. "Many areas in this map were blank," Rodriguez-Lado explained. "We thought that instead of being surprised by new occurrences of arsenic contamination, it would be very useful if we could develop a model to predict regions where contamination was possible."

His team's desire to build a predictive model coincided with the growth of freely available geospatial information -- about wetness, soil salinity and topography, for example. Because this information can serve as a proxy for where arsenic co
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Contact: Natasha Pinol
npinol@aaas.org
202-326-6440
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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