Virtual workshop to address chemical toxicants in water and interactions with climate change

Images of water

Understanding the connections between water contamination and human health, especially in the context of climate change, is critical to evaluating exposure risk and identifying next steps to eliminating these risks to all people.

On June 14-16, a free virtual workshop will address three main themes: chemicals of emerging concern, arsenic in water resources and the intersection between chemical pollution and climate change.

“Access to clean water is critical to the health and well-being of all life on Earth,” said Catherine Propper, a professor in Northern Arizona University’s Department of Biological Sciences. “Yet, both natural and human-created chemical contamination increasingly challenges the safety and availability of the water supply. Addressing these challenges will take interactive cross-disciplinary efforts. We hope this workshop will lead to development of such collaborations.”

Keynote speaker Gabriel Filippelli, director of the Center for Urban Health at Indiana University and editor-in-chief of the journal GeoHealth, will introduce the event and discuss “big questions and lessons learned” on the last day.

Throughout the three-day event, nine distinguished speakers from academic institutions, government agencies and industry will address these topics.

The first day will focus on chemicals of emerging concern, including cancer and drinking water and chemicals in drinking water, including arsenic and fracking.

In addition to Filippelli, speakers include Mary Ward, senior investigator, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute; and Avner Vengosh, professor of Earth and Ocean Studies, Nicholas School of the Environment, Earth & Ocean Sciences Division, Duke University. Alan Kolok, professor and director of Idaho Water Resources Research Institute, will summarize the discussions.

The second day will focus on arsenic in water resources. Arsenic occurs naturally in groundwater in many parts of the world and poses serious risks to human health. Speakers include Propper; Alexander Van Geen, Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University; Melissa Lombard, hydrologist at the New England Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey; and Jani Ingram, professor in NAU’s Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry and principal Investigator of the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention.

Day three, moderated by Filippelli, will focus on the intersection between chemical pollution and climate change, including extreme weather and climate change and impacts of agricultural chemicals on climate change.

“As climate change increases the risk of draught on one side and storms leading to flooding on the other, understanding how and which toxic chemicals are in water, and their effects on health, will become important in the development of mitigation processes,” Propper said.

Speakers include Antar Jutla, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida; Jesse Bell, the Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Water, Climate, and Health in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Yusong Li, acting associate dean for faculty inclusion and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“We hope to raise awareness of chemical contamination in water and the potential impacts of this problem from climate change,” Propper said. “We hope this workshop will lead to broader cross-disciplinary collaborations to protect this most valuable resource.”

The event is sponsored by the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre; the Center for Health Equity Research at Northern Arizona University; the University of Nebraska College of Public Health and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; the University of Idaho; and the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute. For a full description, schedule and speaker biographies, visit

NAU Communications