Arsenic is a natural element that is commonly found in water, air, soils and plants and animals. Agricultural and industrial sources can also release arsenic into the environment.
It is can be found in two different forms:
More specifically, it can reach your body in many ways including:
Many sources of arsenic runoff into the environment in the United States have been regulated, and some practices that involve arsenic release in the process have even been outlawed. Though, arsenic does not break down once in a biotic system. It can only change between its two forms.
It is often is a substitute element in the crystal structure of the mineral pyrite. Regions where the groundwater interacts consistently with arsenian pyrite have very high and very unsafe concentrations of the element. Countries such as Bangladesh must constantly deal with arsenic related water health hazards for this reason.
Even if not exposed to arsenian pyrite, city water resource reservoirs can accumulate high concentrations of arsenic as well. To address the issue, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed federal maximum contaminant levels for drinking water at 10 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed the same maximum contaminant level of arsenic in bottled water and apple juice. Other food doesn’t yet have federal concentration limits for arsenic.
High levels of exposure can be very dangerous. Get your water tested for this contaminant as soon as possible if you may be in an area affected by those sources listed above.
Check back at the beginning of next week for Part 2: Health Risks of Arsenic in Water, the second of our three part series about this water contaminant.