Rice field

Human and Environmental Sustainability Summit 2014

Environmental and Human Health Consequences of Arsenic

The 2014 Summit will focus on reducing the human health consequences of arsenic in the environment. The summit will open with a public lecture by Deborah Blum, best-selling author of The Poisoner’s Handbook and 2014 Kinter Lecturer, on Wednesday, August 13 at 5 p.m. A reception, sponsored by Nature's One, will follow the lecture.

The summit is modeled on the Future Search method that brings together diverse stakeholders in order to create and deliver upon concrete action plans. Participation in the stakeholder portion of the summit is by invitation only.

Rice bowlsArsenic’s presence in the environment, from both natural and human sources, has massive human health consequences for billions of people. Worldwide, approximately 3 billion people are exposed to arsenic in food and 500 million ingest arsenic in drinking water. People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through drinking contaminated water, using contaminated water in food preparation and crop irrigation, industrial processes, eating contaminated food, and smoking tobacco.

Numerous studies associate arsenic with adverse health effects. Drinking water with arsenic for many years can lead to cancer of the bladder, lung, liver, prostate, and skin; diabetes; heart disease; reproductive and developmental problems; and cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological, and endocrine problems. Fetuses and babies exposed to arsenic face an increased potential for cancer and other diseases in adulthood. Exposure has also been associated with increased infant mortality, reduced birth weight, and reduced ability to fight other diseases.

Some expected actions from this summit are:

  1. eliminating arsenic to undetectable levels in food and drinking water
  2. developing novel and cost effective approaches to reduce arsenic exposure in rice, while encouraging the consumption of rice, the major food staple in the world
  3. developing science curricula to educate students and consumers about arsenic exposure and engage teachers and students and their families in well water testing
  4. creating new or leveraging existing citizen science programs to encourage and facilitate well water testing
  5. developing cost-effective technology for identification and reduction of arsenic in water and food
  6. developing a global standard for arsenic in water and food

Read more:

Read about the 2013 Summit in Connections magazine.

“Everyone is a stakeholder when it comes to issues of human and environmental sustainability. We need to make sure we're hearing all viewpoints and we don't divide over issues.”

Kevin Strange, Ph.D.
MDI Biological Laboratory

See Also


Nature's One, Inc.

University of Arizona Superfund Research Program

Dartmouth Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program

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