Sustainability and Social Justice

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Background: Manganese (Mn) is a metal commonly found in drinking water, but the level that is safe for consumption is unknown. In the United States (U.S.), Mn is not regulated in drinking water and data on water Mn concentrations are temporally and spatially sparse. Objective: Examine temporal and spatial variability of Mn concentrations in repeated tap water samples in a case study of Holliston, Massachusetts (MA), U.S., where drinking water is pumped from shallow aquifers that are vulnerable to Mn contamination. Methods: We collected 79 residential tap water samples from 21 households between September 2018 and December 2019. Mn concentrations were measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. We calculated descriptive statistics and percent of samples exceeding aesthetic (secondary maximum containment level; SMCL) and lifetime health advisory (LHA) guidelines of 50 µg/L and 300 µg/L, respectively. We compared these concentrations to concurrent and historic water Mn concentrations from publicly available data across MA. Results: The median Mn concentration in Holliston residential tap water was 2.3 µg/L and levels were highly variable (range: 0.03–5,301.8 µg/L). Mn concentrations exceeded the SMCL and LHA in 14% and 12% of samples, respectively. Based on publicly available data across MA from 1994–2022, median Mn concentration was 17.0 µg/L (N = 37,210; range: 1–159,000 µg/L). On average 40% of samples each year exceeded the SMCL and 9% exceeded the LHA. Samples from publicly available data were not evenly distributed between MA towns or across sampling years. Impact statement: This study is one of the first to examine Mn concentrations in drinking water both spatially and temporally in the U.S. Findings suggest that concentrations of Mn in drinking water frequently exceed current guidelines and occur at concentrations shown to be associated with adverse health outcomes, especially for vulnerable and susceptible subpopulations like children. Future studies that comprehensively examine exposure to Mn in drinking water and its associations with children’s health are needed to protect public health. © 2023, The Author(s).

Publication Title

Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology

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children's exposure, children's health, environmental monitoring, metals

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Sociology Commons



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