Arsenic is an element that naturally occurs in the earth’s crust and traces of it can be commonly spread throughout the environment. The arsenic in soil originated naturally and human activities in the past also contributed to its increase in some areas.
Arsenic is found naturally in groundwater and also can be the result of pesticide and wood preservative.
Arsenic in Water
In some cities today, there are high traces of arsenic found in the water. This can be very dangerous especially if a person is exposed to high levels of it.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the concentration of arsenic in all drinking waters to 10 parts per billion (ppb). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a limitation for arsenic in bottled water and apple juice to 10 ppb as well. As of now, foods don’t have federal limits yet for the use of arsenic.
For industrial sources, the EPA also limited the use of arsenic for their production and operation since it can easily disperse the element into the environment. The same thing goes for pesticides since spraying it can cause the fumes to be delivered through the air and can risk the chances that it can be inhaled by people nearby.
How to Find Out Presence of Arsenic in Water
If your water is contaminated with arsenic, then it can be difficult to detect since it doesn’t give off any smell, taste or color. The only way to determine its presence is through a lab test.
If you want to have your water tested, it’s recommended that you bring it to a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) certified lab since they are credited to analyze the arsenic levels. The average cost for the testing is less than $50 per sample. Laboratories will usually teach you the correct process for collecting the water or they will do it themselves.
Drinking Arsenic Water
If the arsenic in your water is above the new MCL of 5µg/L, don’t use it for any consumption such as drinking, mixing, cooking and other consumptive ways. It would be wise to follow arsenic removal methods to ensure the safety of water use in your household.
The DEP also recommends that all household should follow arsenic removal methods if ever it reaches the level of above 5µg/L. But for those below 5µg/L, corrective actions can only be a personal decision as of the moment.
If you plan on doing the arsenic treatment on your own, make sure to avoid boiling the water at all cost. This process will just increase the concentration of arsenic in your water. Water will just evaporate and the arsenic is there to stay thus increasing its level in your water.
Bathing with Arsenic and Other Uses
Arsenic does not evaporate from drinking water. This also means that inhalation of the element cannot be normally done in water. There are also no risks that arsenic can be absorbed in the skin so showering, bathing and washing doesn’t pose any danger to arsenic exposure at all.
Treatment Options for Arsenic in the Water
If you want to reduce the level of arsenic in your water, then there are short-term and long-term methods that you can follow. For the meantime, you can resolve to purchasing bottled water for cooking and drinking as a means of short-term solution for your arsenic problem.
If the arsenic level in your home is above 5µg/L, it’s recommended that you switch your connection to a public water system. But in most areas, this kind of solution is not cost-effective.
You can replace your well if you want but the local geology and sources wouldn’t suggest that drilling a new one can remove arsenic in your water and increase its quality. But if the water system connection is not available in your community, then water treatment systems can be installed in your home as an alternative.
Here are the two types of arsenic removal that you can use:
The preferred treatment technology for this is the titanium dioxide media filter system. This particular system works effectively in removing the arsenic and it is both easy to maintain and operate. It also won’t let arsenic be returned to the environment thus making it the effective one so far. It lasts longer than the other type of media (ferric oxide).
Another option that you can is a POU cartridge system which will remove the arsenic from a specific tap wherein in common cases, the kitchen sink.
These systems can produce two quarts per minute and they are used to treat the water for drinking and cooking. The duration of these cartridges can last for up to a year and it costs $400 for the installation and $120 for the maintenance.
There are also other technologies that can be used to removing arsenic which includes anion exchange and reverse osmosis. In order to choose the best treatment system, household owners should consult with local health officers before deciding on which one to use since the water chemistry, geology and use of the water are an important basis for a treatment option.
If you want further information and want to get a detailed explanation about the removal systems available for you, then it’s best to contact your local health officer or a water treatment company that specializes in residential water treatment. You need to also inquire if a local health department permit is required in such installation of a system for your home.
If ever a removal system has been installed in your home, make sure to conduct another test to see if it indeed treated your water and removed the arsenic contamination. This will ensure that the system you have installed for your home is working effectively and returned the arsenic to an acceptable level.
Last post we discussed the potential health effects of arsenic exposure. This week, we will focus on how to treat an arsenic problem in your water.
Once your arsenic levels are tested, the degree of the cleanup job must be assessed.
How can you reduce high levels of arsenic in water?
If the arsenic level in your water is at or above 10 µg/L, refrain from consumption such as drinking or cooking.
There are two strategies to remove a contaminant from the water you use:Read More
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.
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: