Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical found in the environment and distributed through the land, air, and water, including our drinking water. It can be introduced into the water through the dissolution of ores and minerals as well as from industrial emissions and effluents.
Arsenic can also be consumed by humans through contaminated foodstuffs. However, drinking water containing inorganic arsenic poses the greatest danger. That is why arsenic removal from drinking water is crucial.
There are plenty of ways to remove arsenic from drinking water. We will look at that later on. But first, let’s look at some of the side effects of arsenic in drinking water.
Side effects of arsenic in drinking water
According to World Health Organization [WHO], long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking contaminated water, consuming food prepared with contaminated water, and eating food that has been produced through irrigated arsenic-rich water, can lead to adverse side effects.
- Arsenic can cause cancer and skin changes
Long-term exposure to arsenic water can cause cancer in the skin, bladder, kidney, and lungs. It can also cause other skin changes, such as pigmentation and thickening. The level of effects is related to the amount of exposure to arsenic and if the area has highly contaminated water.
Exposure to arsenic particularly in the workplace through inhalation can also cause lung cancer, especially if one gets exposed to this substance for a very long time.
- Other health problems that can be caused by arsenic
Soluble inorganic arsenic can also have some immediate toxic effects. Ingestion of arsenic in large amounts can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms, such as stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, etc. If consumed in large doses, arsenic can be deadly as it can reduce blood cell production, enlarge the liver, and even cause brain damage.
Testing for arsenic
In the past, measuring arsenic in drinking water required laboratory analysis, which involved using complex and expensive adsorption spectrophotometers [AAS] that demanded specialized facilities and well-trained staff – that can be a challenge in developing countries. But nowadays, there are reliable field test kits available on the market, with reasonable levels of sensitivity and specificity.
Removing arsenic from drinking water
With so many health concerns about arsenic in drinking water, many people usually wonder how they can remove arsenic from their drinking water at home. If you want to remove arsenic from your water, you will need more than just the standard carbon filter that is ideal for removing more common contaminants such as pollen, chlorine, or a pesticide but can’t remove the undetected contaminant.
The Reverse Osmosis System [ROS] is the best approach to remove arsenic water within your home or within a point-of-use water dispenser for clean and safe drinking water. This process forces water through a semi-permeable membrane under high pressure that will dispense more pure and clean drinking water and leave behind contaminants.
While most reverse osmosis systems are effective at removing arsenic and other contaminants, the semi-permeable membrane within the system can wear over time due to the contaminants that are continuously pressured against it. This may affect its performance. That’s why the RO system needs to be maintained properly to make it function as it should.