Is There Arsenic In Your Well Water?
If you have a well for your drinking water, you might consider testing it for arsenic (regularly). Included as one of the many contaminants that are typically part of a ‘standard’ well water test, arsenic is something that you really want to know about – especially since you ‘might’ be slowly poisoning yourself without even knowing it…
Here’s more information including an interactive map of the United States which shows some areas which have dangerously high levels of arsenic in the wells which have been tested.
Did you know that as groundwater levels decrease, that arsenic levels may increase in surrounding wells? In fact, as the US is experiencing severe drought conditions in parts of the country, groundwater levels have indeed been falling. Particularly if you live in one of those areas, you might consider your health and safety by testing your well water for arsenic.
How does arsenic get into drinking water?
Arsenic can enter the water supply from natural deposits in the earth. It is widely believed that naturally occurring arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations when ground water levels drop significantly.
Some industries release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment every year. Once released, arsenic remains in the environment for a long time. Arsenic is removed from the air by rain, snow, and gradual settling. Once on the ground or in surface water, arsenic can slowly enter ground water.
High arsenic levels in private wells may not only come from a naturally occurring condition from rocks and soil, but may also come from overuse of certain arsenic containing fertilizers or herbicides used in the past or even industrial waste.
What are the health risks of arsenic in drinking water?
“No organ system goes untouched.” Experts who study arsenic say it sweeps through our bodies, affecting organ after organ.
“We’re seeing associations with lower and lower exposure levels,” said Joseph Graziano, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “And so are we concerned about the levels that we see in the United States? Absolutely, yes.” “There’s neurotoxicity, there’s cardiovascular disease…there’s a whole suite of cancers: lung cancer, bladder cancer, skin cancer,” he said.
The table below shows the lifetime risks of dying of cancer from arsenic in tap water, based on the National Academy of Sciences’ 1999 risk estimates.
|Arsenic Level in Tap Water
(in parts per billion, or ppb)
|Approximate Total Cancer Risk
(assuming 2 liters consumed/day)
|0.5 ppb||1 in 10,000|
|1 ppb||1 in 5,000|
|3 ppb||1 in 1,667|
|4 ppb||1 in 1,250|
|5 ppb||1 in 1,000|
|10 ppb||1 in 500|
|20 ppb||1 in 250|
|25 ppb||1 in 200|
|50 ppb||1 in 100|
How do I test my well water for arsenic?
The best way to have your well tested is to find an accredited laboratory. Contact your State Certification Program for a list of certified laboratories and to answer technical questions.
States certify water testing laboratories and will be able to point you towards the laboratories more approximate to your location.
Here’s one link that I found on the EPA website which may be helpful:
State Certification Officers
How do I remove arsenic from my drinking water?
Boiling your water will not remove arsenic. Treating with chlorine (e.g. bleach) will not remove arsenic.
Water distillation systems (a water distiller) will successfully remove (separate) arsenic and other contaminants. Apparently reverse-osmosis systems may work to remove arsenic. And there are other specific purposed filters and filtration methods that will remove arsenic from drinking water. A web-search will reveal possibilities to consider.
The point here is to consider regularly (every few years?) testing your well water for contaminants – especially arsenic.
Interactive Map of Arsenic found in Well Water (USA)
Sourced from publicintegrity.org
Yet another reason for me to continue building my solar water distiller.
Great way to have your private well flagged and decommissioned by the ptb.
Have your water tested by only a trusted person who will not disclose your private info.
The EPA has no jurisdiction, control, or regulations over private wells. They do however have regulations regarding municipal water systems. I suspect though that some states do perhaps have requirements regarding private wells (mine does not)…
Wait until the water wars begin…
In California as well as the rest of the country I might worry more about food this year. I read somewhere that a large number of farmers are just not planting this year and selling their water to the municipalities instead, because they fear the municipalities are just going to take it away from them anyway. California grows the majority of fruits and vegetables we buy in stores. Where is the backup supply going to come from if they’re not growing it? Foreign markets? Other states? We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
Back yard gardens are a start. You might be surprised at how much you can grow in a small area.
