How Does Arsenic Get in Water?

February 8, 2022

What is Arsenic? 

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element present in the earth’s crust and can be found in both organic and inorganic forms. Miniscule amounts can be found throughout the environment, including rocks, soil, air, and plants. 

Organic arsenic is formed from compounds of carbon and other elements and tends to be far less toxic than its inorganic counterpart. Inorganic arsenic is a compound formed with arsenic and other elements other than carbon. Inorganic arsenic tends to be present in industrial products where it can be used as an alloying agent or a key component to process glass, pigments, textiles, paper, metal adhesives, wood preservatives, and ammunition. It is also used in the hide tanning process and, to a limited extent, in pesticides, feed additives, and pharmaceuticals.

While the U.S. has not produced inorganic arsenic since 1985, it is still imported from other countries and continues to be used. Concentrations of inorganic arsenic can differ depending on geographic location or based on human activities like mining, fracking, spraying arsenic-based pesticides, and burning coal for energy at power plants. People who live near current or former industrial or agricultural sources, including farms or orchards where arsenic pesticides were used, smelters, or glass factories can be exposed to higher levels by inhaling toxic fumes or eating food grown in contaminated soil. Burning fossil fuels (such as coal) and tobacco can also release small amounts of arsenic into the air.

How Does Arsenic Get in Water? 

The most common way people are exposed to inorganic arsenic is by drinking arsenic-contaminated water. Arsenic levels tend to be higher in drinking water that comes from ground sources, such as wells, as opposed to water from surface sources, such as lakes or reservoirs. Some parts of the U.S. have high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in their water supply. This tends to occur more frequently in rural communities. Most alarmingly, a 2017 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that over 500 water systems provided drinking water with excessive arsenic to 1.8 million Americans. 

Arsenic can contaminate drinking water in a number of ways including: 

  • Natural mineral deposits in the earth dissolved by groundwater
  • Contact with industrial waste products from industries that use or produce inorganic arsenic

The Negative Effects of Arsenic

The World Health Organization (WHO), classifies inorganic arsenic as a carcinogen and “the most significant chemical contaminant in drinking-water globally.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of WHO, have found links between exposure to arsenic and long-term health risks such as:

  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Skin cancer

According to the CDC, long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic in drinking water is also frequently associated with: 

  • Skin disorders
  • Increased risk for diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Acute effects of arsenic poisoning from exposure to large doses of arsenic can cause symptoms ranging from:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Numbness and tingling of the extremities
  • Muscle cramping
  • Death, in extreme cases 

How To Remove Arsenic From Your Water

Proper hydration is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But how can you learn how to remove arsenic in water to protect you and your family from the health risks of drinking contaminated water? 

Heating or boiling your water will not remove arsenic. During the boiling process, some of the water evaporates can actually increase arsenic concentrations slightly as the water is boiled. Additionally, chlorine (bleach) disinfection will not remove arsenic. Ion exchange filtration, like ZeroWater’s premium 5-stage filter, has been identified as a low-cost, yet effective way of removing arsenic in drinking water. 

The ZeroWater premium 5-stage filter uses ion exchange technology to remove 99.6% of total dissolved solids (TDS), which includes organic and non-organic sediments found in water that contribute to a difference in the taste and appearance of water. Our 5-stage filter has ​​been independently tested by an EPA-certified lab for the reduction of arsenic with an overall reduction percentage of 99%. It is also the only pour through filter NSF certified to reduce lead, chromium and PFOA/PFOS. 

Consuming water that contains arsenic poses potential health risks, so prioritizing methods to achieve pure-tasting water should be paramount for everyone. ZeroWater’s water filtration products enable people to enjoy the benefits of drinking filtered water at a more accessible price than other competitors. Investing in a ZeroWater Filtration System gives you the confidence you need to have pure-tasting drinking water right at home.