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  • Exposure to Arsenic can Result in Cancer Decades Later

    Arsenic in drinking water is known to pose a health risk to humans, including the risk of cancer. Now a new study has revealed that the carcinogenic effects of arsenic exposure via drinking water may lie dormant for years before cancer develops.

    For the study, which was recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers tracked mortality rates of Chilean people living in a region where they were exposed to drinking water contaminated with arsenic. The study presents evidence of increased bladder, kidney and lung cancer as much as forty years after exposure to high levels of arsenic ceased.


    Inorganic arsenic is a naturally occurring drinking water contaminant that is found in high concentrations in drinking water in many countries around the world, posing a severe public health threat to millions globally. Health issues associated with extended exposure to arsenic in drinking water include bladder, kidney and lung cancer as well as skin cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other negative health effects.

    In 1958, the drinking water supply for the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta experienced a dramatic rise in arsenic concentrations. In 1970 the local water treatment plant upgraded their facility to include a mechanism for removing arsenic from the drinking water, which led to a dramatic drop in arsenic exposure. As Antofagsta is recognized as the driest place on the planet inhabited by humans, everyone residing there at the time had no other option but to drink the water supply provided by the city, even though it was know to contain high levels of arsenic.

    The study examines the health and mortality of residents exposed to arsenic over time, and identifies 'a clear relationship between and cancer mortality rates'. The researchers found that mortality rates from bladder, kidney and lung cancer started to rise about ten years after residents where exposed to high levels of arsenic, only peaking more than twenty years after measures were put in place to reduce residents exposure to arsenic, with associated cancer mortality rates remaining high for as much as 40 years after residents were exposed to the highest levels of arsenic.

    While the researchers hope to continue monitoring this population, from the results of the study to date, they have already concluded that the delay between arsenic exposure and the onset of arsenic-related cancers makes it a human carcinogen with one of the longest dormancy periods. These findings are not only important in terms of the light they shed on latency patterns of carcinogenic contaminants, they may also have a direct implication on public health.

    The lengthy latency period following exposure to arsenic means that arsenic-related health effects may only materialize years later, which in effect means that the incidence of these types of cancers are likely to remain high amongst populations exposed to high level of arsenic long after these exposures have ended.

    However, it may be possible to take proactive measures to improve the health outcomes of people who have been exposed to high levels of arsenic in the past.

    According to the authors, "possible long-term interventions to reduce mortality and morbidity after high exposures end include disease screening, reducing important co-exposures, heavy metal detox treatments, health services resource planning, and increasing public awareness of arsenic health effects."

    Journal Reference

    Allan H. Smith, Guillermo Marshall, Taehyun Roh, Catterina Ferreccio, Jane Liaw, Craig Steinmaus. Lung, Bladder, and Kidney Cancer Mortality 40 Years After Arsenic Exposure Reduction. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, djx201,

  • Arsenic Could Affect Drinking Water of 2 Million Americans

    Many of us who have the privilege of being serviced with supply of safe, treated drinking water tend to take our clean water for granted. But not all Americans get their drinking water from a source that is treated; over 44 million US residents obtain their drinking water from private drinking wells, which mostly go unregulated.

    A report which was recently published in the American Chemistry Society's journal, Environmental Science & Technology, has revealed that around 2 million of those people are in danger of being exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic — a toxic contaminant that is found naturally in the environment — through their drinking water supply.

    A silver / arsenic rock A silver / arsenic rock

    Arsenic is a drinking water pollutant that occurs naturally in soils, and is widespread within the environment. Exposure to inorganic arsenic over an extended period of time can potentially result in a wide range of health issues, and has also been linked to varies forms of cancer. Recent studies also suggest that low-level arsenic exposure in pregnant women can have a negative effect on fetal growth and can cause pre-term births.

    While municipal water utilities typically have water filtration plants that remove arsenic from water, and need to monitor water for arsenic in order to meet regulatory standards, residents who depend on wells for their drinking water are pretty much left on their own. The onus rests on well owners to monitor their water for contaminants, and if any are found, they are responsible for implementing measures to remove these contaminants. To date, nobody has really focused on who may be getting exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic in their drinking water around the country. This study, conducted by Joseph Ayotte together with a team of fellow researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to fill that void.

