A new user-friendly website provides a wealth of information on how people are exposed to arsenic and steps that they can take to reduce exposures. The Dartmouth College Superfund Research Program (SRP) developed the website Arsenic and You to inform the public and answer questions about arsenic in water, food, and other sources.
"We wanted to create a central clearinghouse of information," said Celia Chen, Ph.D., a research professor of biological sciences and the Research Translation Core (RTC) leader for the Dartmouth SRP Center. "It's important to educate people about where arsenic is found, why it’s harmful, and how to detect and avoid it wherever possible."
A comprehensive resource
Researchers from the Dartmouth SRP Center are continuing to identify and quantify dietary sources of arsenic, after their previous studies linked arsenic exposure to consumption of certain foods, such as rice and organic brown rice syrup. Through their RTC, they have encouraged private well owners to test their water for arsenic and treat it if necessary.
"From our work to help the public become aware of the presence and health implications of arsenic in the food and water supply, we saw a need for a resource with comprehensive information about how we can be exposed to arsenic," said RTC coordinator Laurie Rardin, who led construction of the website.
"This resource will be valuable to people everywhere, not just in areas with well-water concerns," said Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., from the NIEHS SRP. "Having simple yet powerful suggestions anyone can use means it can make a real difference to public health and well-being."
Arsenic and You
Concrete actions described on the site include cooking rice like you cook pasta, because using extra water and draining the rice when it is finished cooking can get rid of about half the arsenic. Another suggestion is to increase use of alternative grains. White basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and other grains such as quinoa and bulgar, contain lower levels of arsenic.
"We worked hard to make the website accessible on mobile devices so you can pull it up at the doctor's office or the grocery store if you have questions or want suggestions for lowering your risk of exposure to arsenic," Rardin said. "As we discover more information about the health effects of arsenic in food and other sources, we can provide more information to users."
A team effort
As Dartmouth SRP Center scientists developed the site, they sought feedback from the SRP centers at Columbia University, University of Arizona, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Kentucky.
Website development and review also included collaborative input from the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Dartmouth and other partners.
"As a researcher and research translation coordinator focused on the health risks of exposure to arsenic in water, the question often arises about exposure to arsenic from other sources, especially food," said Columbia University SRP researcher Stuart Braman, Ph.D., who conducted a thorough review of the website and helped recruit usability testers.
"It's great to have an easily accessible source of information for the individuals and communities we're working with, and we'll be including links to the new website on our own Arsenic Awareness website," Braman said.
(Sara Mishamandani Amolegbe is a research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)