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Arsenic concentrations in groundwater

Water well hand pump

What is the problem?

Pennsylvania has a large rural population dependent on private wells for drinking water. Some of these wells pull groundwater that contains high levels of arsenic. Several studies have suggested that long-term exposure to arsenic contamination in groundwater increases the risk of developing bladder, kidney, liver, bronchus and lung, and prostate cancer.

What did Tracking do?

In order to better evaluate distribution of arsenic in the state's ground water, USGS, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection began surveillance in 2005 to relate arsenic concentrations in major aquifers. Aquifers are a formation, group of formations, or part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated, permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs. Of 169 domestic wells and springs tested, arsenic was detected in 18. Of these, 10 wells had total arsenic levels greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum containment level.

Improved public health

Pennsylvania's Tracking Program counseled families in high risk areas to use bottled water and referred one person to a doctor because of extremely high arsenic levels. Also, doctors were advised to provide arsenic tests to residents in areas where severely elevated arsenic concentrations had been identified.



Documenting elevated blood lead levels

Paint flaking off of an old door with handle

What is the problem?

Studies have shown Pennsylvania to have elevated blood lead level (BLLs) prevalence rates for adults and children that are higher than the national average.

What did Tracking do?

Pennsylvania's Tracking Program began using the state's National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (PA-NEDSS) to analyze 123 clusters of family members, containing 268 people with elevated BLLs.

Improved public health

Tracking elevated BLLs is of particular interest because biomonitoring for the disease can be accomplished. The surveillance showed that the PA-NEDSS database could provide an extensive resource of those individuals showing high levels of a serious environmental toxin, and that through tracking collaborative efforts, a more complete and thorough surveillance system could be established, linking the environmental hazards, exposures, and adverse health effects of lead.


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