Have you tested for Arsenic in Drinking Water yet?

Have you tested for Arsenic in Drinking Water yet?

Why should you bother right? Well, I too didn’t care much about the chemical concentration of our well water until very recently. But, now I do and this article is about why you should also test the chemical quality of the water that you drink every single day!

I’ve been on the search for a rental house for quite a long time now. Me and my wife have together seen almost 20 houses in the last 8 months and none of them came close to our expectations. Last month, we found this newly built house on the roadside, with car parking area, and a nice little neighbourhood and we’re bought! The only thing that was standing between us and this nice house was it’s water supply. It had no shallow or deep well as was the norm in Kerala, but only a bore-well!

A few hours of research on “google” about bore-well and it’s quality made me familiar with the Arsenic, Iron and Sulphur contamination risks. And I was particularly concerned with Arsenic contamination of the drinking water because of the following reasons:

  • Long term exposure can lead to skin, bladder and lung cancers
  • It is and was the most favourite slow poison used for assassinations
  • It can also lead to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and skin lesions
  • Infant mortality and cognitive disorders of children are common in many parts of the world

Source: World Health Organization

So, I decided to find it out by testing the water sample for Arsenic contamination. I asked the landlord’s permission for taking a sample and he was more than happy to help. In fact, he had actually installed a sedimentation filter at the point of entry and a reverse osmosis (RO) water purifier at the point of use (kitchen sink) to be on the safer side. It turns out, the landlord himself had tested the bore-well water at a local lab and discovered that it had high levels of Iron in it.

Now, I just had to test for Arsenic and I started to make some phone calls. The chemical tests done at the district water authority lab included just the hardness, pH, iron, nitrates and fluorine levels. When I asked them if any Arsenic testing kit was available, they seemed to be surprised! So, I started to dig up some labs in Kerala where this testing could be done and found two such centres in Kozhikode, my hometown itself.

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum concentration of 10 micrograms/litre or 0.01 mg/L.

The result I got for the water sample is shown below:


arsenic water test

I was shocked to be honest, at 0.05 mg/L the concentration of Arsenic was about five times of the recommended value. I had taken the sample from an outlet other where the RO water purifier was not installed and my only hope was now resting on the RO water purifier itself.

Those of you who are not familiar with the different types of water purifiers (point of use type) available in India right now, you should check out this video (it’s in Hindi)

I’ve been using a UF + RO water purifier at the place where I’m currently staying for more than 2 years now. There are many advantages and disadvantages of using a RO system. Surely, it wastes lots of water, but it can do the job if maintained properly. According to this article on NCBI, RO systems cannot be depended solely for the removal of Arsenic. It works only if the pre-filtration concentration is slightly above the recommended level. You’ll be better off using another water source if your sample shows a level above 400 micrograms/L. Last week I re-tested the water and this time I took the sample from the kitchen sink outlet (where the RO water purifier is installed) and the result was satisfactory!

Here’s a link to an Arsenic testing kit available on Amazon. (Please confirm the unit of concentration tested by this kit is in microgram/L rather than  mg/L as given in the product description)

But, that’s the present situation. Changes in the groundwater can happen anytime and is so random. I’ve to keep checking the water at least annually and do the maintenance work of the RO systems at the right time to make sure that my family is drinking safe water.

Do you know what the official at the phone desk of a reputed government water department said? He said, Arsenic contamination is not at all seen in Kerala and that it’s only prevalent in West-Bengal!

What’s the source of your drinking water? Have you ever tested it?




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