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.
Iron bacteria are organisms that consume iron to survive. In the process, they oxidize available iron that produces iron deposits (rust) and a red or brown slime called a “biofilm.” Though the organisms are not harmful to humans,they can exacerbate an already troublesome iron issue in water.
From the U.S. EPA website:
The pH scale measures the logarithmic concentration of hydrogen (H+) and hydroxide (OH-) ions, which make up water (H+ + OH- = H2O). When both types of ions are in equal concentration, the pH is 7.0 or neutral. Below 7.0, the water is acidic (there are more hydrogen ions than hydroxide ions). When the pH is above 7.0, the water is alkaline, or basic (there are more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions). Since the scale is logarithmic, a drop in the pH by 1.0 unit is equivalent to a 10-fold increase in acidity. So, a water sample with a pH of 5.0 is 10 times as acidic as one with a pH of 6.0, and pH 4.0 is 100 times as acidic as pH 6.0.
Coliform is a type of harmless bacteria found naturally in the environment and in our bodies. According to the EPA, coliform is “not a health threat in itself; it is used to indicate whether other potentially harmful bacteria may be present.” The presence of coliform in water is a strong indicator of recent sewage or animal waste contamination, which may contain disease-causing organisms like E. coli.
The municipal water distribution system, a modern miracle, would not be possible without chlorination or similar disinfectants. Chlorine destroys disease-producing organisms and prevents their proliferation by disrupting microbial DNA and RNA. Another benefit is the improvement of water quality resulting from the reaction of chlorine with ammonia, iron, manganese and organic substances, allowing additional filtration and sedimentation processes to run smoothly.
If you’ve experienced foul “rotten egg” or sulfur odors in your water, it may be that your water is contaminated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide or methane gas. At low levels, these gases are generally harmless. At high levels, however, they are at best a nuisance and at worst, a serious health concern. Read More