So what is it?
Arsenic is a chemical element and a natural component of the Earth's crust. It is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land.
Is it toxic?
Yes. Arsenic that is found in inorganic compounds such as drinking water is very toxic. Organic compounds like those found in seafood are less harmful to health.
What are the effects of arsenic exposure?
Immediate (acute) effects from high doses include vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Long term effects, those commonly reported from drinking water contamination, are commonly observed in the skin. Observations include pigmentation changes, hard patches and lesions. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified arsenic as a carcinogen which means that exposure over time may cause certain cancers.
Other adverse health effects that may be associated with long-term ingestion of inorganic arsenic include developmental effects, neurotoxicity, diabetes, pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease. Arsenic-induced myocardial infarction, in particular, can be a significant cause of excess mortality.
Is arsenic found in drinking water?
Yes. Arsenic can make its way into ground water via industrial waste sites. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the greatest threat to public health from arsenic originated with contaminated ground water.
How can you prevent arsenic exposure?
When possible substitute typically high arsenic water such as ground water for a low concentration source such as rain water. Use a lab-tested filtration system to reduce concentrations.
**All information on this article is repurposed from the World Health Organization. To learn more visit the WHO's extensive page on Arsenic.