Published: July 27, 2016

    Arsenic: What is it? How Does it Make it into Your Water?

    July2016_Blog_Set2_4The last time you heard arsenic mentioned was most likely as a method of murder in a thrilling mystery novel. Since arsenic is synonymous with poison in our society, homeowners are understandably alarmed when they learn their tap water may contain trace amounts of arsenic. But the truth is that many homes, especially those serviced by private wells, contain an unacceptable amount of this potentially lethal chemical in their drinking water.

    Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is semi-metallic. It has no odor or taste, and can be found in many types of rocks and soils (or water that has come in contact with these rocks or soils). It is not easily absorbed through the skin or through the lungs, so it mostly enters the body by being ingested.

    In high doses, arsenic can be extremely dangerous. Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and has been linked to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Immediate side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, numbness, and burning sensations. Chronic exposure should be avoided at all costs.

    You’re most likely to find arsenic in water supplies surrounded by bedrock. Particularly the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Michigan are prone to high concentrations of arsenic-heavy bedrock, as are several regions in the Rockies and in the Southwest. Private well owners are most susceptible to having their water contaminated with an unsafe amount of arsenic.

    Numerous activities can cause arsenic to accumulate in your private well. Nearby wood treatment, orchard spraying, or mining can lead to high levels of arsenic due to the chemicals used. Natural phenomenon like forest fires can spread ash throughout an area, which contains a large amount of arsenic. Homeowners should test their private wells yearly for arsenic and other harmful contaminants. Pelican Water offers a WaterCheck 32 testing kit, which tests for 32 common contaminants that can find their way into your well water. The kit includes shipping instructions and the address of the nearest testing facility to expedite the entire process. Results are usually available in 7-10 business days.

    The maximum acceptable level of arsenic in your drinking water as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is 10 parts per billion. If the concentration of arsenic in your private well exceeds or is at that level, you should take action to avoid any acute health issues that can arise from arsenic consumption.

    Multiple solutions exist for homeowners whose wells contain arsenic. The most common course of action is to purchase a point-of-use water filtration system on the tap where you get your drinking water. An NSF-certified water filter like Pelican Water’s reverse osmosis filter system exchanges harmful arsenic for chloride ions to free your water of the dangerous element.