Arsenic in Drinking Water
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

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The potential health effects of arsenic in drinking water are significant.  In 1999, a National Academy of Sciences study concluded that arsenic in drinking water causes lung, bladder, and skin cancer and may also cause liver and kidney cancer.

Arsenic is primarily a by-product of some industrial and agricultural pollution.

Trace amounts of arsenic in water are from natural deposits in the earth. 

Arsenic enters our drinking water through the ground or as runoff into rivers, lakes, streams, and canals.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, every year in the United States industries dump thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment.

Possible Health Effects of Arsenic

The cancer risk associated with arsenic water contamination is directly related to long-term (chronic) exposure.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, other potential health effects might also include:

  • Stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Nuerological effects, including numbness and partial paralysis
  • Serious skin issues, including thickening and discoloration of skin
  • Heart and lung issues
  • Liver issues

EPA Regulations for Arsenic

The Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in 1974 directs the EPA to enforce regulations for drinking water contaminants.

The EPA recently lowered the arsenic Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from 50 ppb (parts per billion) to 10 ppb.

This standard applies to all public and community water systems, which are required to test for arsenic. If you have a well or some other source of water supply, you are responsible for testing it.

Does Your Drinking Water Contain Arsenic?

Your local water utility service is now required by law to provide a report on all drinking water contaminants found in your local drinking water.

Find out if the annual water quality report for your local area is posted online at the EPA website. 

To determine the levels of arsenic in your drinking water, contact your local water service.  Your latest water quality report will also contain the most recent results of water testing. 

However, the problem with the water quality report is that it does not include the average levels of arsenic in your water over a longer period of time. 

Chronic exposure to even minimal levels of arsenic may have long-term health effects.

Thus, as far as I am concerned, the only acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water is 0 ppb.

Solutions for Consumers

Since ongoing industrial pollution is a primary cause of arsenic in water, the best solution is for government officials to enforce laws and hold industries accountable for contaminated sites and eliminating future arsenic pollution.

Effective water treatments are available that could be enforced by water utility managers at local water treatment facilities.

However, as consumers, we have little control over industrial pollution and water treatment protocols.

I know some people think that if they drink bottled water, they are safe from water contaminants like arsenic. 

However, bottled water is not a safe solution because the water that is used is often tap water that may or may not be filtered, purified or treated.

Thus, the most reliable solution for the consumer is to invest in a home drinking water system that is high quality and well maintained, meaning filters are changed regularly. 

After evaluating your latest water quality report, you can check out our recommendations for the best drinking water filters, such as the countertop water filter or the under sink water filter

References; Arsenic in Drinking Water; 2013.

Return from Arsenic in Drinking Water to Water Contaminants

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