139-1 Geology and Health In Texas: An Overview

Sunday, 5 October 2008: 8:15 AM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 330B
Robert B. Finkelman, Dept. of Geosciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX
The impacts of geological materials and geologic processes on animal and human health, affects people all over the world. Health problems caused by excess or deficiencies of trace elements and minerals primarily affect people living in developing countries who rely on well water, crops grown on local farms, and animals raised in local pastures. Nevertheless, people living in developed countries, including those living in Texas, are not immune to these environmental health problems. Among the medical geology issues that may affect people in Texas is Balkan Endemic Nephropathy, a degenerative kidney disease with associated renal pelvic cancers. In Louisiana, just across the Texas boarder, a high incidence of renal pelvic cancer may be linked to the ingestion of well water containing organic compounds leached from lignite aquifers that underlie much of east Texas. Other medical geology issues in the region include Valley Fever; a potentially severe respiratory problem caused by inhalation of fungal spores that affects people in west Texas. Earthquakes are the primary trigger of periodic outbreaks of Valley Fever. The geologic environment may also impact mental health. A recent study in Texas has revealed a link between low lithium levels in ground water and increased rates of suicide. Other potential health threats to Texas residents arise from high levels of arsenic and fluorine in ground water, African dust blown across the Atlantic, and asbestos particles. These, and other medical geology problems can be avoided or minimized through active cooperation between geologists and the public health community.