Those who live in California are more than likely familiar with the powerful carcinogen known as arsenic that occurs naturally in California’s groundwater. Arsenic isn’t your average toxin that is released into the water through harmful waste, it actually occurs naturally and is an element that’s found distributed in the earth’s crust.

A lot of people fear this naturally occurring carcinogen, which has created a lot of buzz in the media surrounding unhealthy levels of arsenic in water, specifically in the California area. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in some of the recent rundowns concerning unhealthy tap water.

Here is exactly what you need to know about arsenic in your water:

How do you become exposed?

Since this element occurs naturally in the earth’s soil, arsenic could potentially seep its’ way in water supply from runoff and leaching. There are two kinds of arsenic on earth; organic and inorganic. Organic compounds are used as pesticides on cotton fields and orchards, whereas inorganic compounds are used to preserve wood and are utilized in industrial settings.

Knowing the two different kinds of arsenic compounds makes it easier to understand how we could risk exposure. It’s possible to ingest small amounts of arsenic in food, water, breathing in smoke from burning wood or sawdust from a tree that was treated with arsenic, and living in an area with high levels of arsenic in rocks nearby.

Can arsenic affect your health in a serious way?

The thought of being exposed to a powerful carcinogen can be nerve racking at first, especially considering the fact that high levels of arsenic can result in death. However, events as serious as death do not occur on one’s first account of exposure to arsenic.

Breathing above normal levels of arsenic over the course of a short period of time can result in a sore throat or irritated lungs. The chance of serious health problems increases when you ingest or breathe in low levels of arsenic for extended periods of time. This constant exposure can result in darkening of the skin and the development of small “warts” on the palms, soles, and torso. Direct contact with inorganic arsenic to the skin can also cause redness and swelling of the area.

How can you reduce your risk of exposure?

When working on home projects or anything involving wood, it’s important to make sure that the wood has not been treated with arsenic and to wear dust masks when handling treated wood. Besides woodworking, if you live in California or similar areas where there are high-levels of arsenic in soil, you should use purified water or get your water tested to find out how much arsenic is in your water source.
If you are concerned about the purity and quality of your water source, Brelje & Race Labs would be happy to perform a water testing analysis on your home or business. Find out more information on water testing here.