Arsenic, part 2
Dangers of Arsenic Exposure
Unfortunately, arsenic is very difficult to detect. It is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. For this reason, people can be easily and unknowingly be exposed to high levels of arsenic in their water.
As discussed in Part 1 of this series of blog posts, food is a large source of arsenic into our bodies. Apples, poultry, mushrooms, rice, and rice cereal all can accumulate high concentrations of the contaminant. Not only are these foods staples in the diets of many across the world, they are also especially crucial in the diets of young children.
However, the dose determines the poison. We breathe, consume, and digest small amounts of arsenic every day.
How the body absorbs, processes, and disposes of the chemical are important considerations in determining how a contaminant affects the body. Organic arsenic flushes through the system within several days, while small amounts of inorganic arsenic after ingestion can remain processing in the body for several months. Inorganic and organic arsenic both exit the body through urine.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning range from nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diminished nerve function particularly in the hands and feet. Cases of long term exposure are most noted by darkened skin spots and the development of warts on the surface of the skin. From the severe disruption of the skin’s normal biological defenses, different types of cancer can develop.
The western US, the midwest, and certain localities in Texas have been found to have elevated levels of arsenic in the drinking water. Arsenic levels were taken by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at each of 31,350 wells across the country, represented each by a point on this map.
How To Tell If Arsenic Is In Your Well Water
If you or your community relies heavily on private wells for drinking and cooking water, it is crucial to consistently get the arsenic levels tested in your wells. A lab test is the most reliable method of quantifying the contaminant.
Though the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) set by the EPA is 10 ppm, the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for arsenic is 0 ppm. Both of these concentrations refer to total arsenic, organic and inorganic.
Testing is likely available through your state’s drinking water agency. In addition, Clean Water Stores has certified arsenic test kits available that are easy to do at home and reliable.
For more information, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry creates Public Health Statements for known environmental contaminants, including arsenic.
Part 3 of our series on Arsenic will come out next week. It will address how arsenic in wells can be treated! Stay tuned for remediation protocols for this serious water health issue on the CWS blog.