    Private drinking water well next to an oil tank. Private drinking water well next to an oil tank.

    In order to map out drinking well arsenic levels, the researchers developed a computer model that incorporated existing data of arsenic levels in drinking water wells around the country. They also took into account factors that can affect the concentrations of arsenic, such as aquifer chemistry, geology, and regional rainfall. The model pin-pointed potential arsenic hotspots which were likely to contain wells that had elevated levels of arsenic exceeding the 10 microgram per liter safety limit for drinking water set by the EPA. Hotspots were mostly concentrated around southern Texas, the Southwest, a stretch of land in the upper Midwest and New England. Based on the areas identified, the researchers estimate that the wells affected provide around 2.1 million Americans with drinking water. Many of the affected people may be unaware of the potential risk these contaminated wells pose to their health.

    The researchers conclude by warning private well owners to have their water supply tested for arsenic, and to take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure to this potentially harmful contaminant. A home drinking water filter fitted with a filter that is capable of removing arsenic is a simple mitigating measure that will render your water safe to drink.

    Journal Reference

    Joseph D. Ayotte et al. Estimating the High-Arsenic Domestic-Well Population in the Conterminous United States. Environ. Sci. Technol., October 18, 2017 (web), DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02881

  • Elevated Risk of Bladder Cancer in New England Linked to Arsenic in Private Drinking Water Wells

    A recent study has revealed that the increased risk of bladder cancer observed in residents of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine over the last 50 years is likely due to high levels of arsenic found in private drinking water wells, particularly in wells that were dug between 1900 and 1950, and was not believed to be due to other bladder cancer risk factors such as occupational exposure to arsenic or smoking.

    The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), together with researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, New Hampshire; the US Geological Survey (USGS); and the health departments of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


    New England has seen higher than normal mortality rates due to bladder cancer for more than fifty years. Bladder cancer rates in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have been around 20% higher than that generally recorded across the United States, with higher than normal bladder cancer rates being found in both men and women. What distinguishes this region from many others is that a high percentage of the population living there obtain their drinking water from private wells, which are not serviced by municipal water utilities and are not subjected to EPA regulations for drinking water quality. These wells could be contaminated with arsenic, which is known to increase the risk of bladder cancer when present in drinking water at high concentrations.

    Arsenic in these drinking water wells can stem from two sources: 1) it can occur naturally in soils and rock, leaching into the water from underground; or 2) it can originate from arsenic-laden pesticides that were extensively used on crops in the early 1900s.

    "Arsenic is an established cause of bladder cancer, largely based on observations from earlier studies in highly exposed populations," said Debra Silverman, Sc.D., chief of the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, NCI, and senior author on the study. "However, emerging evidence suggests that low to moderate levels of exposure may also increase risk."

    Comparing a sample of 1,213 New England residents that had recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer against a sample of 1,418 residents without bladder cancer living in the same region, the researchers determined that while smoking and occupational exposure increased the risk of bladder cancer in this population, the associated risk due to these factors was still the same as that of people living elsewhere, which according to Silverman: "suggests that neither risk factor explains the excess occurrence of bladder cancer in northern New England."

    Using current arsenic levels and historical data, the research team estimated the total amount of arsenic ingested by each person via their drinking water consumption. They found that the risk of bladder cancer increased as the cumulative exposure to arsenic increased. When the researchers focused on subjects who obtained drinking water from private water wells, they found that residents who consumed high amounts of water were nearly twice as likely to succumb to bladder cancer as those who consumed the least amount of water.

    If water was consumed from dug wells — shallow wells, with a depth of less than 50 feet that are more vulnerable to arsenic contamination from human sources — this association was even stronger still. This risk was significantly higher in people who had been using dug wells as their drinking water source before arsenic-based pesticides were banned in 1960 compared to those that began using dug wells for drinking water later.

