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F.ood & H.ealth : Agri. & Environ. Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Arsenic and Old Laced Water Sources
By Ross Getman
Aug 29, 2006, 08:44

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Delaware's Division of Public Health's Office of Drinking Water is advising Felton residents that the town's public water system does not meet new standards for arsenic. Children, the department advised, may be at a higher risk because of their smaller body mass. Infants using powdered formula mixed with drinking water from this water system are a special concern. The ODW says families should therefore prepare infant formula with bottled water.

Arsenic exposure is a known carcinogen causing cancer in humans including skin, lung, liver, kidney, prostate and urinary bladder. Several expert reports on the science, cost of compliance and benefits analyses on arsenic in drinking water were published in October 2001.
In 2005, EPA issued regulations revising the arsenic drinking water standard. EPA established an enforceable MCL for arsenic of 0.010 milligrams per liter (mg/L), which can also be expressed as 10 parts per billion.

The ODW says that arsenic occurs naturally in some of Delaware's ground aquifers. The arsenic levels were in compliance with the previous EPA standard of 50 parts per billon (ppb), but then that level was lowered to 10 ppb in January of this year. The arsenic levels recently have been in the range of 30 ppb - 40 ppb. According a recent article in the Boston Globe, in New Hampshire, the towns of Seabrook and Exeter have wells that have arsenic contamination.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element present in the ground. As water passes through, it dissolves many compounds and minerals including arsenic. The result is that varying amounts of soluble arsenic are present in some water sources. While arsenic contamination of a drinking water source most often results from natural sources, it also can be the result of human activities. Arsenic in drinking water cannot be detected by taste -- the only way to know the concentration of arsenic in water is through laboratory testing. Most arsenic enters water supplies either from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution. Arsenic is a natural element of the earth's crust. It is used in industry and agriculture, and for other purposes. It also is a byproduct of copper smelting, mining and coal burning. U.S. industries release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment every year.

Bottled water, however, is not necessarily safer than tap water. In fact, bottled water is subject to considerably less stringent regulation and less frequent testing than tap water. The Natural Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC) a few years ago issued a report called "Arsenic and Old Laws" and found that a number of bottled waters, including some best-selling French imports, exceeded 10 ppb of arsenic. In testing in the United Kingdom in advance of adopting the new 10 ppb standard, of 160 bottled waters that were tested. 7 tested above the proposed 10 ppb limit.

The cost of a test for arsenic is $10-15. Small private water supplies will struggle at getting down the arsenic level. But it is certainly worth doing. Even when the new EPA level is met, there is a startling high risk of fatal cancers by water contaminated by arsenic. It is not regulated down to the usual low level because of the difficulty of reducing levels further.

A key line of defense to protect consumer health are the retailers --
who should follow the recent example of Wegmans Foods and ensure that their suppliers only provide products that are below accepted limits for carcinogens (whether arsenic, pesticides, benzene, bromate, lead, or other carcinogen). Retailers should take prompt action when on notice that those levels have been exceeded, whether in soft drinks or bottled water. That was recently done in the case of bottled water contaminated with levels of bromate above the lawful 10 ppb limit.
Retailers to include Aldis, P&C Stores, Big M Markets, Weis Markets, Quality Market, BiLo/Riverside markets, and many others (not yet publicly announced) are recalling their private label bottled water upon notice of bromate contamination above the 10 ppb level.


The Global Failure To Disclose Carcinogens In Bottled Drinks Consumed By Children

EPA Drinking Water Standard Clarification

EPA Arsenic in Drinking Water

EPA Arsenic treatment and cost

University of Nevada; Arsenic in Drinking Water

World Health Organization Arsenic Fact Sheet

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