US public water system users, especially in the South and West, see reduction in arsenic exposure due to stricter regulations, says Columbia University study; disparities persist on region, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, public water levels

Sample article from our R&D/Patents

NEW YORK , June 27, 2023 (press release) –

Reductions in arsenic exposure among the U.S. population were reported for users of public water systems in the South and West, and among Mexican American participants, according to a new study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Differences in change over time were reported by educational attainment in addition to by region, race/ethnicity, and public water arsenic level. The full findings are published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The Final Arsenic Rule, first enforced since 2006, reduced the arsenic maximum contaminant level to 10 μg/L in public water systems. 

“We found that implementing a lower regulatory standard for arsenic in public water systems successfully reduced water arsenic exposure for many communities across the United States, and that reductions were largest for certain populations and regions with the highest initial water arsenic exposures,” said Maya Spaur, PhD, in environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. “From our results it is apparent that federal water regulations can successfully reduce exposures for the most highly exposed.”

Using the 2003-14 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the researchers estimated arsenic exposure from water for populations reliant on public water systems by recalibrating urinary dimethylarsinate (rDMA) to remove smoking and dietary contributions. They evaluated the average differences and corresponding percent reductions of urinary rDMA comparing subsequent survey cycles to 2003-04 (baseline), stratified by region, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and county level water arsenic concentration. 

The percent reduction in urine rDMA was 0.32 μg/L (9%) among participants with the highest Community Water System (CWS) arsenic, comparing 2013-14 to 2003-04. Declines in urinary rDMA were largest in regions with the highest water arsenic: the South [0.57 μg/L (16%)] and West [0.46 μg/L, (14%)]. Declines in urinary rDMA levels were significant and largest among Mexican American [0.99 μg/L (26%)] and Non-Hispanic White [0.25 μg/L (10%)] participants.

Long-term exposure to arsenic even at low and moderate levels can increase the risk of cancer and other types of chronic disease.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry includes arsenic as a human carcinogen and toxicant associated with numerous adverse health outcomes, ranking it number one on their substance priority list. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates arsenic in public drinking water supplies and sets the maximum contaminant level (MCL) allowable in public water systems. The MCL reflects technological feasibility and financial costs, in addition to public health.

In 2006, the EPA reduced the MCL of arsenic in public water systems to 10 µg/L, from 50 µg/L. However, there is no known safe level of exposure to inorganic arsenic, and the EPA set a health-based MCL goal (MCLG) of 0 µg/L.  “Though the current MCL is a significant reduction from the previous MCL, it is substantially higher than the MCLs for New Jersey, New Hampshire, Denmark and the Netherlands,” said Spaur.

“Additional efforts are still needed to address remaining inequalities in CWS arsenic exposure,” noted Spaur.

 “Future regulatory efforts and managerial, financial, and technological assistance should target communities with public water arsenic levels that remain elevated, to address persistent disparities in drinking water quality. Our study shows that federal drinking water regulations are critical for improving environmental equity and justice,” said Anne E. Nigra, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.

Co-authors are Benjamin Bostick and Steven Chillrud, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia; and Pam Factor-Litvak, Ana Navas-Acien and Anne E. Nigra, Columbia Public Health.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, grants F31ES034284, P42ES010349 and P30ES009089, and by the NIH National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, grant DP5OD031849.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the fourth largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its nearly 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change and health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with more than 1,300 graduate students from 55 nations pursuing a variety of master’s and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Stephanie Berger
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Cell: 917-734-8973

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.

See our dashboard in action - schedule an demo
Dan Rivard
Dan Rivard
- VP Market Development -

We offer built-to-order r&d/patents coverage for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation.

About Us

We deliver market news & information relevant to your business.

We monitor all your market drivers.

We aggregate, curate, filter and map your specific needs.

We deliver the right information to the right person at the right time.

Our Contacts

1990 S Bundy Dr. Suite #380,
Los Angeles, CA 90025

+1 (310) 553 0008

About Cookies On This Site

We collect data, including through use of cookies and similar technology ("cookies") that enchance the online experience. By clicking "I agree", you agree to our cookies, agree to bound by our Terms of Use, and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. For more information on our data practices and how to exercise your privacy rights, please see our Privacy Policy.