Drinking water sources and water quality in a prospective agricultural cohort


We describe drinking water sources and water quality for a large agricultural cohort. We used questionnaire data from the Agricultural Health Study (N = 89,655), a cohort of licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses in Iowa (IA) and North Carolina (NC), to ascertain drinking water source at enrollment (1993-1997). For users of public water supplies (PWS), we linked participants’ geocoded addresses to contaminant monitoring data [five haloacetic acids (HAA5), total trihalomethanes (TTHM), and nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N)]. We estimated private well nitrate levels using random forest models accounting for well depth, soil characteristics, nitrogen inputs, and other predictors. We assigned drinking water source for 84% (N = 74,919) of participants. Among these, 69% of IA and 75% of NC participants used private wells; 27% in IA and 21% in NC used PWS. Median PWS nitrate concentrations (NO3-N) were higher in IA [0.9 mg/L, interquartile range (IQR): 0.4-3.1 mg/L] than NC (0.1 mg/L, IQR: 0.1-0.2 mg/L), while median HAA5 and TTHM concentrations were higher in NC (HAA5: 11.9 µg/L, IQR: 5.5-33.4 µg/L; TTHM: 37.7 µg/L, IQR: 10.7-54.7 µg/L) than IA (HAA5: 5.0 µg/L, IQR: 3.7-10.7 µg/L; TTHM: 13.0 µg/L, IQR: 4.2-32.4 µg/L). Private well nitrate concentrations in IA (1.5 mg/L, IQR: 0.8-4.9 mg/L) and NC (1.9 mg/L, IQR: 1.4-2.5 mg/L) were higher than PWS. More private wells in IA (12%) exceeded 10 mg/L NO3-N (regulatory limit for PWS) than NC (<1%). Due to the proximity of their drinking water sources to farms, agricultural communities may be exposed to elevated nitrate levels.

Authors: Cherrel K Manley, Maya Spaur, Jessica M Madrigal, Jared A Fisher, Rena R Jones, Christine G Parks, Jonathan N Hofmann, Dale P Sandler, Laura Beane Freeman, Mary H Ward
; Full Source: Environmental epidemiology (Philadelphia, Pa.) 2022 May 25;6(3):e210. doi: 10.1097/EE9.0000000000000210.