Question? Contact Us Or Call Toll Free
877-99Berkey - (877-992-3753)
FAST & FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $50

Tag Archives: arsenic drinking water

  • Study Identifies First Human Population Adapted to Arsenic

    ** Argentina, scientists have identified the first known humans adapted to cope with high levels of arsenic

    ** Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils and can leach into groundwater

    ** Scientists they did not know how populations could adapt to this toxin

    ** The adaptation is based on the rise in frequency of nucleotide variants helping metabolize arsenic faster

    ** Nucleotide variants observed in a sample of mummified women from approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago

    High up in the Andes mountain range of Argentina, scientists have identified the first known human population that is uniquely adapted to cope with the high levels of the toxic arsenic chemical found in their drinking water. Inhabitants of some areas of the mountainous Andes have been exposed to high concentrations of the naturally occurring arsenic for centuries.

    Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils and can leach into groundwater that provides a source of drinking water to communities. Scientists know that arsenic occurs naturally, and that is poses a health risk to people exposed to it over long periods. However, until now, they did not know how populations such as this could adapt to this toxin to enable them to tolerate the potentially lethal killer chemical.

    Arsenic Poisoning Arsenic Poisoning Shown On The Skin

    In a study that was recently published online in Molecular Biology and Evolution, a team of Swedish researchers, led by Karin Broberg, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Uppsala University, conducted a genome wide survey of a sample group comprising 124 Andean women, looking at their ability to metabolize the chemical arsenic. After analyzing urine samples from the women, the researchers made a startling discovery. According to the research report: 'The study pinpointed a key set of nucleotide variants in a gene, AS3MT, which were at much lower frequencies in control populations from Columbia and Peru.'

    However, a mummified hominid that was recently excavated from the region was found to have high levels of arsenic in hair samples tested. Based on age analysis on the mummy, the scientists estimate the rise in frequency of these nucleotide variants observed in the women sampled in the study occurred relatively recently -- approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago.
    The results show how human populations are able to adapt to their environment of time to ensure their survival. This particular Andean population adapted to the environmental effects of arsenic by developing an increase in the frequencies of nucleotide variants that offer protection against this toxin.

    According to the researchers: "The set of AS3MT nucleotide variants, harbored on chromosome 10, were distributed worldwide, with the highest frequencies in Peruvians, Native Americans, Eastern Asia and Vietnam."

    They suggest that this localized adaptation may have developed as an evolutionary response to the severe adverse health effects suffered by the population due to arsenic exposure in their drinking water, and the need for the body to metabolize arsenic faster if they were to survive.

    This population is not the only one in the world that is exposed to toxic arsenic in their drinking water. A study conducted in 2007 found that more than 137 million people from over 70 countries worldwide, including some areas of the US, are likely affected by arsenic poisoning as a result of their drinking water being contaminated. The limit for arsenic in drinking water as recommended by the World Health Organization is 0.01 mg/L, or 10 parts per billion (ppb), however studies have shown that consuming drinking water with arsenic levels as low as 0.00017 mg/L (0.17 ppb) over a prolonged period can cause arsenicosis, or arsenic poisoning.

    Considering that this study suggests it takes thousands of years for local populations to adapt to arsenic by developing mechanisms to eliminate arsenic from the body, this is not going to help individuals cope in the short term. Thankfully we can take steps such as water filters to eliminate arsenic from our drinking water before it enters our bodies.

    Journal Reference

    C. M. Schlebusch, L. M. Gattepaille, K. Engstrom, M. Vahter, M. Jakobsson, K. Broberg. Human Adaptation to Arsenic-Rich Environments. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2015; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msv046

  • Arsenic in Well Water Poses a Health Threat to Residents Across the USA

    ** Newly released scientific journal study highlights danger of Arsenic in private wells across the US and Canada

    ** Researcher suggests "Arsenic is the biggest public-health problem for water in the United States"

    ** Low level arsenic exposure reduces IQ in children along with impaired lung function, heart disease and cancer

    ** Many homeowners unaware of potential exposure due to lack of state regulation

    ** USGS Graphic below shows arsenic hot spots wide-spread across the US

    Arsenic that occurs naturally in private wells across many states in the US, as well as Canada, poses a health risk to people who rely on these wells for drinking water, according to a series of scientific studies published this week in a special section of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment. The studies provide insight into the geological mechanisms that cause this contamination, and highlight the present and continuing risk posed by arsenic contaminated well water due to lack of regulation across most states and inadequate precautionary or mitigation measures put in place by homeowners.

    The reports add to a new body of evidence that show that exposure to low levels of arsenic can reduce IQ of children, and existing evidence that arsenic poses an increased risk of impaired lung function, heart disease, and cancer.