At least until Mr ‘I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone’ gets involved.
Water test kits are easy to come by. Do it yourself.
I live in the Central Valley of California. Besides many, many wells going dry in the area, there has been an increase in arsenic and other contaminants in the water.
My well gets tested every 5 years, since I rent out one of the houses on my property (the state says if you rent a house with a well, it has to be tested). My well has 4ppb arsenic, as it has for the past 40 years. I’m extremely lucky that my water level has not gone down. The well is 200′ deep, and you hit water at 120′, so it ‘should’ outlast this drought.
Oh, and Dr. Acula, the water wars started years ago here, with the last drought.
Our prayers are with you and your family.
I was just wondering where these industries get their arsenic that they are releasing into the environment? Is it manufactured? Is it mined out of the earth? Does anyone know?
I too have been wondering…
been doing a fair bit of looking, and really it is quite shocking what has arsenic in it. Is it added on purpose? don’t know, but sometimes one wonders how else it gets there?
babies who are breastfed have lower arsenic levels than babies who are formula fed…(is the arsenic coming form the formula or the water…? – either is pretty bad)
some wines have high levels of arsenic… (in searching, I found some wine makers add arsenic to “clarify” the wine, however it is supposed to settle out…So again, is the total wine arsenic fr this, or also fr the water?)
wells, of course, as mentioned above….BUT…what is driving this huge increase (I believe it is increase) in well water arsenic??? (is it filter through to wells from aquifers which have been compromised fr fracking/mining/etc?
-is well water arsenic filtering through from drainage off of fields which have been treated with arsenic compounds in pesticides/etc?
-is it filtering through to aquifers from municipal garbage dumps? (which have all sorts of toxic chemicals)
-arsenic used to be used to treat wood, especially fence boards, .. made it last forever.. (now banned in Canada, how about the states)…even though banned for this, now, all those old fences/old playground structures (yup schools and playgrounds spent millions putting in long lasting wood “arsenic” structures)…those pieces of wood are “around”…dumps/backyards/etc.
-arsenic is high in much rice
-arsenic is used in some medicines and (used to be) some make ups (Lead in lipstick, arsenic in eyeliner and cadmium in mascara)
-desiccants used in mechanical cotton harvesting
-herbicides (such as weed killers for telephone and railroad posts
-Agent Blue, which was used by U.S. troops in Vietnam)
-nonferrous alloys [Garcia-Vargas and Cebrian 1996]
-Arsenic trioxide may be found in pesticides and defoliants
-contaminant of moonshine whiskey [Murunga and Zawada 2007]
-arsenic is widely used in the electronics industry in the form of gallium arsenide and arsine gas as components in semiconductor devices
-Production of wood preservatives, primarily copper chromated arsenate (CCA), accounted for more than 90% of domestic consumption of arsenic trioxide in 2003
-Arsenic is and has been used medicinally
-Arsenic is currently used for induction and consolidation chemotherapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia and other cancers
-Arsenic may be found in some traditional remedies from a number of Asian countries
-“Fowlers solution,” which is 1% arsenic trioxide, was used historically to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
-also used to treat leukemia and stomatitis
-Arsphenamin (Salvarsan) was the first effective cure for syphilis
-Arsenic production has currently ceased in the United States. Arsenic has been phased out of domestic pesticides, but commercial use of imported arsenic is still high
-Gallium arsenide is used in integral components of
discrete microwave devices,
photoelectric chemical cells, and
-Arsine gas, the most toxic arsenical (acute exposures), is used commercially in the microelectronics industry
-Arsine gas is used in the production of semiconductors
-Other industrial processes that use arsenic include
coal-fired power plants,
hardening metal alloys, and
purifying industrial gases (removal of sulfur)
Your comments make we wonder about all the wooden telephone/power poles we have here in the US. Most wooden poles are in rural areas where residents would have a well.