    While the threat of arsenic exposure from dug wells is lower now since arsenic-laden pesticides have been banned and dug wells are less common than they were in the past, arsenic exposure in private drinking wells that are drilled deep into fractured underground rock still poses a public health threat. The EPA has set the drinking water standard for arsenic at 10 micrograms/L for municipal water utilities; owners of private drinking wells are encouraged to have their drinking water tested and to take measures to limit their exposure, such as making use of an effective drinking water filter (such as a Big Berkey System with Black Berkey filters) that is capable of removing arsenic from drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Baris D… Silverman DT, et al. Elevated Bladder Cancer in Northern New England: The Role of Drinking Water and Arsenic. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 2016 DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djw099

  • Arsenic Exposure Poses Increased Risk Infection & Respiratory Symptoms in Children

    Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of arsenic during their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to babies who are predisposed to infections and respiratory related ailments in the first year of their lives, a new study which was recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives has revealed.

    For the study, which surveyed New Hampshire residents who get their water from private wells, the research team measured arsenic levels in urine samples taken from 412 pregnant women to gain a better understanding of how much arsenic each unborn baby was exposed to prior to their birth. Once the women had given birth, the researchers conducted telephonic surveys every 4 months to determine how many infections the children succumbed to and how severe these infections were, as well as the symptoms the child displayed within their first year.

    523977327_0eddaa4b3e_z credit:

    The results of the study indicate that babies that were exposed to arsenic while in their mother's womb had more infections that required visiting a doctor or that needed to be treated with prescription drugs. According to Shohreh Farzan, a scientist at Dartmouth University's Geisel School of Medicine and lead author of the study, babies exposed to high levels of arsenic in the womb were more likely to have infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract, together with respiratory symptoms (for example wheezing) that required medical attention.

    According to Margaret Karagas, a professor of epidemiology at the Giesel School of Medicine and co-author of the paper, the results of this study indicate that early exposure to arsenic may not only increase a child's risk to some types of infections, as well as the severity of those infections; but infants who succumb to these infections and respiratory symptoms could be at higher risk of developing allergies and respiratory conditions later in life.

    These findings echo observations of children exposed to high levels of arsenic in Bangladesh, where respiratory infections, impaired immune function and higher susceptibility to infection is higher in the general population due to widespread exposure to high levels of arsenic in well water that is used for drinking.

    The most common source of arsenic exposure is drinking water, particularly water drawn from private wells as these do not undergo the same level of testing as water that is supplied by a water utility, which must meet EPA standards for water quality. In the US, arsenic in well water is considered the biggest public health problem in terms of drinking water quality. In New Hampshire, approximately 10-15% of private wells are contaminated with arsenic at levels above the standard set by the EPA for drinking water. As these wells are not regularly monitored, many households may be unaware that they are being exposed to high levels of arsenic via their drinking water.

    The authors recommend that households that get their drinking water from private wells should have their water tested for arsenic. If high levels of arsenic are present, this can be filtered out with a good quality water filter that has the capability to remove the hazardous contaminant.  Berkey water filters remove this by 99.9%.

    Journal Reference

    Margaret R. Karagas, Emily Baker, Kari Nadeau, Richard Enelow, Donna Spiegelman, Susan A. Korrick, Zhigang Li, Shohreh F. Farzan. Infant Infections and Respiratory Symptoms in Relation to in Utero Arsenic Exposure in a U.S. Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2015; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1409282

  • 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.

  • High Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water Lowers IQ in Children

    Arsenic toxicity as a result of drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic found naturally in the environment is a world-wide health issue, particularly in eastern countries such as India where there are high levels of naturally occurring arsenic and where drinking water is obtained mainly from local wells.

    While the effect of high levels of arsenic exposure in adults is well documented, relatively little is known about the effects of chronic arsenic toxicity in children. The few scientific studies that focus on the health impacts of arsenic exposure in children show that the tell-tale signs of arsenic posioning, such as abnormal skin conditions and skin pigmentation, vary from region to region. Preliminary studies have revealed that children exposed to arsenic in drinking water suffer significant morbidity including skin lesions, chronic lung disease and impaired intellectual functioning.

    Earlier studies on the effect of arsenic exposure on intellectual function in children have been conducted in Thailand, Bangladesh, China, and India. Now a recent study has revealed the effects of aresenic exposure on children closer to home.

    child learning

    US Study Highlighting the Effect of Arsenic on Child IQ

    The results of a recent study conducted by researchers from Columbia University, which was published online in the scientific journal Environmental Health, shows that school children attending schools in Maine who are exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water exhibit a decline in child intelligence. This study builds on previous studies that looked at the impact of arsenic exposure on child intelligence conducted in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.

