Arsenic in Water

What is Arsenic & How Does it Enter the Water Supply?
Arsenic is a natural occurring element that is distributed throughout the earth's crust. Arsenic enters the water supply through natural deposits or as a product of industrial and agricultural pollution. It is also a by-product of mining and burning coal. Industries in the US release thousands of tons of arsenic into the environment every year. Arsenic bonds with many elements, including oxygen, sulfur, and chlorine. Arsenic cannot be destroyed, it can only change form.

What are the Health Effects of Arsenic?
According to a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences, "arsenic in drinking water causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and liver cancer. The study also found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems". Ingesting low levels of arsenic over a long period of time may lead to corns, warts, or skin discoloration, and exposure at high levels will cause death. Arsenic is also a known human carcinogen.

Risk of Arsenic Exposure
A standard for arsenic in drinking water was established in 1942 at 50 parts per billion (ppb). Unfortunately, the extent and nature of health effects related to arsenic ingestion were not well known at that time.  On January 22, 2001, the EPA proposed new guidelines for arsenic concentrations in water. The new safe level is now 10 parts per billion, meaning that water supplies that were once tested and thought to be safe no longer meet EPA guidelines. According to National Academy of Sciences estimates, "one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion will get cancer (based on drinking two liters of water per day over the course of a lifetime)." The standard cancer risk for toxic elements is 1 in 10,000.

How Do I Know if I Have Arsenic in My Water?
 If your water comes from a public source,  your local water utility is now required by law to provide a report on all contaminants and toxins found in your water. If your water comes from a private source, (i.e. a well or spring, it should be tested by a professional testing service. Filters can be used to remove arsenic from the water supply, but make sure the filter is NSF International certified.

Why is Water Quality Important?
Water quality is important because water is such a necessary ingredient in our lives.  Your water  may contain contaminants that are adversely affecting your health and well being without your even knowing it.  Many of these contaminants are not detectable by smell, sight or taste.  Even if you are not experiencing any water related health effects now, long term exposure to contaminants could mean health problems later in life.
Microbes, bacteria, chemicals, and other elements can enter your water supply as a result of human activity or natural causes.  These contaminants can enter the water supply from many sources. Chemicals and waste can migrate from disposal sites in to drinking water supplies. Animal waste, chemicals , and pesticides can be carried by snow melt or rainfall runoff. Human waste may be discharged into areas that ultimately lead to a water supply. Natural occurring elements such as radon, lead, and arsenic may also affect your water supply. 
As development in our communities increases, there are growing numbers of threats that could contaminate drinking water.  Contaminants can be present in water systems for years without being detected. Safe drinking water should be everyone`s concern