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A method for estimating the magnitude and timing of excess cancer risks from less than lifetime exposures to contaminated well water


, : A method for estimating the magnitude and timing of excess cancer risks from less than lifetime exposures to contaminated well water. Journal of Hazardous Materials 23(3): 263-274

When industries improperly dispose of wastes containing carcinogenic chemicals, they can contaminate groundwater. Persons who drink this contaminated water may experience an excess risk of cancer. This paper presents an estimation method, based on the multistage model for carcinogenesis, designed to estimate the magnitude and timing of the excess cancer risks that might result from drinking groundwater contaminated by 20 years of improper disposal of industrial wastes. The proposed method generates upper bound estimates of risk that are dependent on the age distribution of the population exposed, the taste-odor threshold of the chemical in the well water, and the duration of the contamination episode. Estimates of excess cancer cases or deaths are obtained for each decade since onset of exposure for less-than-lifetime exposures for the total exposed population. To illustrate the use of the estimation method, the present author estimates the excess cancer cases of deaths attributable to exposure to groundwater contaminated with acrylonitrile, one of the many carcinogenic chemicals currently found in industrial wastes. The excess cancer cases or deaths are shown to occur mostly between 30 and 90 years after onset of exposure under the assumption that acrylonitrile increases the transition rate for the first stage of a multistage carcinogenic process. The estimated individual lifetime excess risks range from 0.9 to 1.0%. Using estimates of excess cancer risks, decision makers can measure the benefits of regulations designed to control the disposal of industrial wastes.

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