What is Arsenic?
What are the properties of arsenic?
How can arsenic affect my health?
There are several factors that will determine your health risk:
How can I be exposed to arsenic?
Most people are exposed to some amount of arsenic since it is a natural part of our environment. However, too much of it will result in harmful side effects. A person can be exposed to arsenic through:
Smoke from burning oil, gasoline, wood, coal, tobacco products
Natural activities such as volcanoes, erosion of rock, forest fires
Dust from industry
Wood preservatives, paints, dyes, metals, medicines, soaps and semi-conductors
Mining and smelting
How does arsenic get into the drinking water supply?
Some communities, get their drinking water largely from groundwater. This is the water that supplies the wells and springs that bring water to your home or business.
Arsenic dissolves into the groundwater and is then drawn into the wells that provide your drinking water.
How can I find out if my drinking water is safe to drink?
The only way to know if your drinking water contains arsenic is to have it tested.
If you are a customer of a community water system you can contact your local office to find out what the arsenic level is in your drinking water. The water is tested at least every three years.
If you have a private well you can take a water sample to a state certified laboratory. The best time to take a sample is during the time that reflects when you typically use water.
By Federal law public water systems must test the drinking water they deliver and provide an annual water quality report to their customers known as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). This CCR is a general overview of the water quality of that system and will show which regulated contaminants such as arsenic were found in the drinking water and in what quantities for the previous year.
How do I lower my exposure to arsenic in drinking water?
If the arsenic level is above 0.01 mg/L it is recommended to stop using your water for drinking and cooking. If the arsenic level is below 0.01 mg/L in your drinking water it is safe to drink.
Bottled water can serve as an alternative source of drinking water.
If you have a private well connecting to a community water supply. This may be the most cost-effective solution. Other options include modifying the well drilling a new well or utilizing a water treatment system.
Water treatment systems that use water softeners, carbon filters and sediment filters cannot adequately remove arsenic from drinking water.
A point-of-use treatment system that treats the faucet used for drinking and cooking can be used.
Another option is a point-of-entry treatment system that treats the drinking water for the entire household system.
It is recommended that any treatment system be certified by the NSF International, and be installed by a licensed plumber. You will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure the treatment system operates correctly to continue removing arsenic effectively.
How do I interpret the water sample results?
On October 31, 2001 the USEPA lowered the level of arsenic in drinking water from 0.05 milligrams per liter (mg/L)* to 0.01 mg/L. Most community water systems must meet this new primary drinking water standard by January 26, 2006.
*One milligram per liter is a very small amount and is the same as 1 teaspoon in 1,320 gallons.
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