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Arsenic in groundwater

Arsenic is a semimetal, or metalloid: its properties lie between those of metals and those of non-metals. It occurs naturally in the earth and in the seas. It is odourless and tasteless. Arsenic is an element (As) that occurs in the earth’s crust-rock, soil, all natural sources of exposure, or can be traced to deep water brines used to produce oil and natural gas. Environmental sources of arsenic stem from the continuing use of its compounds and pesticides, from its unintended release during the mining of gold and lead and from the combustion of coal, of which it is a contaminant. Industrial effluents also contribute arsenic to water in some areas. It is widely thought that naturally occurring arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations when groundwater levels drop significantly. Surface arsenic-related pollutants enter the groundwater systems by gradually moving with the flow of groundwater from rains, melting of snow, etc. Drinking water, especially groundwater, is a major source of arsenic for most people.
Inorganic arsenic can occur in the environment in several forms but in natural waters, and thus in drinking-water, it is mostly found as trivalent arsenate (As(III)) or pentavalent arsenate (As (V)) [8]. Organic arsenic species, abundant in seafood, are very much less harmful to health, and are readily eliminated by the body.

The Arsenic limit in drinking water advised by European Union and World Health Organization and quoted in drinking water standards is 0.01 mg/l. Click here for health effects of arsenic.

Information about arsenic removal from water is available here.

Click here for general information about groundwater contaminants. Check also seawater intrusions, nitrates and iron in groundwater.

For more information check the following pages: groundwater contamination, quality, source of groundwater pollution, reducing groundwater contamination.

Click here for definitions concerning groundwater, or to learn more about its properties, its origin and quantities, its sources in Europe.


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