Probabilistic risk assessment of residential exposure to metal(loid)s in a mining impacted community

Diego Huerta, Taylor Schobel, Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, Joanne Hild, Jeff Lauder, Peggy Reynolds, Julie Von Behren, Dan Meltzer, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The “Gold Country” region of California is impacted by legacy and active gold mines. Concomitantly, Gold Country has an increased rate of female breast cancer relative to the state average. Using community-based participatory research methods, 40 participants completed surveys and collected a total of 354 water, soil, home-grown foods, and dust samples from their homes, which we compared to state, federal, and international contamination standards for arsenic, cadmium, and lead. All soil samples exceeded U.S. EPA and California EPA soil standards for arsenic. When comparing other media to state, federal and international standards for arsenic, cadmium, and lead, 15 additional exceedances for indoor/outdoor dust, drinking water, and/or vegetable were documented. A probabilistic risk assessment was conducted to determine an adult female's exposure to arsenic, cadmium, and lead and estimated risk. Arsenic exposure, due largely to water (63.5 %) and homegrown food (33.3 %), presents carcinogenic risks in excess of the EPA recommended upper limit for contaminated sites (1 × 10−4) in 12.5 % of scenarios, and exceeds a risk level of 1 × 10−6 in 98.0 % of cases. Cadmium exposure results mainly from homegrown food consumption (83.7 %), and lead exposure results from a broader range of sources. This research indicates that rural areas in Gold Country face environmental exposures different than in urban areas. Exposure to arsenic in the female population of Gold Country may be driven by consumption of home-grown foods and water, and exposure to cadmium is driven by home-grown food intake. Since mining sites are of concern internationally, this risk assessment process and associated findings are significant and can be used to inform and tailor public health interventions. The weight of the evidence suggests that the arsenic exposure identified in this study could contribute to increases in the cancer rate among those living in Gold Country, California.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162228
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - May 10 2023


  • Arsenic
  • Breast cancer, exposure assessment
  • Cadmium
  • Dust
  • Homegrown foods
  • Incidental soil ingestion
  • Lead
  • Mining waste
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk characterization
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Probabilistic risk assessment of residential exposure to metal(loid)s in a mining impacted community'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this