Arsenic drinking water contamination is a problem that has received a lot of attention recently. Recent studies have shown that exposure to even moderate levels of the poisonous metalloid greatly increases a person's risk of heart disease. Here are some FAQs about the subject.

Why Is Arsenic In Water?

In some cases, it is naturally present in groundwater because of underground mineral and metal deposits. It is an element of volcanic ash, which means that surface water may be contaminated with it as well.

In fact, there is so much of the metalloid in our waters that the most common source of exposure is through eating seafood. Like mercury and other contaminants, arsenic-traces build up in the tissues and organs of fish and seafood. They build up in our bodies, too.

The compound is also found in wood preservatives, rubber, insecticides, fungicides and anti-bacterial agents. It is commonly added to animal food to prevent disease and stimulate growth. For example, about 70% of all chickens grow in the US are fed roxarsone, an arsenic-derivative.

Compounds derived from it are used in drugs, tracks of which end up in our waters. It is sometimes present in plumbing fixtures and as the fixtures degrade, the poison is released into the tap-water.

To think that some amount of the poison would not be present in our freshwater and our homes is naïve. It's everywhere.

What are the Risks of Exposure?

At high doses, it causes death. It's a poison. Symptoms of poisoning including header, vomiting, dirrhea, confusion and convulsions.

Contact with pesticides containing it can cause brain damage. When it becomes airborne and is inhaled, it irritates the lungs.

Consumption of small amounts over the course of one's life increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. The same is true of the heavy metal lead. The long-term risks of exposure to the two are similar.

In areas where there is known to be arsenic in water supplies, the cancer rate is higher. The World Health Organization has estimated that some 57 million people are at risk, because the amount present in their drinking water is higher than 10 parts per billion, an accepted standard for safety. Other estimates say the number of people affected is closer to 80 million.

A study conducted in Wisconsin, where the natural concentration is relatively high, showed that exposure to the compound was accompanied by an increased risk of skin cancer, even at levels below 10 parts per billion. An increased risk of bladder cancer is also associated with consumption.

The concentration of arsenic in water commonly found in the US suppresses immune system function, making people more susceptible to viruses and other kinds of infections.

What Can We Do to Protect Our Families?

If poisoning is suspected, one should see a doctor immediately. Chelation therapy can remove the metalloid from the body.

To prevent poisoning and reduce the risks associated with consumption, point-of-use home water purifiers are recommended.

There are several methods that effectively address the arsenic drinking water pollution problem.