We've previously posted about the dangers of Arsenic in drinking water and the importance of testing well water that isn't regulated by state or federal Arsenic standards, but a new study indicates that everyone may have more to worry about than we thought. Researchers from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth published a study showing that the Arsenic in drinking water at the Environmental Protection Agency's current limit may cause significant harm to babies and mothers:
Pregnant and/or breastfeeding mothers who consumed low levels (10 ppb) of arsenic in their drinking water, the scientists found, exhibited significant disruption in their lipid metabolism, leading to diminished nutrients in their blood and in their breast milk. As a result, their offspring showed significant growth and development deficits during the postnatal period before weaning. Birth outcomes such as litter size and length of gestation were unaffected.
EPA Drinking Water Regulations Not Protecting Women and Children from Arsenic?
"[W]e gave [mice] drinking water with arsenic in it with exactly the same dose that you can drink out of your tap that the EPA says is safe, and bad things happened to them" author Dr. Joshua Hamilton of the Marine Biological Laboratory told Fox News. "It needs further investigation, but certainly it's a cautionary tale that at such a low dose, we're seeing these dramatic effects on these animals."
The researchers suggest that arsenic disrupts a pregnant or nursing mother's metabolism, making less nutrition available to her fetus or baby through blood or breastmilk. Additionally, arsenic-exposed mothers developed non-alcoholic "fatty liver" disease, for which the implications are not clear but is connected to metabolic syndrome (hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol). The effect on her offspring was clear:
As early as day 10 after birth, the pups of arsenic-exposed mothers showed significant deficits in growth, as evidenced by body weight. At the typical time of weaning (21 days after birth), many of the arsenic-exposed offspring were so small that it was not feasible to separate them from their mothers.
The authors of this study didn't actually set out to study the effect of arsenic on growth and development. They had intended to study the susceptibility of mice exposed to arsenic to subsequent flu exposure, but the effects of the arsenic alone were so dramatic that the researchers aborted their study. "[W]e have to think again about whether 10 ppb arsenic as a U.S. drinking water standard is safe and protective of human health", says Hamilton, who is the MBL's chief academic and scientific officer and a senior scientist in the MBL Bay Paul Center.
Get The Arsenic Out of Your Water with A Berkey Arsenic Water Filter
Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal. It is a bi-product of many mining operations and used in a wide variety of industrial processes and as a pesticide. Meat, fish and poultry are responsible for about 80% of dietary exposure for most Americans. Arsenic can also be inhaled from burning of fossil fuels that contain arsenic, cotton gins, glass manufacturing operations, pesticide manufacturing facilities, smelters, and tobacco smoke.
"The message here is, pay attention to your total arsenic exposure, both in drinking water and also in food.", Hamilton says. "Pregnant women, especially, need to be very careful and protective of their health. Environmental chemicals such as arsenic, along with tobacco, alcohol, drugs; all of these chemicals are potential stressors to pregnant women and their offspring."