Can Taste Rating of Groundwater Samples for the Presence of Iron Be A Novel Approach to Groundwater Iron Assessment?
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Groundwater has been shown to contribute markedly to the daily iron intake of the rural Bangladeshi population and is currently characterized as an under-assessed possible source of dietary iron. Estimation of the levels of iron in groundwater in relation to dietary/nutritional assessments has been called for. However, the ability to do this may be limited due to unavailable equipment or technical, logistical and financial issues in remote areas of low- to middle-income countries. Groundwater with higher levels of iron has distinctive organoleptic properties such as a characteristic metallic/bitterly taste and reddish color. Anecdotal experience suggests that there is an association between a stronger metallic taste of water and its iron content. Therefore, we conducted a cross-sectional pilot study assessing the relationship of taste perception for iron in groundwater and its actual concentration of iron. Thirteen tube-wells were selected systematically in a rural village of northern Bangladesh. A brief structured interview was conducted with a systematic sampling of people living nearby to collect information on the tube-wells, perception of the taste of water from the wells, and their overall perception of the level of iron in the water. Two observers from the research team tasted a water sample from each well for iron and compared their observations. Iron concentration of the tube-well water was determined quantitatively by a test kit (Hach kit model 18B). The concentration of iron was significantly higher in water taste-rated by both the villagers and observers as "strong" for iron than in water taste-rated as having "some" iron. There were significant correlations between the taste-ratings of the two observers and between the observers and villagers. Bland-Altman plotting suggests that external observers are likely to provide valid and reproducible taste-ratings for the presence of iron in the water. A larger study is required to validate tasting as a cheap, simple and novel way to assess iron concentration in groundwater.
© The Sabuktagin Rahman, Malay Kanti Mridha, Patricia Lee, Faruk Ahmed 2018. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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