Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Arsenic--Physiological effect--Iowa; Groundwater--Arsenic content--Iowa;


Arsenic contamination in the ground water source is a major problem throughout the world. Epidemiological studies show that long-term arsenic exposure in drinking water, even at low concentrations, can lead to chronic toxicity problems and negative health outcomes. In the United States, private wells are not mandated to comply with the drinking water standards that piped water is, putting many people at risk. This study focused on monitoring of arsenic contamination of private well water, hair samples, and questionnaire based surveys. Of the 260 private well owners selected from 13 counties in Iowa who were invited to participate in the study, 50 agreed to participate in the research. Analysis showed that 58% of the water samples tested positive for arsenic and 12% had arsenic concentrations more than the federal drinking water standard of 0.01 mg/L. The mean water arsenic concentration was 0.007 + 0.001 mg/L (range, 0.001- 0.027 mg/L). The hair arsenic analysis showed that 14% of the hair samples exceeded the normal arsenic range (0.08 to 0.25 mg/kg). The mean hair arsenic concentration was 0.108 + 0.024 mg/kg (range, 0 - 0.54 mg/kg). The bivariate analysis between hair arsenic and water arsenic concentration showed a positive correlation (R-square = 0.25, p = 0.0047). The result showed that the hair arsenic content was higher among the participants who consumed water contaminated with arsenic more than 0.01mg/L arsenic (p = 0.02). The result also found that 76% of participants did not know about arsenic, indicating that an awareness program should be provided to them about the toxicological effects of arsenic. The hair and water arsenic concentrations were correlated with different health parameters and a statistically significant correlation was found between hair loss and hair/water arsenic concentration (p < 0.05). Health conditions such as kidney, liver, and lung as well skin problems also had a correlation with arsenic in hair and water, but the result was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Other health problems such as stomach pain, diabetes, heart problem, numbness on hands and feet, tiredness, depression, anxiety, and confusion of mind were not correlated with hair arsenic concentration (p > 0.05). There was a significant relationship (p < 0.05) between multiple factors such as water arsenic concentration, age, gender, occupation, education, years of residence, and drinking water sources that might increase arsenic concentration in hair. Arsenic levels are present in a significant number of wells in the study area, and that the ingestion of arsenic contaminated water leads to an increase in arsenic deposition in the hair. In addition environmental health education program on arsenic and its health impacts is necessary, especially for private well owners who are unknowingly consuming contaminated water.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Science Program

First Advisor

Catherine Zeman

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xi, 126 pages)



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