EPA presents arsenic results to Fallon

Environmental Protection Agency researchers shared results from a study of long-term exposure to low levels of arsenic by Churchill County residents with the public Wednesday night, an effort that didn't uncover any major health implications for the local population.

About 50 people attended a town hall meeting at the Fallon Convention Center.

The study was in no way centered on or related to Fallon's leukemia cluster, stressed Rebecca Calderon, director of the human studies division of the EPA.

Churchill County was chosen for the study because it has the largest population of residents with long-term exposure to low levels of arsenic in the United States, Calderon said.

"This study was highly successful in its execution because of the community's support," she said.

Calderon recounted the contribution of several local groups that donated time and labor in ensuring a successful study with a significant number of subjects.

The EPA felt a sense of responsibility to present the data to a community that gave permission to do the study and responded with a healthy number of participants, Calderon said.

"All of the (local) officials were very clear that we must come back to report," she said.

The study was conducted in August and September 2002, with 905 county residents providing urine, blood, toenail clippings, water from their drinking source and answers to a health questionnaire.

Participants had to be 45 years old or older and have lived in the county for at least 20 years.

Individual results were sent out nine months after samples were taken. EPA officials also met with about 25 residents who participated in the study this week to discuss results with study participants.

The study yielded no link to low-level arsenic exposure from groundwater in the county and adverse health effects.

Study results also showed that residents who strictly drank bottled water had lower arsenic levels than those who used treatment systems such as reverse osmosis.

Calderon said the difference could be due to residents who do not properly use their treatment systems or have the right equipment. Another explanation could be the use of non-treated water through non-ingestion activities such as brushing teeth or cooking.

"If you were really wanting to limit your arsenic exposure, bottled water is the best option," Calderon said.

County resident Allen Bain, a member of Nevada Guard Our Local Drinking Water, helped organize participants for the study three years ago.

He said the public's response to phone solicitations for the survey was successful.

"We really didn't have any problems at all getting people," he said.

Bain and his wife participated in the study, and he said he wasn't surprised with his individual results.

"I'm still alive, and I ain't worried about it," Bain said.

n Josh Johnson can be contacted at jjohnson@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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