Each year, the American Public Health Association hosts a 5-day long meeting for public health professionals to gather and present their work. APHA brings together people and organizations who make a difference from the global level to the local level. This year, Dr. Carolyn Murray attended and presented in a session dedicated to the topic of children's health and translating environmental health sciences for diverse audiences. Dr. Murray explained that early epidemiological research on the health effects of arsenic exposure was derived from studies conducted on populations in Bangladesh and Taiwan. These early studies led the EPA to reduce the permissible amount of arsenic in public drinking water in the US in 2006. Despite this, over 40 million people in the US rely on private wells as their primary water source. In northern New England, this presented a significant public health issue because arsenic is naturally occurring contaminate in this area of the country. Nearly 50% of the population in northern New England relies on private, unregulated wells for drinking water. Concurrently, food sources including apple and rice based products have been identified as being sources of arsenic exposure in pregnancy and early childhood. During pregnancy and early childhood, there is increased vulnerability to adverse health effects because these are periods are rapid growth and development.
Over the years we have enrolled over 800 families in our New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study. Our study seeks to understand the potential health impacts of arsenic exposure at all levels and a growing ambition among our group of scientists is to better communicate our findings. Dr. Murray leads the Community Outreach and Translation core of our study and has been developing methods to improve our communications strategies. Our APHA presentation focused on our communications with key stakeholders, including study participants, private well owners, state legislators, clinicians, and public health partners . This year, New Hampshire lawmakers made the landmark decision to lower the permissible arsenic levels in public drinking water systems from 10 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion. Our research informed this decision, however, we still advocate the need for frequent and consistent private well-water because a huge population of NH relies on these systems to receive their water.