The women and teenagers are given testing kits and information about how sediment traits, such as color and texture, can indicate arsenic contamination, said Saugata Datta, who teaches geology at Kansas State University.
"We are targeting the women and children 13 to 15 years old because they are the most available people, more so than the men of the family," Datta said. "These women are not formally educated, but when it comes to this type of suffering, they have a huge voice and they can really articulate the message very clearly to their neighbors and their own families."
Through the research, Datta is trying to understand why and how naturally occurring arsenic seeps into groundwater in the region, the university said in a release Friday. The effects of arsenic build up in the body over time, causing skin lesions, cancer, paralysis and organ failure, he said.