Team:WPI Worcester/HP/Silver

Human Practices: Silver Requirement

Lead Contamination in Your Drinking Water (survey)

Lead Survey

Our team developed a survey to send out to other iGEM Teams and the public to evaluate the understanding people had of lead pollution in their area, and if the person had ever had their water tested. We received results from all over the world, and a total of 75 responses.

The results broken down by country are shown below:

Lead Survey Results by Country

Figure 1

The results broken down by U.S. state are shown below:

Lead Survey Results by State

Figure 2

Communication with professionals

Throughout the summer we communicated with various professionals regarding different aspects of our project. This included talking to various water testing companies, the FDA, and Dr. Scarlet Shell. The water testing companies contacted are listed below. The first company, Analytical Balance Corp. allowed us to visit and walked us through their lab and the different processes of testing for lead, as well as other contaminants. We asked all of the companies about how they tested water for lead contamination, how long testing took, and how expensive it was for the consumer. All tests used some sort of mass spectrometry because it detects lead below 1 part per billion, and it is an EPA approved test. The most common tests were inductively coupled plasma, or ICP, mass spectrometry, and flame test mass spectrometry. ICP is more efficient, and can test for multiple contaminants in a few hours. We learned that the reason colorimetric testing is not used because there is not a test accurate enough to be approved by the EPA, and because people see colors differently it can also lower accuracy. It usually takes companies between 3 and 14 days to get back to customers, and tests can range from $25 to over $150. In some cases we also asked what would be the response if they found a water sample contained lead. In this case, it depends on the state regulations, and where the lead contaminated sample came from.

Lead Detection
  • Analytical Balance Corp. (personal visit)
  • Barnstable County Health
  • BHC Company
  • Department of Public Health (DEP)
  • Geo Labs, Inc.
  • Metropolitan District Hartford, CT
  • New Britain Water Company
  • Northeast Environment Lab
  • Regional Water Authority (CT)
  • STL Westfield
Colorimetric Testing

Because our biosensor and lead assay consisted of colorimetric testing, Analytical balance Corp. recommended that we contact IDEXX. They make colorimetric tests to detect living organisms in water. Most of their tests colors were used to indicate if a test was positive or negative. They did not have many suggestions because the testing between microorganisms and lead is so different. They suggested we contact Hach which is another company that works a lot to develop colorimetric tests. Hach had many different tests kits, and we ended up using one of their lead test kits after it was determined that our other lead assay was too variable.

  • Hach

During the summer we also contacted the FDA to determine how our probiotic would be classified. We found that our probiotic would be classified as a Live Biotherapeutic Product, or LBP. This is because it would help treat and/or prevent disease, and its genetic material will have been purposefully modified. This would all be covered under investigational new drug (IND) guidelines as well. Pre-IND Meetings would need to be completed. The meetings are optional, but helpful in the approval process. After the meetings, the IND would need to be formally submitted to the FDA. A description of the drug substance, characterization, manufacturer information, and the final drug product information. Experiments in animals/in vitro should be done earlier in testing. The clinical trial can be formulated based on these conclusions. The study should address general toxicity, target organs or systems of toxicity, teratogenic, carcinogenic, or mutagenic potential of any ingredient in the product, and relationship of dosage and duration to toxic response and pharmacological activity. For more information please see the FDA's page about LBP's.

We also met with Dr. Scarlet Shell, a microbiologist and professor at WPI. More information about this meeting and its results are posted on the Gold Requirement Page.

Lead Poisoning Treatment

Many medical professionals were contacted in order to better understand the effects of lead poising. We focused on lead poising in children because of lead's long term effect on development. We learned that the cost of treatment is high, and the process of treating someone with lead poising, especially a child, is intense on the patient.

  • Valeant Pharmaceutical
  • Lincoln Pediatrics
  • Massachusetts Child Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
  • Lead Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital

A mystery diagnosis regarding lead poisoning and treatment was also written and published through WPI's newspaper (The Towers), and can be found here.


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