Arsenic, a poisonous chemical
element, is found as compounds with oxygen, chlorine, sulfur, carbon,
hydrogen, lead, gold and iron, and is present in many rock-forming
minerals. It also occurs as a result of geological processes,
manufacturing, smelting and agriculture. Arsenic poisoning has become an
epidemic in many areas in Asia, but it also may be a problem in our own
backyards. It is used in insecticides and was exposed by gold mining in
many states, such as Montana.
Arsenic levels higher than the
current EPA standard have been discovered in private wells in New
England, especially southeastern New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.
It has been discovered in Ohio, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho,
Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Montana.
When people drink groundwater
contaminated with arsenic, it begins to kill slowly and painfully.
Arsenic poisoning leads to a host
of problems including a change of skin complexion, lesions and tumors,
possible cancer, damage to blood vessels, liver or kidney, gangrenous
ulcers, abnormal heart function, and impaired nerve functions.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning can
take 8-14 years to manifest in a person after beginning to drink
contaminated water. If caught early, however, the poisoning can be
Most private well owners in the
United States have not tested their water for arsenic levels, according
to Jeff Lackovic, a graduate student majoring in environmental