Your exclusive Culligan Representative in Halifax Regional Municpality

Facts: Arsenic and Drinking Water

Arsenic is a natural element found widely in the earth’s crust. It is found in some drinking water supplies, including wells. Exposure to high levels of arsenic has health adverse effects.

Over the past years, the levels for acceptable arsenic limits in Canada, have been lowered significantly with an increasing awareness of the negative aspects of arsenic ingestion.

Just a few years ago, the levels were at 0.05 mg/L (milligrams per liter or 50 parts per billion) and by now have reached 10 parts per billion (0.01 mg/L) as a current maximum level. But it is to be expected – following the example of many states in the US – the level to be dropped further and most likely to probably 5 parts per billion within the next few years.

As arsenic is both, tasteless and odourless, you won’t be able to tell if it is in your drinking water. Arsenic in drinking water is absorbed by the body when you swallow it, and distributed by the bloodstream. It does not enter the body through the skin or by inhalation during bathing or showering. The highest levels of arsenic are found in nails and hair, which accumulate arsenic over time.

Health Canada and the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider arsenic a human cancer-causing agent. Chronic arsenic poisoning, as occurs after long-term exposure through drinking- water is very different to acute poisoning. Immediate symptoms on an acute poisoning typically include vomiting, oesophageal and abdominal pain, and bloody “rice water” diarrhoea.

Long-term exposure to arsenic via drinking-water causes cancer of the skin, lungs, urinary bladder, and kidney, as well as other skin changes such as pigmentation changes and thickening (hyperkeratosis). Increased risks of lung and bladder cancer and of arsenic-associated skin lesions have been observed at drinking-water arsenic concentrations of less than 0.0o5 mg/L.

Absorption of arsenic through the skin is minimal and thus hand-washing, bathing, laundry, etc. with water containing arsenic do not pose human health risk. Following long-term exposure, the first changes are usually observed in the skin: pigmentation changes, and then hyperkeratosis. Cancer is a late phenomenon, and usually takes more than 10 years to develop.

In Canada we have the means to find out if arsenic is in your water and the devices to take it out if need be. So please play it safe.

Talk to us about appropriate procedures.

Cheers and to your health.

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