Analysis of Heavy Metal Exposures and Evaluation of Detection Methods for Heavy Metals in Drinking Water
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The quality of drinking water worldwide continues to be a major public health issue. In particular, contamination of drinking water by heavy metals is a concerning and continuing problem, even in the United States. Since drinking water contaminated with heavy metals is a major source of exposure to the general population, it is important to accurately detect these contaminants in drinking water. This research involves three aims that enhance our knowledge about heavy metal exposures in Illinois and ability to quantify low levels of lead in water. The first aim is to estimate the number of acute outcomes related to exposure to heavy metals. Population-based hospital registry data was used to determine incidence rates for acute toxicity. The second aim addresses the dearth of research about the use of field-based biosensor methodology for the detection of cadmium and lead in drinking water. Very few studies have used a metal-specific biosensor system for the detection of multiple contaminants and/or mixture, including heavy metals, in drinking water. Having a reliable, valid and rapid technique that does not require extensive training can be used by local health departments, water authorities, and communities. Finally, the third aim pertains to the growing concern about the quality of drinking water across the US, especially in the wake of current events in Flint, MI, due to failing infrastructure, economic hardship, and changes to disinfection processes There are several mass marketed and commercially available field-based kits for the detection of lead in drinking water that could be readily used by consumers. However, there are no studies in the literature that have tested the validity and reliability of these field-based test kits. Three field-based kits, First Alert Drinking Water Test, WaterSafe Water Test Kit for Lead, and Pro-Lab Lead in Water Test Kit were evaluated for the detection of lead and lead mixtures in drinking water. The three kits varied in performance when lead was present alone or in mixtures and water type. Overall, for all three test kits, the performance for lead mixtures in tap water were highly variable.