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An integrated assessment of water quality in an arsenic containing aquifer: Milestones from hydrogeology to public health
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A multi-disciplinary research is being conducted in Simav Plain, Turkey where an arsenic containing aquifer is at the center of attention. The study is not only aimed to understand the sources and mechanisms of the presence of high arsenic levels in groundwater but also to determine the associated consequences with regards to human health. The high arsenic levels in most groundwater (N=33, avg. 162 ppb), surface water (N=9, avg. 76.6 ppb) and geothermal water (N=3, avg. 406 ppb) samples are strongly related to high occurrences of arsenic in rocks and soils of the plain, which range between 7.1 and 833.9 ppm with an average of 49 ppm. These values correspond to several orders of magnitude higher than international standards and world averages in water and soil, respectively. With this motivation, this research also focuses on human health in the study area associated with exposure to these high arsenic levels via numerous pathways. Consequently, more than 1000 individuals were personally surveyed by public health specialists to determine an inventory of diseases in the area. Furthermore, a verbal autopsy study was also conducted with relatives of the deceased, which were further verified with hospital records, to understand the underlying death cause. As a result, certain cancer rates were found to exceed national averages and the results statistically demonstrated a potential link with high arsenic levels mainly through oral exposure.