    Jospeh Graziano, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, together with his team of research associates, assessed the intelligence of 272 children between grades 3 to 5. The children, whose average age was 10, attended schools within three Maine school districts where water used for drinking and cooking originated from private water wells that are known to contain high levels of arsenic.

    The researchers assessed the intelligence of the children with a commonly used intelligence assessment tool – the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) – and found that children exposed to arsenic in their drinking water had lower scores across most of the WISC-IV indices. After controlling for external factors such as parental intelligence and education, size of the family, school district and other characteristics related to the home environment, children who had high levels of exposure to arsenic (> 5ppb) in their drinking water exhibited a decline of 5-6 points in Full Scale, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores. According to Gail Wasserman, professor of Medical Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and lead author of the paper, this decline in intelligence is significant and could translate into learning problems and problems with schoolwork.


    The researchers took water samples from an external point of entry as well as from the kitchen faucet. They also analyzed drinking habits, how long the family had lived in their home, together with how the water well was constructed and if any water filters were used. Water arsenic levels recorded in water samples taken from the kitchen faucet measured 9.88 ppb on average, with over 30% exceeding the standard of 10 ppb recommended by the EPA and WHO. The highest level of arsenic measured was 115.3 ppb – more than 10 times higher than the EPA standard.

    “The strength of associations found in this study is comparable to the modest increases that have been found in blood lead, an established risk factor for diminished IQ,” said Dr. Graziano.

    “Our findings of adverse impact in a U.S. sample, particularly in performance-related functioning, gives confidence to the generalizability of findings from our work in Bangladesh, where we also observed a steep drop in intelligence scores in the very low range of water arsenic concentrations,” said Dr. Graziano. “Collectively, our work in Bangladesh and in Maine suggests that aspects of performance intelligence, particularly perceptual reasoning and working memory, are impacted by exposure to arsenic in drinking water.”

    How to Protect Your Kids

    There is currently an outreach program underway tasked at educating families who are at risk of arsenic exposure in the region. Dr Graziano points out that a standard filter available at hardware stores in inadequate for removing arsenic from drinking water. However, affected households can take measures to address the situation. Dr Graziano and his fellow experts recommend that those exposed to high levels of arsenic in their drinking water should filter their drinking water with a high quality filter that is capable of removing arsenic.

    Start drinking arsenic-free water today – purchase a Berkey Filter water filter and get 50% off the price of an arsenic filter when added to your order. Note: because of its smaller size, the PF-2 fluoride/arsenic filter will not fit into the lower chamber of the Go Berkey.

    Journal Reference:

    Gail A Wasserman, Xinhua Liu, Nancy J LoIacono, Jennie Kline, Pam Factor-Litvak, Alexander van Geen, Jacob L Mey, Diane Levy, Richard Abramson, Amy Schwartz, Joseph H Graziano. A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren. Environmental Health, 2014; 13 (1): 23 DOI: 10.1186/1476-069X-13-23

    Majumdar KK, Guha Mazumder D N. Effect of drinking arsenic-contaminated water in children. Indian J Public Health 2012;56:223-6

    Guha Mazumder DN, Haque R, Ghosh N, De BK, Santra A, Chakraborty D, et al. Arsenic levels in drinking water and the prevalence of skin lesions in West Bengal, India. Int J Epidemiol 1998;27:871-7.

    Siripitayakunkait U, Vishudhiphan P, Pradipasen M, Vorapongsathron T. Association between chronic arsenic exposure and children's intelligence in Thailand. In: Chappell WR, Abernathy CO, Calderon RL, editors. Arsenic Exposure and Health Effects.Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd; 1999. p.141-9.

    Wasserman GA. Water arsenic exposure and children's intellectual function in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Arch Environ Health 2004;4:223-34.