My memory escapes me of what that chemical is to treat those poles. I think railroad timbers are treated with the same chemical. If anyone knows the name of it please remind me. Of course I will probably remember when I’m not trying to. Curious if it has arsenic in it.
when I was hunting up the list, I read that Telephone / power poles (at least used to be) also dipped in this stuff.
re railroad timbers/ties, I believe it is creosote, just as toxic and hazardous. I believe that railroad timbers so treated are still allowed in the states (?) and in fact, still widely used for landscape. Such were banned about ten years ago in Canada, and for a time there was a huge hue and cry to dispose of such. Odd, now, as I see them popping up here and there, in Canada, once more.
got this off of a Canadian site, so who knows who is doing what. It all seems concerning.
“Chemically treated wood has been a preferred building material for many years and its most common uses are in utility poles, railway ties, bridges, dams, retaining walls, guardrails, fences, foundation piling and marine installations. Some of these uses, especially utility poles in water supply areas, have generated increasing level of concern”
again, off of Canadian site
“Existing treated wooden utility poles will be permitted to remain as long as they are not located within the high water mark of the intake pond, or in the case of a river intake, within one kilometre upstream of the intake provided they are not impacting water quality.”
article from 2014
Leaching of Chromium, Copper, and Arsenic from CCA-Treated Utility Poles
Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 167971, 11 pages
Metal concentrations decreased with distance from the poles and, except at one utility pole location, Cu was the most leached of the three elements. The As appeared to have greater mobility in the soil than the Cr
Thanks Anon for the info and you are exactly correct that they are treated with Creosote. I hate it when I can’t remind something that I know the answer to. Lol.
Although I see more and more wooden poles being replaced with concrete/metal their are still a ton of them around. Same goes for railroad ties (tks again could not remember the terminology) tons still around both just soaking the ground. I am wondering abut Pressure treated wood. May have to research that. A lot of fences used with PT posts.
This is a good article and could explain a lot regarding the increases of cancer. Good job Ken.
Pressure treated (CCA) and creosote treated wood are not the same. Neither should be ingested. The old pressure treated wood was far nastier than what is being sold now. I wouldn’t be particularly concerned about creosote. Most parts of a train shouldn’t be ingested either.
Arsenic was used as an insecticide to kill the boll weevil on the cotton crops. Now these very same fields grow rice. That’s why rice is so high in arsenic. Imported rice is even worse. I don’t feed rice to my kids.
Found this regarding high arsenic in Rice:
Low volume water cooking (including steaming) did not remove arsenic any further (it removed apprx 10% of it).
High volume water : rice cooking did effectively remove both total and inorganic arsenic for the long-grain and basmati rice (parboiled was not investigated in high volume cooking water experiment), by 35% and 45% for total and inorganic arsenic content, respectively, compared to uncooked (raw) rice.
Ken, that is very good to know..
basically put in way more water than needed, and drain. right?
Apparently, yes. Until recently I was not aware of high arsenic in Rice (especially overseas Rice) – which is a dry-good staple for many preparedness-conscious folks. One day I intend to attempt to quantify ‘how bad’ (or not so bad) that this may be with regards to published ‘safe’ numbers.
Ken, over the past couple years I have come across rather a huge number of food items which are high in arsenic and/or other undesireables…
I too wonder how bad is bad, or not..
however, I see these articles more and more, and quite often from variety of test sources.
your info re boiling rice in excess water, and draining (the arsenic) away, makes me wonder if it would also help for other “toxin” concerns.
Recently have seen huge amount of articles re men who eat a lot of fruit and veg, imbibe a lot of insecticide / pesticides and end with lower sperm counts. Of course, it (to my mind) is not likely to just be affecting sperm count, or just men.
wouldn’t be the same as a nice crisp apple,
but I am thinking that bring water to boil, and boil “whatever”, then drain, may well suck out the chemicals?
Test your water yourself.
Kits are readily available.
You do not know who the ‘Testers’ are in contact with.
If you search Consumer Reports for arsenic-in-your-food.
You will see the guidelines for rice consumption in a chart.