Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 10:40 AM
MEDICAL GEOLOGY ISSUES IN TEXAS
The 27 million residents of the state of Texas are exposed to diverse geology, geography and climate that may result in a range of environmental health problems caused by geologic materials. Thousands of people living in Texas may be exposed to drinking water with levels of arsenic that exceed the EPA limit of 10 ppb. Groundwater percolating through low rank coal seams or aquifers in communication with low-rank coal beds may extract a range of potentially toxic organic compounds. Long-term exposure to these compounds may contribute to kidney failure and renal cancers. Counties in east Texas underlain by low-rank coals have two to three times higher rates of kidney disease compared to adjacent counties drawing water from aquifers not in communication with low-rank coals. There is a widespread concern that the hydraulic fracturing process, used extensively in Texas to stimulate gas flow from shale and coal, may contaminate underground sources of drinking water. However, to date, there is no direct evidence that fracking has caused water contamination or health problems. More than 230,000 people in 50 Texas counties are exposed to ground water radiation levels that exceed EPA’s Safe Drinking water standards. However, there has not been any resulting health problems reported. During the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s thousands of people in Texas died from Dust Pneumonia, the common name given to a form of silicosis. Recent draught conditions in Texas may contribute to the re-emergence of this health problem. Valley Fever is a potentially serious soil-born infectious disease caused by inhalation of dust containing fungal spores often triggered by earthquakes. Each year over 50,000 to 100,000 people in the U. S. alone develop symptoms of Valley Fever. The fungus is known to occur over much of western Texas. Asbestos-bearing rocks have been mined and processed in several areas in Texas. Exposure to asbestos minerals is primarily an occupational hazard in Texas but has affected people living near sites where asbestos-bearing material was being handled.
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