do you have Arsenic in your water?

Cathal Walsh
Environmental Blogger
Wednesday, 24th April 2019
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Glass of water with ice cubes

Arsenic is found naturally in rocks and soil in some regions. It is also a by-product of many industrial processes. One can find arsenic being used in industrial, mining and agricultural processes. The amount of arsenic found in ground water supplies like wells is usually a lot higher than in other water supplies like springs, lakes or public mains water.

Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic state; it was widely used by the Borgias in Italy in the middle ages and is credited with being the means used to murder pope Alexander VI.  While the use of arsenic in political assassinations is not as widespread in this day and age, the contamination of water with even small levels of arsenic renders it unsuitable for consumption, food preparation or even the irrigation of crops. As a result the acceptable level for arsenic in water is set by the US to be a tiny 10 Parts Per Million (PPM). This was based upon a practical expectation to treat the water to an acceptable level.

Arsenic poisoning in its acute form can take a very serious form, these include vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. These are followed by numbness and tingling of the extremities and in some cases death if the poisoning is sufficiently acute. 

Long term exposure however can take on different symptoms. The first symptoms here normally present themselves on the skin; these include pigmentation changes, skin lesions and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet.  These occur after a minimum exposure of five years and may be a precursor to skin cancer. 

Arsenic has also been shown to be carcinogenic and as a result is likely to cause multiple cancers including bladder cancer or lung cancer if the exposure is prolonged enough.  It has also been shown to cause pulmonary heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the correlation drawn between prolonged arsenic exposure and developmental and intellectual difficulties in adulthood. In short arsenic is a chemical one would be best to stay away from.  

The WHO has stated that arsenic contamination of water is a widespread problem with “at least 140 million people in 50 countries have been drinking water containing arsenic at levels above the WHO provisional guideline value of 10 μg/L “.

The most important thing to do if you suspect there to be arsenic in your water is to get your water tested by an accredited facility, then take appropriate action after you know the result.

Boiling water does not cleanse it of arsenic, nor does chlorinating or disinfecting it. The only way to properly cleanse arsenic out of water is by using methods such as ion exchange, distillation, ultra-filtration or reverse osmosis.

These methods may be slightly pricy but there is no better investment you can make for your family than a clean source of drinking water.

 

 

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