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MPH Student Points Out Cracks in Water Lead Testing Systems

Mike RosenCPH graduate Dr. Michael Rosen (MPH 2017) is the first named author of a discussion article to appear in the July 15 issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment.

A discussion about public health, lead and Legionella pneumophila in drinking water supplies in the United States” discusses the complex issues of lead and Legionella – the bacterium that causes Legionnaire’s disease – in U.S. drinking water systems. The paper examines the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and the spike in cases of Legionnaire’s disease there related to insufficient water treatment. Pitfalls in water lead testing are also discussed. 

“There appears to be a wide gulf between protocols for sampling tap water for analysis of lead levels and the actual practice by municipalities. This needs to be resolved if we are to know the true frequency of elevated water lead levels in tap water in U.S. homes,” says Dr. Rosen, the paper’s lead author.

Rosen undertook his study under the guidance of Lok Pokhrel, assistant professor of Environmental Health in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, who is named as a coauthor along with Mark Weir, a former faculty member in the department.

“The possibility of cognitive problems in children due to exposure to lead at any level should spur communities to more aggressively evaluate and treat their water supplies and do everything possible to abate lead in older homes that have leaded and galvanized pipes,” said Dr. Pokhrel, the paper’s senior and corresponding author. “While it may appear to be a simple ‘lead in water’ issue, it is, in fact, NOT; it is complicated by a lack of sufficient funding for lead research and implementation as well as environmental justice issues.”

Dr. Pokhrel worked with Rosen informally to help the student achieve his goal, which exceeded the program’s requirements.

“Doing the research for this paper not only improved my writing and research skills immensely, but it strengthened my commitment to a career in environmental health. I am very thankful to Dr. Pokhrel for his time, unwavering guidance, and mentoring support throughout my MPH program,” said Rosen.

The teacher and student also collaborated on a paper modeling the human health risks of heavy metals which they are now preparing to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

Science of the Total Environment is an international journal for publication of original research on the total environment – which includes the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and anthroposphere – and its relationship with humankind.

Learn more about the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and programs in Environmental Health.

Posted:  May 26, 2017