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Community Perceptions of Arsenic Contaminated Drinking Water and Preferences for Risk Communication in California’s San Joaquin Valley


Due to chronic exposure to elevated levels of arsenic in drinking water, thousands of Californians have increased risk for internal cancers and other adverse health effects. The mortality risk of cancer is 1 in 400 people exposed to above 10 μg/L of arsenic in their drinking water. The purpose of this community assessment was to understand the perceptions and awareness of the residents and public water representatives in rural, unincorporated farming communities of color in San Joaquin Valley, California. In our research, we asked 27 community informants about their (1) available water sources, (2) knowledge about the health impacts of arsenic, and (3) preferences for risk communication and education regarding the health impacts of arsenic-contaminated drinking water. Through our qualitative coding and analysis, we found that most community informants indicated that there was limited community awareness about the health effects of drinking water with elevated arsenic levels. Preferences for risk communication included using in-language, culturally relevant, and health literate health promotion strategies and teaching these topics through the local K-8 schools' science curriculum with a language brokerage approach to transfer student knowledge to family members. Key recommendations include implementing these communication preferences to increase community-wide knowledge about safe drinking water.

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