You are here:
Using Citizen Science to Improve Drinking Water Epidemiology Studies
Patterson, C., S. Griffin, J. Santodomingo, C. Maldonado, R. Venkatapathy, G. Ramirez, AND M. Crespo. Using Citizen Science to Improve Drinking Water Epidemiology Studies. Presented at EPA Citizen Science Community of Practice September meeting, Washington, DC, September 21, 2017.
A majority of Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) violations occur in small rural communities that are economically challenged and cannot afford to provide basic filtration and disinfection treatment processes or pay operators to maintain their water systems. As a result, residents are vulnerable to acute illnesses caused by microbial and chemical contaminants. Often, episodes of diarrhea in isolated rural communities follow patterns that become a way of life. One way to identify risk factors for disease is to conduct epidemiology studies that document illness rates, and at the same time, involve and educate members of the community in the process.
In this project, families with 4th to 6th graders will report incidences of gastrointestinal disease to science teachers to facilitate follow-up stool and saliva tests in impacted school districts. The innovative saliva tests use salivary antibodies as a non-invasive indicator of waterborne infections. The project will prepare instructions on how to report incidences of gastrointestinal illness that will be sent home with students at the start of the school year. The school districts in rural communities taking part in this citizen science project will collect health data when illnesses occur to maximize the effectiveness and improve the results of the epidemiology study. The incidence of illness will then be linked to specific community water systems using SDWA sample results and violations.