Have you ever thought about the Earth’s layers and the composition of its layers? Well, maybe not. But you have certainly asked yourself at least once in your life whether the source of your drinking water is safe or not. A research issued by Environmental Science & Technology confirms that almost 2 million U.S citizen might be exposed to high levels of arsenic, a brittle steel-grey semimetal chemical that is toxic to humans, while bringing out water from private wells in the U.S on constant basis.
Around 15% of the U.S population regularly depends on private water wells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most private well owners occasionally test for bacteria, but rarely, if ever, test for anything else. Unlike public wells that are always tested to comply with federal standards, private wells are not regularly monitored and regulated, which results in contaminated water with dangerous chemicals like arsenic.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measured arsenic levels in private wells across the United States, conducting a detailed analysis, leading to describing the private well problem as “widespread”. This means that around 2 million people are drinking water with high level of arsenic. And Study author Joseph Ayotte, clarified that “high arsenic” refers to levels greater than 10 micrograms per liter which exceeds the legal limit.
Arsenic is considered a serious health hazard. It is an odorless, tasteless and colorless element that is commonly found in food, air, and soil as well; not only in water. As a matter of of fact, some studies show that children get lower IQ scores when exposed to high levels of arsenic. Moreover, getting exposed to the slightest levels of arsenic can actually affect fetus’ growth, causing other serious problems. So, raising awareness to pregnant women on how to protect themselves from arsenic exposure started to remarkably take place.
Chronic exposure of arsenic via drinking water causes various types of skin lesions such as melanosis, leucomelanosis, and keratosis. Other manifestations include neurological effects, obstetric problems, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, diseases of the respiratory system and of blood vessels including cardiovascular, and cancers typically involving the skin, lung, and bladder.
The limit for arsenic in drinking water has been a controversial topic in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was supposed to lower the limit from 50 ppb to 5 ppb. However, the EPA had to raise the level back from 5 ppb to 10 ppb because of the excessive industry criticism it faced, as 5 ppb would be extremely expensive for water companies to meet.
Municipal water treatment facilities are able to filter out arsenic when a water source is deemed to be contaminated. Studies show that arsenic cannot be removed by either boiling or bleaching. Residents can try to remove arsenic from their well water with water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, ultra-filtration or ion exchange. Thanks to the modern technology, nowadays you can easily find different home water filters with wide range of shapes and sizes.
The introduction of arsenic into drinking water can occur as a result of its natural geological presence in local bedrock. However, humans have a hand in arsenic pollution as well from mining or mining-related activities. In addition, Arsenic is used industrially as an alloying agent, as well as in the processing of glass, pigments, textiles, paper, metal adhesives, wood preservatives and ammunition. Arsenic is also used in the hide tanning process and, to a limited extent, in pesticides, feed additives and pharmaceuticals.
Serious precautions should be taken when drinking water from private wells. Significant quick moves must be directed towards this topic; at least, residents should start using water filters at home as a first step.