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Sci Total Environ. 2015 Feb 1;505:1237-47. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.10.089. Epub 2014 Nov 18.

At the crossroads: Hazard assessment and reduction of health risks from arsenic in private well waters of the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada.

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City University of New York, School of Public Health and Queens College, City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11367, United States of America; Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, 61 Route 9, Palisades, NY 10964, United States of America. Electronic address:
U.S. Geological Survey, 331 Commerce Way, Pembroke, NH 03301, United States of America. Electronic address:


This special issue contains 12 papers that report on new understanding of arsenic (As) hydrogeochemistry, performance of household well water treatment systems, and testing and treatment behaviors of well users in several states of the northeastern region of the United States and Nova Scotia, Canada. The responsibility to ensure water safety of private wells falls on well owners. In the U.S., 43 million Americans, mostly from rural areas, use private wells. In order to reduce As exposure in rural populations that rely on private wells for drinking water, risk assessment, which includes estimation of population at risk of exposure to As above the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level, is helpful but insufficient because it does not identify individual households at risk. Persistent optimistic bias among well owners against testing and barriers such as cost of treatment mean that a large percentage of the population will not act to reduce their exposure to harmful substances such as As. If households are in areas with known As occurrence, a potentially large percentage of well owners will remain unaware of their exposure. To ensure that everyone, including vulnerable populations such as low income families with children and pregnant women, is not exposed to arsenic in their drinking water, alternative action will be required and warrants further research.


Arsenic; Behavior; Exposure reduction; Geochemistry; Hydrogeology; Private well water

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