Greenleaf Communities was well represented at the Arsenic Contamination of Food and Water symposium on April 10 at the 245th American Chemical Society’s National Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans. Through the work of our partners and board members and their colleagues, research into a Greenleaf priority on Healthy Soils is being advanced, and our awareness and understanding of this critical threat to human health is growing.
Greenleaf service partner and frequent collaborator on healthy soils work, Dr. Darrell Norton, presented on the Potential for soil amendments to reduce concentrations of As in soils and waters. Dr. Norton spoke on using methods similar to removing phosphorous from waters (see Greenleaf’s Healthy Soils work to learn more) to reduce the mobility of As in soils. He also spoke about the distribution of As in soils and sediments around the United States in the context of risk assessment for humans. Dr. Norton said, “the most important point made at the symposium was raised by a number of researchers, who showed that certain types of agricultural practices, such as not growing rice under flooded conditions, can dramatically reduce the arsenic levels in food supplies.”
As a soil scientist with the USDA and former head of the National Soil Laboratory at Purdue University, Dr. Norton has done much to develop and refine our understanding of how certain amendments to agricultural lands can improve soil health and structure, reduce runoff of harmful pollutants, and prevent the uptake of toxins, such as arsenic, by crops. His participation in Greenleaf’s research into gypsum use as a soil amendment has proven invaluable to the collaborative team we engage.
In her presentation, Low, slow, and Next Gen Impact: Arsenic, human health, and cancer risks, Greenleaf Communities board member Dr. Janet Hock discussed how long-term, low-dose exposure to arsenic, such as the increasing levels we consume through common foods like rice, may contribute to the development of certain types of cancer. Of the symposium itself, Dr. Hock says that the presentations prompted good discussion, but that many challenges remain “to find better and faster technologies to speciate arsenic and remove arsenic; to develop better models of health risk; and to effectively tackle migration of arsenic in food and water supplies.”
Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, Director of the Center for Nutrition Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Greenleaf service partner, was instrumental in convening this symposium as one of its co-organizers. Dr. Burton-Freeman has been at the center of our collaborative effort, which is working at the intersection of soil science, plant nutrition and human health. We are presently seeking funding to advance additional research with her staff on how soil management practices influence the nutritional values and avoided uptake of toxins into plants.
We are committed at Greenleaf to connecting research leadership across disciplines to discover solutions for environmental and human health needs, and we invite additional collaborators to work with us in the advancement of integrated work that supports food, water and climate security.
For a video press conference of the event, click here (48 minutes).