Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


It's only natural: Lawrence Livermore helps find link to arsenic-contaminated groundwater

Human activities are not the primary cause of arsenic found in groundwater in Bangladesh.

Instead, a team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Barnard College, Columbia University, University of Dhaka, Desert Research Institute and University of Tennessee found that the arsenic in groundwater in the region is part of a natural process that predates any recent human activity, such as intensive pumping.

The results appear in the March 4 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Millions of people in Bangladesh and neighboring countries are chronically exposed to arsenic-contaminated groundwater, which causes skin lesions and increases the risk of certain cancers. Bacterial respiration of organic carbon releases naturally-occurring arsenic from sediment into groundwater, but the source of this organic carbon remains unclear.

Brian Mailloux of Barnard College and his team isolated microbial DNA from several depth intervals in arsenic-contaminated aquifers in Bangladesh and analyzed the DNA's radiocarbon signature, which reflects whether the organic carbon used by the microbes derives primarily from younger, surface-derived sources that are transported by groundwater into the aquifers, or older, sediment-derived sources.

Using "bomb pulse" radiocarbon analysis, Lawrence Livermore scientist Bruce Buchholz dated the DNA of groundwater bacteria. He found that the DNA samples were consistently younger than the sediment, suggesting that the microbes favor using surface-derived carbon.

The surface-derived carbon has flowed into the aquifer over hundreds to thousands of years -- a rate that is approximately 100 times slower than groundwater flow. The results suggest that recent human activities, such as intensive groundwater pumping, have not yet significantly affected the release of arsenic into the groundwater at this site.

Above-ground testing of nuclear weapons during the Cold War (1955-1963) caused a surge in global levels of carbon-14 (14C), and remains in all living things. Carbon-14 or radiocarbon is naturally produced by cosmic ray interactions with air and is present at low levels in the atmosphere and food. Although nuclear weapon testing was conducted at only a few locations, excess levels of 14C in the atmosphere rapidly dispersed and equalized around the globe.

According to Buchholz, "The bomb curve forms a chronometer of the past 60 years."

The radiocarbon signature of DNA is a direct measure of the carbon used during microbial respiration and growth. In this study, the team developed a method to filter, extract and purify DNA from groundwater aquifers for radiocarbon analysis to determine the organic carbon pools fueling microbial reduction.

"We were able to separate the recent bomb pulse radiocarbon from the natural carbon signature and found the arsenic levels are now directly tied to a natural process as opposed to being driven by human activities," Buchholz said.

The results may help scientists understand the causes of arsenic contamination in the region, and the development of potential mitigation strategies.

More Information

"Cold cases heat up through Lawrence Livermore approach to identifying remains," LLNL news release, Oct. 10, 2012

"Putting teeth into forensic science," LLNL news release, May 19, 2010

"Date for a heart cell," Science & Technology Review, April/May 2010

"New technique determines that the number of fat cells remains constant in all body types," LLNL news release, May 5, 2008

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Don't forget plankton in climate change models, says study
27.11.2015 | University of Exeter

nachricht Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests
26.11.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>