    Wang SX, Wang ZH, Cheng XT, Li J, Sang ZP, Zhang XD, et al. Arsenic and fluoride exposure in drinking water: Children's IQ and growth in Shanyin county, Shanxi province, China. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:643-7.

    von Ehrenstein OS, Poddar S, Yuan Y, Mazumder DG, Eskenazi B, Basu A, et al. Children's intellectual function in relation to arsenic exposure. Epidemiology 2007;18:44-51

  • 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

  • 'Safe' Levels of Arsenic in Drinking Water may not be Safe for Pregnant/Lactating Mothers and their Offspring

    A study conducted by researchers from the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program on Toxic Metals has revealed that consuming water containing arsenic at levels currently deemed safe by the EPA (10 ppb) causes adverse health effects in pregnant/lactating mice and their offspring. The researchers found that ingesting arsenic in drinking water at low concentrations (10 ppb) disrupted lipid metabolism in pregnant and lactating mothers, resulting in a reduction of nutrients in the blood and breast milk. Consequently, their suckling young showed significant signs of stunted growth and development during the postnatal phase of development before weaning. However, litter size and gestation period were not adversely affected.

    “The pups were essentially malnourished; they were small and underdeveloped,” says Joshua Hamilton, coordinator of the study and co-author of the research paper, which was published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE (May 31, 2012). When the pups were fed milk from a mother who had not been exposed to arsenic in her drinking water, their growth rates improved, however, only the male pups fully caught up with developing young mice that had not been exposed to arsenic.

    The Chemically Sensitive Young

    According to Hamilton, offspring are particularly sensitive to environmental chemical contaminants because “they are developing rapidly. It's not hard for very low doses of a chemical to have big effects on a developing animal.” The study showed that mothers who ingested arsenic with their drinking water had concentrations of triglyceride in their blood and breast milk that were significantly lower than normal, indicating a disruption in the metabolism and storage of fat in their systems.

    “Normally, the body is very good at storing fat and glucose for later use”, explains Hamilton. “Up to a certain point, if a mother is malnourished during and after pregnancy, the offspring will not be compromised, because her body uses nutrients it has stored to nourish the baby. Her body will basically 'eat itself' to provide for the baby.” But, because mothers exposed to arsenic have this protective mechanism disrupted, they are unable to provide the necessary nutrients to the pups through the breast milk. The arsenic compromised mothers also exhibited a condition referred to as hepatic steatosis, more commonly known as 'fatty liver', where fat accumulates in the liver abnormally.

    The pups from mothers exposed to arsenic showed significantly stunted growth just ten days after birth, and at day 21, when they are typically weaned, they were still far too small to be removed from their mothers.

    The EPA recently reduced the Maximum Contaminant Level safety standard for arsenic in public drinking water supplies to 10 ppb, which it considers 'safe' for long-term exposure over a lifetime. However, many unregulated drinking water sources from private wells, many of which are situated in areas that are known to have high naturally occurring geological concentrations of arsenic, have concentrations exceeding 100 ppb.

    Arsenic Map - US

    Should 'Safe' Arsenic Levels be Adjusted?

    “This study raises a couple of issues. First, we 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 a chief academic and scientific officer at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and a senior scientist in the MBL Bay Paul Center.

    “Second, this study reiterates an emerging idea in toxicology that pregnant women and their offspring are uniquely sensitive to chemicals in their environment. There is a special window of vulnerability for both of them”, explains Hamilton. “Third, if you are on a private water system, particularly in a region with high arsenic, have your water tested so that you know what you are drinking.”

    Public water suppliers publish freely available records of levels of regulated chemicals, including arsenic, in drinking water. If you are concerned about levels of arsenic in drinking water from a private well, you can request the Department of Environmental Protection or similar local agency to test a water sample for you to determine concentrations of arsenic or other chemical contaminants. If arsenic levels are high, the best solution for those accessing drinking water from private wells is to purchase bottled water or a water filter that will remove arsenic from the water. A Big Berkey water filter fitted with arsenic water filters in the lower filter chamber will remove arsenic from drinking water to make it safe to drink. The black berkeys that come standard with every system also remove fluoride from the drinking water.

    Be Aware of Your Arsenic Intake!

    “The message here is: Pay attention to your total arsenic exposure, both in drinking water and also in food.” stressed Hamilton. “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 research conducted by Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Kozul-Horvath is an important component of our Superfund Research Program (SRP) at Dartmouth,” says Bruce Stanton, Dartmouth SRP Director. “These significant results add to the body of knowledge we are developing pertaining to the sources of arsenic, its effects at the cellular level, the ways in which it affects the health of mammals like mice and ultimately, how it causes disease and harmful health outcomes for humans.”

    For more information on arsenic in general as well as arsenic in private well water visit the Dartmouth Toxic Metals web site.


  • 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.

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