February 3, 2006  


Next talk in the SLAC Public Lecture Series:

Arsenic:  The Silent Killer

Andrea Foster, USGS

Tuesday, February 28, 7:30 p.m.
Panofsky Auditorium

Free Admission; no reservations necessary.
Please bring photo ID.

(Image by Terry Anderson)

Andrea Foster, SSRL user and scientist with the Mineral Resources Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, uses x-rays to determine the forms of potentially toxic elements in environmentally-important matrices such as water, sediments, plants and microorganisms. Foster will discuss her research on arsenic, which is called the silent killer because when dissolved in water, it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Consumption of relatively small doses of this element in its most toxic forms can cause rapid and violent death. Arsenic is a well-known poison and has been used since ancient times. Less well known is the fact that much lower doses of the element, consumed over years, can lead to a variety of skin and internal cancers that can also be fatal. Currently, what has been called the largest mass poisoning in history is occurring in Bangladesh, where most people are by necessity drinking ground water that is contaminated with arsenic far in excess of the maximum amounts determined to be safe by the World Health Organization. This presentation will review the long and complicated history with arsenic, describe how x-rays have helped explain the high yet spatially variable arsenic concentrations in Bangladesh, discuss the ways in which land use in Bangladesh may be exacerbating the problem, and summarize the impact of this silent killer on drinking water systems worldwide.

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Last update Tuesday January 31, 2006 TIP