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A statistical analysis of the pros and cons of field kits to guide well-switching in arsenic prone regions
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  • Yusuf Jameel,
  • M. Rajib Hassan Mozumder,
  • Lex van Geen,
  • Charles F. Harvey
Yusuf Jameel
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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M. Rajib Hassan Mozumder
Columbia University
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Lex van Geen
Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
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Charles F. Harvey
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Field kits for testing the level of a toxicant in the environment are inherently less accurate than a laboratory instrument. Using a specific example, we argue here that kit measurements still have a key role to play when the spatial distribution of a toxicant is very heterogeneous. The context is provided by the groundwater arsenic problem in Bangladesh. We combine here two data sets, a blanket survey of 6595 wells over a 25 km2 based on laboratory measurements and 900 paired kit and laboratory measurements from the same area. We explore different hypothetical mitigation scenarios based on actual data that rely on households with a high-arsenic well switching to a nearby low-arsenic well. We show that the decline in average exposure to arsenic from relying on kit rather than laboratory data is modest in relation to the logistical and financial challenge of delivering exclusively laboratory data. Our analysis indicates that the 50 ug/L threshold used in Bangladesh to distinguish safe and unsafe wells, rather than the WHO guideline of 10 ug/L, is close to optimal in terms of average exposure reduction. We also show, however, that providing kit data at the maximum possible resolution rather than merely classifying wells as unsafe or safe would be even better. These findings are relevant as the government of Bangladesh is about to launch a new blanket testing campaign of millions of wells using field kits.