What is Arsenic?
Arsenic in drinking water is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. Arsenic (chemical symbol “As”) is a naturally occurring element in the earth’s crust and traces of arsenic can be found throughout the environment. Arsenic can combine with other elements to form inorganic and organic arsenicals. Primarily inorganic forms are present in water and are of most concern. Arsenic in soil may originate naturally and past human activities may have added to these levels in some areas. Historically, the heaviest use of arsenic in this country has been as a pesticide (e.g., used in agriculture such as at orchards). The more recent use of arsenic is as a wood preservative. Other sources include smeltors, glass, paints, fireworks, burning of fossil fuels, and electronics wastes.
How is Arsenic tested?
A properly collected and preserved (with Nitric Acid) sample must be obtained. The “holding time” (i.e., time which arsenic must be analyzed after sample collection) is 6 months. There are a few NJDEP certified test methods for arsenic including Atomic Absorption (AA) and Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP). The detection limits vary by method and instrumentation, however the Reporting Limit needs to be 10 ppb (ug/L) or less since this is the new standard (effective February 22, 2002).
What is the current Standard?
Arsenic is a constituent classified as a “primary” standard and has a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 ppb (ug/L – micrograms per Liter). The prior limit was 50 ug/L.
What are the potential Health Effects with ingesting Arsenic in water?
Potential health effects include several types of cancer, skin abnormalities, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous system impacts.
Should I continue to use my water if arsenic is found above the MCL?
The answer is no for drinking water consumption. Also, do not boil water as a method of treatment because this will result in increased arsenic levels.
What steps can I take to reduce Arsenic levels in my water?
Short Term: purchase bottled water.
Long Term: 1.) Connect to public water 2.) Well replacement 3.) Water Treatment: Point of Entry Treatment System (POET) or Point of Use (POU) Treatment System such as oxidation, followed by ion exchange, and reverse osmosis. 4.) Contact your local Health Agency and a Water Treatment Professional.
If you install a water treatment system, be sure to conduct another test after the water has been treated to verify that the system is working effectively.
Two prominent organizations can help you decide which type of water treatment system is best for you are: The National Sanitation Foundation and Water Quality Association.
Where can I go for more information?
Your best help may be your local Health Agency. Also, go to the Helpful Links section of this website.
This information is meant to serve as a basic overview of the material discussed. Always obtain professional advice prior to implementing a plan of action.