Arsenic: Geochemical distribution and age-related health risk in Italy
AbstractThis study is the first attempt to evaluate occurrence, distribution and potential health impacts of As at a national scale in Italy. In various environmental matrices, As geochemical distribution was investigated and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risks were assessed with respect to different exposure routes and age groups. Both deterministic and probabilistic methods were used to determine the health risks. Geochemical mapping at a sub-continental scale provided a useful tool to spatially represent As concentration and the critical areas posing a health threat to inhabitants. The results show that significant As concentrations in tap water and soil (up to 27.20 μg/l and 62.20 mg/kg, respectively) are mainly governed by geological features. In the central parts of Italy, where alkaline volcanic materials and consequently high levels of As occur, the residents are prone to health issues. Daily exposure to As in tap water is unparalleled playing an important role in the potential cancer and non-cancer risks. The Incremental Lifetime Cancer Risk for skin cancer and also lung and bladder cancer associated with tap water ingestion interestingly shows that (i) almost 80% of the computed values fall above the internationally accepted benchmark value of 1 × 10−5; (ii) majority of the data exceed the acceptable risk proposed by most jurisdictions, such as that of Italian law (1 × 10−6). Further, geographical variation of health risk highlights high carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk associated with water ingestion for those living in the northern Alps (including the city of Trento) and the central and southern Italy (including the capital Rome and the cities of Napoli and Catanzaro). According to the results, application of the probabilistic method which considers variability and uncertainty is preferred to the deterministic approach for risk assessment. The sensitivity analysis showed that As concentration in drinking water and exposure duration are the factors with the greatest impact on the outcome of risk assessment (for all age groups). The results of the current study may be a good starting point for authorities to urgently decide about the needed policy actions in order to prevent the adverse health effects and to reduce the human health risk due to As exposure.
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