Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

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Reducing Exposure to Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water

February 22, 2023

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Interviewees: Anna Goodman Hoover, Ph.D., and Nina McCoy

In this episode we’ll hear from Anna Goodman Hoover, Ph.D., a public health researcher at the University of Kentucky, and Nina McCoy, who leads the group Martin County Concerned Citizens. They are working with residents in rural eastern Kentucky who are concerned about high levels of disinfection byproducts detected in their drinking water. Hoover and McCoy discuss potential health effects of long-term exposure to disinfection byproducts and an NIEHS-funded community-engaged project to raise local awareness of these compounds in drinking water and reduce exposure to them.

Reducing Exposure to Disinfection Byproducts in Drinking Water

Before drinking water reaches our taps, it is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, viruses, and germs that can cause disease. Although this disinfection step keeps people safe from waterborne illnesses, it also has the potential to create byproducts that can harm health. These compounds – called disinfection byproducts – are formed when chlorine combines with organic matter naturally present in water. Exposure to disinfection byproducts has been linked to poor health, including bladder cancer and birth defects.

In this episode we’ll hear from Anna Goodman Hoover, Ph.D., a public health researcher at the University of Kentucky, and Nina McCoy, who leads the group Martin County Concerned Citizens. They are working with residents in rural eastern Kentucky who are concerned about high levels of disinfection byproducts detected in their drinking water. Hoover and McCoy discuss potential health effects of exposure to disinfection byproducts and an NIEHS-funded community-engaged project to raise local awareness of these compounds in drinking water and reduce exposure to them.

Other groups involved in the project include local organizations, state agencies, and multiple water utilities. At episode posting, the Martin County water utility is in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for disinfection byproducts.

Interviewees:

Anna Goodman Hoover, Ph.D.

Anna Goodman Hoover, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health at the University of Kentucky (UK). A public health researcher, communication scientist, and proud Appalachian, Hoover uses community-engaged approaches to improve population health in Kentucky communities. She is co-lead of a NIEHS-funded community-engaged project to reduce exposure to water disinfection byproducts in rural Kentucky. She is also co-investigator on a project within the NIEHS-funded UK Superfund Research Program Center to reduce community exposure risks to contaminants that can enter drinking water through aging and damaged water pipes.

Nina McCoy is a retired high school biology teacher and head of the group Martin County Concerned Citizens. A resident of Martin County, Kentucky, McCoy participated in an NIEHS-funded pilot study to characterize drinking water contamination in the county. That study showed that levels of disinfection byproducts in Martin County drinking water regularly exceeded health protective standards and served as a springboard for the project discussed in the episode.

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