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Research Fellows Directory

Nadia Martinez-Villegas

Dr Nadia Martinez-Villegas

Research Fellow


Heriot-Watt University

Research summary

My research area comprises the study of arsenic pollution in the environment. Arsenic is a chemical element that can contaminate water and cause health problems that can end in death. In countries such as Bangladesh, the natural contamination of water with arsenic has caused tens of millions of deaths from prolonged consumption of arsenic contaminated water. In other places, as in the city of Matehuala in central Mexico, the contamination of water with arsenic is anthropogenic and, unfortunately, extremely high, very likely, the highest in the world. In contrast to Bangladesh, in the city of Matehuala the contamination of arsenic stems from a point source and originates in the center of the city. The specific source is a copper smelter that was demolished during the 1950s. In this place, our research suggests that the contamination derives from the dissolution of arsenate minerals. For the first time, we showed that these arsenates are highly soluble in calcareous environments and called attention to a potentially widespread problem. As we continue investigating, we aim to contribute to the wellbeing of affected people by determining the regional extent of the pollution of water, soil, and crops with arsenic and by estimating the risk that this contaminant represents to the population. We will reach this goal by developing a safety system based on color-coding to reduce the exposure of people to the contaminant.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Distribution of arsenic on agricultural soils and its influence on exposure risks through maize ingestion and agricultural activities in Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, Mexico

Scheme: Newton Advanced Fellowship

Dates: Mar 2015 - Mar 2018

Value: £111,000