North-Central Section (36th) and Southeastern Section (51st), GSA Joint Annual Meeting (April 3–5, 2002)

Paper No. 0
Presentation Time: 8:25 AM


WEYER, Peter, Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, Univ of Iowa, 100 Oakdale Campus #N202 OH, Iowa City, IA 52242-5000,

Evaluating potential impacts of environmental exposures on human health is an increasingly important component of chronic disease epidemiology. However, assessing exposure levels to many environmental contaminants has proven difficult. For example, studies of drinking water contaminants and health are many times hampered by inadequate historical data on contaminant concentrations in water supplies on both spatial and temporal scales. While personal exposure levels are the most desirable measure for epidemiologic research, historical contaminant levels "at the tap" for individual households are usually not available. Therefore, epidemiologic investigations of drinking water contaminants and health outcomes have used ecologic, or aggregate, measures of water contaminants, generally at the municipal level. In Iowa, research on the possible human health impacts of long-term, low dose exposure to nitrate, pesticides, arsenic and other contaminants in drinking water has utilized extensive source water quality databases maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Iowa Geological Survey Bureau. In addition, academic researchers are partnering with experts at USGS and IGSB to develop interdisciplinary projects aimed at refining exposure assessment. Projects have been developed to identify and measure emerging water contaminants, and to assess risk of exposure to various contaminants by linking databases of contaminant source locations to groundwater vulnerability data. This talk will provide 1) a general background on environmental exposure assessment in epidemiologic studies of chronic disease, and 2) an overview of the potential interactions between epidemiology and geology for public health research, focusing on Iowa studies of drinking water quality and health.