    Arsenic Hot Spots in US Arsenic Hot Spots in US

    "Arsenic is the biggest public-health problem for water in the United States--it's the most toxic thing we drink," said geochemist Yan Zheng, an adjunct research scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who coedited the special section and coauthored some of the articles. "For some reason, we pay far less attention to it than we do to lesser problems."

    Soil and rocks very often contain traces of arsenic that are inert and harmless, but recently geologists have noticed that certain geological sediments can become arsenic enriched, and under certain conditions can chemically react with groundwater to release the arsenic into these aquifers. This problem is not unique to the US - it has been identified in around 70 countries throughout the world, with Asia being the most severely affected.

    In the US private wells that are mostly unregulated provide drinking water to 43 million people. Previous studies conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found that 6.8% of wells tested fail to meet drinking water safety standards set by the EPA for arsenic in public drinking water supplies, which was reduced from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb in 2001.

    Given these figures, it is believed that around 3 million Americans are affected, but according to Joseph Ayotte, a USGS hydrologist and coeditor of the special section published in this journal, distribution of high concentrations of arsenic are spotty, making it difficult to reliably predict the amount of people directly affected. Maps of arsenic distribution show patches throughout New England and the Great Lakes, extending from the Pacific Northwest down to California and across the western part of the country to Texas. In New England 20% of wells are contaminated, and in Maine, where the contamination rate is as high as 45%, approximately 80,000 residents are affected.

    Public water supplies that provide water to more than 25 people have to meet the safety standards, and while most do, through additional filtration when necessary, a recent study conducted in 2014 by the Columbia Water Center shows that 500 public water utilities (primarily small public water utilities in rural areas) still fail to meet the safety standard, largely due to the additional cost associated with arsenic removal.

    However, unlike public water utilities, private wells are completely unregulated and in many cases have never been tested for arsenic. The authors estimate that up to a third of the population in the study area are at risk of exposure to levels of arsenic that are above the safety standard.

    In one study conducted by Sara Flanagan, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty, a group of homeowners who had been notified 3-7 years prior to the study that water in their wells was contaminated, were surveyed. Forty-three percent of these homeowners had since resorted to water filtration to reduce their exposure, while 30% resorted to other measures (e.g. purchasing bottled water) to reduce their risk. However, the remaining 27% simply did nothing to reduce their exposure to arsenic, choosing to be optimistic instead.

    "People say, 'I'm not going to worry about it--maybe I'll get cancer, maybe I won't," said pharmacologist Joseph Graziano, a leading arsenic expert and Earth Institute professor at Mailman who oversees Columbia's work on the issue. "For [local and state] government, it's a hardy perennial--once in a while it gets some press, there's a little shuffle of activity, then it dies again until the next study comes out."

    Research conducted on households within the Maine study area, revealed that even when homeowners did take steps to filter their water, 15% of homes failed to produce water that met the safety standards set by the EPA for arsenic.

    Furthermore, researchers feel that the reduced level of 10ppb set by the EPA may not be low enough. While past studies have shown that arsenic levels higher than this pose a high risk of lung, bladder and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, a more recent study conducted in Maine school districts in 2014 by a research team affiliated to the Columbian researchers found that arsenic levels as low as 5 ppb reduced children's IQs by 5-6 points. While the state of New Jersey -- one of the few states to take a proactive approach -- has since reduced the safety limit for arsenic to 5ppb, 20% of Maine's wells are thought to violate the 5ppb level, according to state officials.

    "The risk for pregnant women and children is much higher," said Graziano. "We're hoping that recognition may be a turning point in getting more action."

    The Columbian research team is now working with the Maine Geological Survey and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to assess ways they can motivate homeowners to get their wells tested. State officials in Maine are also contemplating implementing a law that requires making the testing of wells mandatory whenever a home is sold.

    If you are concerned about the levels of arsenic in your drinking water, any of the systems from Big Bekey Water Filters will handle this for you.  Both the standard black berkeys that come with all our systems, as well as the PF-2 add-on filters target arsenic removal from the drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Papers from the special section, "Arsenic in well waters of the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada," (pages 1237-1379 of Science of the Total Environment) can be accessed online.

  • Harmful Effects of Arsenic Exposure Include Irreversible Lung Damage

    A recently published study confirms that ingesting drinking water tainted with arsenic can significantly impair lung functioning and cause long-term damage, even at relatively low-moderate levels of exposure. The damage is on a par to that caused by exposure to tobacco smoke over long periods, and smoking exacerbates the situation further, causing even more damage.

    “Restrictive lung defects, such as we saw in those exposed to well-water arsenic, are usually progressive and irreversible,” says Habibul Ahsan, MD, MMedSc, Director of the Center for Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the University of Chicago Medicine, and co-author of the study. “They can lead over time to serious lung disease.”

