Arsenic is a naturally occurring element within the earth and when it comes in contact with water, it dissolves naturally into the water. In Illinois, it is found in deep bedrock formations and shallow glacial materials. If not properly tested and resolved arsenic can be harmful to the human body.
There are two forms of arsenic, organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic comes from a portion of the food we eat, mainly seafood, poultry, dairy, and meat, which is less harmful then inorganic arsenic. Groundwater is the main source of inorganic arsenic and is the form of arsenic that causes harmful effects to our body. Inorganic arsenic can cause skin problems, cancer (skin, bladder, lung, kidney, liver, and prostate), and can harm your cardiovascular and nervous systems. These risks are determined by the amount and length arsenic is in your body, the form of arsenic, and the general health, age, lifestyle, and diet of each individual. It is confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services arsenic is considered a human carcinogen. Keep in mind, arsenic in not absorbed into the skin (in showering, laundering, washing dishes, etc.), and is not considered a risk to human health through absorption.
Since arsenic is colorless and odorless, it is difficult to determine how much arsenic is in your water from a visual standpoint. If your water is supplied through a public water source, the water source must adhere to US EPA standards. In 2000, the US EPA proposed lowering the acceptable contaminant level from 50 mg/L to 5 mg/L. After much negotiation, it was agreed to allow 10 mg/L as an acceptable level of arsenic in water to protect the public from high exposure to arsenic. Your local water supplier can provide their testing results in the form of the Consumer Confidence Report often found on the water supplier website.
For homes on private wells, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to contact your nearest state certified laboratory and find out testing procedures and costs associated with the test. There is no governing body to test, regulate, and remedy arsenic in water. It is up to the homeowner. Huemann Water Conditioning is able to offer homeowners systems to reduce arsenic levels within the home.
Please note: this is a basic synopsis of arsenic and if you need an in-depth report, please contact our office and discuss with our certified water specialist through the Water Quality Association.