Master’s Student, Public Health in Global Health Epidemiology
I spent this summer leading a study in central Mexico on the association between exposure to untreated wastewater and diarrheal disease in children under five years old. Mexico City currently sends almost all of its untreated wastewater to the Mezquital Valley in the neighboring state of Hidalgo. Agricultural workers in the Mezquital Valley then use the nutrient-rich wastewater to irrigate their fields, potentially exposing them to harmful bacteria and viruses. We conducted a door-to-door survey, took wastewater and other environmental samples, and collected stool samples to determine how wastewater exposure affected diarrheal disease in children – the second leading cause of death in children worldwide. Living and working in the Mezquital Valley allowed me to see how a community’s health can be affected by industrial contamination. In addition to the wastewater canals, communities in the Mezquital Valley are exposed to a major oil refinery and a large electric plant. My continuing work in this area will also allow us to see how changing one of these exposures, through an upcoming wastewater treatment plant, can positively impact local communities.