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The ability to mount an immune response to influenza A (H1N1) infection is significantly compromised by a low level of arsenic exposure that commonly occurs through drinking contaminated well water, scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and Dartmouth Medical School have found.
"One thing that did strike us, when we heard about the recent H1N1 outbreak, is Mexico has large areas of very high arsenic in their well water, including the areas where the flu first cropped up. We don't know that the Mexicans who got the flu were drinking high levels of arsenic, but it's an intriguing notion that this may have contributed," Hamilton says.
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers 10 ppb arsenic in drinking water "safe," yet concentrations of 100 ppb and higher are commonly found in well water in regions where arsenic is geologically abundant, including upper New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine), Florida, and large parts of the Upper Midwest, the Southwest, and the Rocky Mountains, Hamilton says."
To determine your own mercury level, all it takes is a small amount of hair. Thanks to the wonderful folks at the Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, we are able to offer this analysis at a fraction of the amount that it would cost at most commercial labs. For $25, you will receive sampling instructions, background documents about mercury and a consent form. Laboratory results will be confidential and will be mailed to you within two to three weeks of the sample.
There are 244 mercury hot spots in North America. In Canada and Mexico, sites with high mercury concentration were selected as hot spots when the mercury concentration was greater than 10ppb. In the United States, hot spots are indicated where mercury concentration was above US environmental standards for mercury.