    The results of the population-based study, which were published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (August 2013), show that lung damage is yet another health issue to add to the ever increasing list of health effects caused by arsenic, including various forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, developmental problems and reduced cognitive functioning, and even premature death. The study was conducted in Bangladesh where it is estimated that approximately 77 million people, or roughly half the population of Bangladesh – the eighth most populated country in the world – obtain their drinking water from wells that are contaminated with arsenic.

    Lung Exam Lung Exam

    While the problem of arsenic in Bangladesh's groundwater is acknowledged, in many other parts of the world, including some regions in the US, much less is known about the levels of arsenic in groundwater or the risk of exposure from drinking contaminated water or contaminated foods. In addition to monitoring drinking water, researchers have now also started screening certain food items, including apple juice and rice syrup, that have higher levels of arsenic than the 10 ppb set as the safe limit for drinking water in the US.

    “It is challenging to conduct rigorous biomedical research in a place like Bangladesh that lacks the infrastructure for such projects,” says Ahsan, “but over the last 12 to15 years we have learned how to meet those challenges. We now have a large series of related findings that map out exposures and illustrate the severity of the problem. Our findings reinforce the growing interest in looking more carefully at arsenic-exposure issues in the United States,” he adds.

    Bangladesh is comprised of many large river systems bordered by low-lying plains, which makes it vulnerable to flooding, which together with inadequate sanitation has led to many freshwater sources being contaminated with bacteria. Consequently Bangladesh has a history of high rates of infectious disease resulting in a high rates of child mortality – in the '60's more than 250,000 children died annually as a result of waterborne diseases, most of which could have been prevented if they had access to safe drinking water. So, in order to prevent these unnecessary deaths, international humanitarian organizations stepped up their campaign to provide safe drinking water to the people of Bangladesh, installing millions of wells so that people could pump clean, unpolluted water up from deep underground. However, while the water pumped up from underground was free from bacterial pollutants that were prolific in surface water systems, researchers have since discovered that it is contaminated with toxic arsenic, and according to the World Health Organization, represents “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history”.

    For this study, the research team assessed the health of 950 participants who complained of respiratory conditions, such as coughing or breathing difficulties to clinic medical staff over a five year period between 2005 and 2010. The researchers assessed the lung function of each patient and recorded their arsenic levels. Patients were divided into three different groups according to their level of exposure, which was determined by measuring the arsenic in their urine as well as the arsenic levels of their drinking water. Doctors then assessed the lung function of these patients using two standard lung-function tests. Both tests revealed that lung damage as a result of arsenic exposure increased as the levels of exposure increased.

    The results of the study show that the group of patients that had the lowest level of exposure to arsenic – whose drinking water contained arsenic at levels below 19 ppb – showed no detectable loss of lung function, while the group that was exposed to relatively low doses of arsenic (19-97 ppb) in their drinking water showed a slightly reduced lung function, but this was not considered significant. However, for the group that was exposed to moderate levels of arsenic in their drinking water (> 97 ppb) lung function was significantly reduced, with the test results showing a decrease in lung function of three times less for the first test and six times less for the second. If the patients smoked, the damage was amplified further – roughly 90% of male patients smoked.

    “These results clearly demonstrate significant impairment of lung function associated with lower concentrations than previously reported,” explains Ahsan. “Those most affected were older, thinner, less educated and more likely to use tobacco. Many of these people have limited excess lung capacity. It made a significant difference in their lives.”

    According to the paper, “this suggests that a large proportion of the country's population are at increased risk of developing serious respiratory disease, including COPD, bronchitis and interstitial lung disease in the future.”

    “This is not just a problem for South Asia,” stresses Ahsan. “About 13 million people in the United States get water from a private well that contains more arsenic than the legal limit. And we are becoming more and more aware that exposure through certain foods might be a bigger issue than drinking water. No comparable, large, prospective study has been done in this country.”

    If you are concerned about the levels of arsenic in your drinking water consider investing in a Berkey water filter.  Both the black berkey filters that come standard in the upper chamber and the lower chamber PF-2 fluoride and arsenic filters will remove arsenic that may be lurking in your drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Parvez F., Chen Y., Yunus M., Olopade C., Segers S., Slavkovich V., Argos M., Hasan R., Ahmed A. & Islam T. & (2013). Arsenic Exposure and Impaired Lung Function: Findings from a Large Population-based Prospective Cohort Study, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 130712141304005. DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201212-2282OC

  • Legal Levels of Arsenic in U.S. Drinking Water May Harm Babies and Mothers

    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."

    The combination of the Black Berkey filters and PF-2 Arsenic and Fluoride Water Filters uniquely targets the entire family of arsenic oxide anions as well as the arsenic cations in drinking water.

4 Item(s)