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.
"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!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.02.2018 | Life Sciences