Cornell iGEM

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Human Practices

Environmental Water Samples

We collaborated with seven other iGEM teams to test the quality of environmental water across the United States. RHIT, IvyTech, Northwestern, BYU, UCSC, UCSF-UCB, and Yale iGEM teams were kind enough to send us 50 mL water samples from creeks, rivers, and lakes in their local areas. We tested these samples for heavy metal contaminants to gauge the extent of heavy metal pollution across the United States. We also provided each of our collaborating teams a water quality report to inform them of the quality of their local water and, if warranted, to guide future remediation efforts. A compilation of these water quality reports can be found here. Of the 9 total samples that we tested for heavy metals, 4 contained a measurable amount of nickel, four contained a measurable amount of lead, and three contained a measurable amount of mercury. These metals tended to be present together, as three samples contained all three contaminants and one sample contained two. While these concentrations were not incredibly high, measured concentrations of mercury and lead both exceeded the maximum allowable levels for drinking water. What this data suggests is that even in the United States where strict regulations are put on drinking water quality and waste disposal, heavy metal pollution is still a widespread problem that needs to be addressed.