Approximately 2.1 million Americans drink water from private wells with high concentrations of arsenic, studies show. In addition to private water wells, arsenic has also been found places like the California public water supply, bottled water from Whole Foods, and even Dr. Pepper.
A study has shown that drinking arsenic-laced water can raise the risk of the main pumping chamber in your heart, the left ventricle, thickening by nearly 50 percent. This puts you at risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack as the organ has to work harder and may not pump blood effectively.
The study’s senior author. Dr. Ana Navas-Acien of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that people who drink water from private wells need to be aware of the risk and have their wells tested. This is particularly problematic in areas where the groundwater is contaminated, such as some rural and Indian tribal communities in the U.S.
Although no one had heart disease at the beginning of the study, they did discover a stronger association between left ventricle thickening and arsenic exposure among those with elevated blood pressure.
The scientists reached their conclusions after measuring arsenic in urine samples taken from more than 1,300 adults and comparing the results to their heart’s shape, size and function using echocardiography. While past studies have established a similar link, this was the first one to explore the connection in young adults. The average age of study participants was 30.7 years.
The study did not follow up with participants in the long term, so further studies are needed to determine whether the changes arsenic exposure causes to the structure of the heart can be reversed if exposure is reduced. Some places with arsenic contamination have been cleaning up their water, and it’s possible this could have a positive impact on health.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth and can be found in soil, air, food and water. In high levels, it can be toxic and even fatal.
Drinking arsenic-contaminated water can cause problems like stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting in the short term. Long-term exposure can lead to serious issues like diabetes, developmental problems, and cancers of the lungs, skin and bladder, not to mention cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 140 million people across 50 countries drink water with elevated levels of arsenic. At the same time, cardiovascular disease remains the top cause of premature death in adults around the world. Testing water for arsenic and minimizing exposure could go a long way toward helping reduce the number of lives lost to this illness.
The message is clear: Knowing what is in the water you drink can save your life. Whether it’s arsenic from well water or lead and fluoride from your municipal water supply, it’s never a good idea to assume the water you drink must be safe because you feel okay after drinking it. Get your water tested, and get a filter or seek a better source if it’s contaminated – your health depends on it!
Sources for this article include: