what is arsenic? where does arsenic come from?

What Is Arsenic? Where Does Arsenic Come From?

What Is Arsenic? What is Arsenic in Water?



Arsenic is a naturally occurring element with potential health risks when present in drinking water. Understanding its origins and presence in water is essential for our safety.

What Is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a semi-metal element found in the Earth's crust. It occurs both naturally and as a result of human activities. Historically, arsenic was used in various industries, including agriculture as a pesticide and in mining. However, it is essential to recognize that its applications spanned various sectors, from medicinal use to wood preservation.


Many people think of arsenic solely as a poison, but it's naturally present in small amounts in the environment. It can be found in soil, rocks, air, and even in certain foods. These natural sources of arsenic contribute to its presence in water sources, further emphasizing the need for awareness and potential treatment solutions.

What is Arsenic in Water?

When we talk about arsenic in water, we're referring to the contamination of water sources by this element. This contamination can arise from both natural sources and human-made activities. Natural sources include the leaching of arsenic from rocks and minerals into water, especially in areas with high arsenic mineral content.

Industrial processes, such as mining or the use of certain pesticides, can also contribute to increased arsenic levels in water. Runoff from agricultural areas that utilized arsenic-based pesticides or contamination from mining operations can result in elevated arsenic concentrations in nearby water sources. It's critical to understand these sources to address potential health risks adequately.


Is There Arsenic In My Water?

Detecting arsenic in drinking water is crucial because it's tasteless, odorless, and colorless. While the levels of arsenic in seawater are usually low, they can be higher in freshwater sources, especially in groundwater or well water. Regions with volcanic activities or areas near mining operations tend to have higher arsenic concentrations.

Furthermore, certain areas around the world are more prone to arsenic contamination due to their geological makeup. In some places, natural underground rocks contain a higher amount of arsenic, which can leach into groundwater. Consuming water from these sources without treatment can expose individuals to harmful levels of arsenic.

How To Detect Arsenic In Water

If you suspect the presence of arsenic in your water, you'll need to have it tested. Various kits are available for homeowners, but it's always recommended to use certified laboratories for more accurate results. These labs use specialized equipment and methods to detect even minute amounts of arsenic.


Once you've determined the arsenic level in your water, you can decide on the necessary precautions or treatments. Depending on the concentration, it might be essential to install filtration systems or seek alternative water sources. Regular testing is also advised, especially for homeowners relying on well water, to ensure continued safety.


One option is to contact local or regional health departments or water utilities. They might already be aware of the issue and can provide guidance or solutions. In some cases, local governments might have programs in place to assist households in dealing with water contaminants. Ensuring you're informed and seeking expert advice is crucial.

How to Remove Arsenic from Drinking Water?

Removing arsenic from drinking water requires specific filtration methods. Regular carbon filters, like those found in typical jug filters, might not be effective. Instead, methods such as reverse osmosis, distillation, or specialized arsenic adsorption filters are recommended.


Reverse osmosis systems, for example, force water through a semi-permeable membrane, effectively removing a significant amount of arsenic. Distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam, leaving contaminants like arsenic behind. It's crucial to understand the level and form of arsenic contamination to choose the most appropriate treatment method.

Why Is It Important To Remove Arsenic From Drinking Water?

The importance of removing arsenic from drinking water cannot be understated. Consuming arsenic-contaminated water over prolonged periods can lead to various health problems. In the short term, symptoms might include stomach pains, nausea, or diarrhea.

However, long-term exposure can have more severe implications, like skin diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even certain types of cancer. Furthermore, arsenic is known to impact child development and is associated with cognitive impairments. Ensuring arsenic-free water is thus vital for both immediate and long-term health.

What are the Harms of Arsenic?

Arsenic, in its inorganic form, is a known carcinogen. This means that prolonged exposure to significant amounts can lead to various cancers, notably skin, bladder, and lung cancer. Besides cancer, arsenic can also harm the skin and the circulatory and nervous systems.

In areas with high arsenic concentrations in drinking water, populations often show symptoms of arsenic toxicity, including skin lesions and pigmentation changes. The implications of arsenic exposure extend beyond physical health, as its consumption has been linked to developmental and cognitive challenges, especially in children.

What is Arsenic Poisoning?

Arsenic poisoning, or arsenicosis, occurs when an individual ingests, inhales, or absorbs excessive amounts of arsenic. Early symptoms can be mistaken for other ailments, as they include headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea, and drowsiness. As the poisoning progresses, individuals might experience seizures, and the ingestion of a large amount can be fatal.

Chronic exposure to smaller amounts of arsenic can also lead to poisoning. Symptoms include skin changes, such as darkening or the appearance of warts and lesions. Over time, the risk of developing more severe health issues, like cancers, becomes more substantial. It's essential to be vigilant and seek medical attention if arsenic poisoning is suspected.


13 October 2023

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