By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online
Arsenic is one of the naturally-occurring drinking water contaminants that registers highest on consumer concern charts. While it poses a serious threat, there is new evidence to suggest that the U.S. EPA is doing a good job of curbing that threat.
“Inorganic arsenic is naturally occurring at high levels in groundwater in many countries across the globe and can cause several types of cancer, including skin, kidney, lung and bladder cancer, among other diseases,” according to UPI.
But a new study, published last week in The Lancet Public Health journal, purports that federal efforts to limit arsenic in drinking water has prevented hundreds of cases of lung and bladder cancer every year.
“After the Environmental Protection Agency introduced tighter limits on arsenic in public drinking water in 2006, there was a 17 percent decrease in levels of arsenic in the urine of people served by public water systems that complied with the rule, the researchers found,” per a subsequent UPI report. “Not only that, but there were an estimated 200 fewer cases of lung and bladder cancer a year after the tougher rules were put in place.”
The study seems to be evidence that EPA efforts to curb contaminants can be highly effective. Over 10 years ago, the agency mandates a maximum contaminant level of arsenic in public water systems for 10 ug/L, significantly less than the 50 ug/L prior limit.
The researchers used data from six cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 to 2014 to assess levels of dimethylarsinate, a residual of inorganic arsenic in humans, and total urine arsenic.
“The investigators then compared urinary arsenic measurements from 14,127 NHANES participants in the 2003-2004 cycle prior to the introduction of the EPA mandate to those from the 2013-2014 cycle, when they assume that public authorities had achieved the new maximum contaminant levels of 10 ug/L,” according to Medscape.
While the mandate seems to have been effective for those served by public water systems, those served by private wells are likely still vulnerable.
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Image credit: "DC EPA Offices," greychr, 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/