Is Food Irrigated with Oilfield-Produced Water in the California Central Valley Safe to Eat? A Probabilistic Human Health Risk Assessment Evaluating Trace Metals Exposure

Jennifer Hoponick Redmon, Andrew John Kondash, Donna Womack, Ted Lillys, Laura Feinstein, Luis Cabrales, Erika Weinthal, Avner Vengosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reuse of oilfield-produced water (OPW) for crop irrigation has the potential to make a critical difference in the water budgets of highly productive but drought-stressed agricultural watersheds. This is the first peer-reviewed study to evaluate how trace metals in OPW used to irrigate California crops may affect human health. We modeled and quantified risks associated with consuming foods irrigated with OPW using available concentration data. The probabilistic risk assessment simulated OPW metal concentrations, crop uptake, human exposures, and potential noncancer and carcinogenic health effects. Overall, our findings indicate that there is a low risk of ingesting toxic amounts of metals from the consumption of tree nuts, citrus, grapes, and root vegetables irrigated with low-saline OPW. Results show increased arsenic cancer risk (at 10−6) for adult vegetarians, assuming higher consumption of multiple foods irrigated with OPW that contain high arsenic concentrations. All other cancer risks are below levels of concern and all noncancer hazards are far below levels of concern. Arsenic risk concerns could be mitigated by practices such as blending high-arsenic OPW. Future risk assessment research should model the risks of organic compounds in OPW, as our study focused on inorganic compounds. Nevertheless, our findings indicate that low-saline OPW may provide a safe and sustainable alternative irrigation water source if water quality is adequately monitored and blended as needed prior to irrigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1463-1477
Number of pages15
JournalRisk Analysis
Volume41
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Food safety
  • oilfield produced water
  • trace metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)

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