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Arsenic in Private Well Water Trilogy II: Who benefits the most from traditional testing promotion?
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Details:
  • Pubmed ID:
    27142115
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC5191845
  • Description:
    Arsenic, a toxic element naturally found in groundwater, is a public health concern for households drinking from wells. Private well water is not regulated to meet the federal drinking water arsenic Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10μg/L, or the more protective 5μg/L New Jersey (NJ) state MCL. In the absence of consistent private well regulation, public health efforts have relied on promoting testing in affected communities to various degrees of success. Few interventions publish results, and more often focus on the outcome of tested wells rather than who completed a test, and more importantly, who did not. Through our survey of randomly selected addresses (n=670) in 17 NJ towns we find higher rates of arsenic testing in areas with a history of testing promotion. However, we also see a stronger correlation of testing behavior with income and education in high promotion areas, suggesting that community engagement activities may be exacerbating socioeconomic status (SES) testing disparities. Well owners with a bachelor's degree had ten times greater odds of participating in our direct mail testing intervention than those with less education when tests cost $40. After all households (n=255) were offered free tests to overcome many of the usual testing barriers - awareness, convenience, and cost - only 47% participated and those who chose to return water samples were of higher income and education than those who did not. Our findings highlight that while efforts to promote and provide arsenic testing succeed in testing more wells, community testing interventions risk increasing SES disparities if those with more education and resources are more likely to take advantage of testing programs. Therefore, testing interventions can benefit by better targeting socially vulnerable populations in an effort to overcome SES-patterned self-selection when individuals are left alone with the responsibility of managing their drinking water quality.

  • Document Type:
  • Collection(s):
  • Funding:
    P30 ES009089/ES/NIEHS NIH HHS/United States
    P42 ES010349/ES/NIEHS NIH HHS/United States
    U38 EH000948/EH/NCEH CDC HHS/United States
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