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By: Tyler Gatewood on November 27th, 2020

Is There Arsenic in My Tap Water?

It may be disturbing to discover that arsenic is hiding in your tap water. As scary as arsenic may sound, it is more common than you think. 

Arsenic is present in the air, food and drinking water. Many of us have no idea that we may be consuming arsenic. Drinking water with high levels of arsenic puts your health at risk and is the main cause of arsenic entering the body. 

Could this be you? How do you know if you are ingesting arsenic? Are you taking the proper precautions and prevention measures? These are just a few questions that may race through your mind. 

You instantly think of your family’s well-being and the effects of long-term exposure.

Exell’s priority is to provide safe drinking water to all our customers. We want to provide you with all the resources and information to keep your family safe. We have over 80 years of experience to share, and we are confident we can fulfill all your water needs.

What is arsenic?

Usually when we think of arsenic, we think of a deadly poison. It’s actually a little more complex than that. 

Arsenic is a semi-metallic element found in the earth’s crust. Because arsenic is odorless and tasteless, it’s very hard to detect. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. 

What you need to know is that arsenic is mostly present in groundwater and private wells. This is due to the natural deposits or industrial and agricultural waste that seeps into the soil. Arsenic is known to dissolve out of rock formations when water levels drop drastically.  

Organic and Inorganic Arsenic

There are two types of arsenic: organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic is present in fish and shellfish. This form of arsenic is known not to be harmful to humans. In its organic state, it is not a danger to your health. 

Inorganic arsenic is found in soils, sediments and groundwater. It occurs naturally or as a result of industry or agricultural waste. When this type arsenic of enters groundwater and private wells is when you need to be alarmed. 

Inorganic arsenic can also found in rice, cereal, grains and other foods, but levels are much lower than drinking water and poses a low threat to one’s health. Arsenic in its inorganic form is known to be highly toxic.

How does arsenic get in my water?

Once arsenic is in the environment, it is removed from the air by rain, snow or gradual settling. When it’s on the ground, arsenic can seep into groundwater. Arsenic in private wells is a result of arsenic in fertilizer or industrial waste. A well that is constructed improperly is also a reason for arsenic contamination.

What levels of arsenic in water are acceptable?

Surprisingly, there are “acceptable levels” of arsenic in tap water set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The EPA states that drinking water’s Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is no more than 0.010 mg/L or parts per million (ppm). This is equal to 10 ug/L (micrograms per liter) or 10 ppb. In 2001, EPA changed the standard MCL to 10 ppb from 50 ppb. 

Private wells are not regulated by the EPA, but the standard is a good measure for water quality. Arsenic at levels higher than 10 ppb increases the risk of cancer and other serious health issues. 

When arsenic levels are lower, the chances are less, but years of exposure, even at a lower EPA standard, can also increase your risk for illness. When brushing your teeth, bathing, showering and swimming, the acceptable EPA standard is less than 500 ppb as long as it isn’t swallowed. 

Washing clothes and dishes shouldn’t be a concern because very little water remains on clothing and nonporous surfaces but again 500 ppb or below is recommended to properly sanitize dishes, utensils and clothing.

What are the effects of arsenic?

Depending on your exposure level, the effects of arsenic vary from acute to chronic. Here is a list of possible effects:  

Acute effects

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Muscle cramping
  • Damage to the nervous system

Chronic effects

  • Cancer
  • Skin lesions
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Negative cognitive development in children
  • Death

Arsenic toxicity in pregnant women is dangerous because it could pass through the placenta and the mother’s breast milk. Small children are at a higher risk because their little bodies can’t handle the same amount as an adult human can. Their recommended exposure should be lower than the EPA standard of 10 ppb. 

Oh, and don’t forgot about your furry friends! Your pet’s drinking water should also be below 10ppb. You can never be too careful when it comes to the health of everyone in your household. 

An at-home test, or one performed by one of Exell’s water experts, can reveal the levels of arsenic in your water. If your levels are above 10 ppb, stop drinking and cooking with it at once and consult your doctor.

How do I remove arsenic?

Unlike other contaminants, arsenic is harder to get rid of. Arsenic cannot be removed by boiling or using chlorine or bleach. Boiling may actually increase the level of arsenic. Faucet filters and pitchers are also ineffective. You may want to consider water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis or ultra-filtration.

Consulting with a local water professional like Exell can help you determine the solution that best fits your needs. 

Water filtration systems like a reverse osmosis system provided by Exell can eliminate arsenic and other impurities from your tap water. Investing in a water filtration or purification system will you give you a peace of mind knowing that you are taking care of your family’s health.

Contact us today, and our team can provide you with the water solutions that fit your family’s needs. A site survey is a great starting point!