So I have been working on an EPA funded project that deals with lead contamination in environmental settings, particularly potable water sources. The ultimate goal is to build upon a modelling system that predicts how sick a child will get from lead exposure in household settings. Our team deals with the lead that comes from lead service lines, copper fittings, and solder. We analyze the amount of lead that comes out of lead pipes by subjecting the pipes to different water characteristics such as changes in pH, alkalinity, dissolved organic compounds, dissolved inorganic carbon, and phosphate. The pipes that we used contain a mineral compound on the inside of the pipe called “scales”. these scales are minerals that have been created to protect the pipe from corrosion. We want to know how they react under different water conditions.
The other part of our project deals with identifying sources of lead in the environment through the use of lead isotope ratio analysis. This basically gives a fingerprint to lead sources by looking at their isotopic composition. Then we take blood samples from individuals exposed to areas with high concentrations of lead and see if the isotopic composition of the lead in their blood matches that from an environmental setting.
It’s freaking cool science. Plus, I get to work with some state-of-the-art, and quite expensive, equipment. I would love to go more into the data I have collected once I get it published. Hopefully people read this blog and ask questions. I love being able to teach people the stuff I do and also gain feedback. It allows me to grow and thrive in the scientific world.