Theses Doctoral

Engaging communities to reduce toxic exposures with a field kit for mapping soil lead in Peru and New York

Landes, Franziska Christine

Lead is a global health hazard and reducing environmental exposures to lead is becoming increasingly important as negative health impacts are documented at lower levels of exposure. Soils, an important source of lead exposure in children, represent a largely untested reservoir of accumulated past and present lead contamination retained in the surface. Concentrations of soil lead are very spatially heterogeneous, however, and testing is required to identify whether site-specific soils present a hazard. In this dissertation I outline the several ways to increase testing and awareness about soil-lead contamination to provide individuals with the information needed to prevent exposure to soil lead. Chapter one presents a new field procedure for use by the general public to screen soils for hazardous levels of lead that is based on determining bioaccessible lead. Chapter two describes the delineation of soil-lead hotspots in four mining-impacted towns in Peru and reveals that parents using the field procedure identified a hotspot missed by previous testing. In this study, we find child blood lead information is associated with parent cleanliness, which may represent a pathway for child exposure to dust and soil lead, although no associations are seen directly with soil lead concentrations. In chapter three, Peruvian high school students use the field procedure in their science classes to identify hotspots of soil lead and share this information with their community. Finally, chapter four highlights that extremely elevated concentrations of soil lead are not limited to far-off mining communities but are also present locally in New York City. Soil core data collected does not reveal a single source or blanket atmospheric inputs, but rather highlights the variability of deposition that requires widespread testing.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
van Geen, Alexander
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 8, 2019