Application of GIS in Evaluating the Potential Impacts of Land Application of Biosolids on Human Health

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Abstract

This chapter describes the development and use of a geographic information system (GIS) in an environmental health investigation of the application of Class B biosolids (sewage sludge) on agricultural fields. The research project is broad-based including field observations and modeling to investigate the presence of microorganisms, metals, and pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in biosolids applied agricultural fields and the associated runoff. These data has been linked with remote sensing imagery and added to GIS layers for Wood, Lucas and Greene Counties in Ohio. Specifically, this project describes the way in which a GIS was developed and utilized with a mailed, epidemiological health survey to investigate the potential impact of biosolids application to agricultural fields in relation to self-reported human health symptoms, acute diseases and chronic diseases among groups of individuals living specified distances from fields where biosolids were permitted and applied. For Wood County, of the 24 symptoms in the survey, six were statistically higher near biosolids permitted fields and of the 29 diseases in the survey, five were statistically higher near biosolids permitted fields. The Lucas and Greene County surveys are still being analyzed. Our future work includes refinement of the spatial analysis and health survey to include the application of biosolids and the constituents of the biosolids to fields, distances to any farm field and to other potential relationships to health effects.