Chemical biohazard signArsenic, described as notoriously poisonous to multicellular life, is a common groundwater contamination that affects millions of people worldwide. Contamination is strongest in areas near mining operations. Arsenic, famous as the lethal weapon in many murder mysteries, has many legitimate uses: strengthening copper and lead plumbing pipes, batteries for cars and electronic devices, fireworks, bullets, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and treated woods. In literature, arsenic is known as the Poison of Kings and the King of Poisons.

Victorian women of wealth used a blend of arsenic, chalk, and vinegar as a drink or lotion to rub on face and arms to improve and lighten their complexions. Using “white arsenic” sent a public message that these refined ladies did not work in fields.

The most heavily treated food crops have highest contamination rates. Rice, grown in marshy fields irrigated with groundwater, is especially vulnerable.

Arsenic’s Effect on Fertility, Pregnancy and Baby
Long-term exposure can lead to cancers of the bladder, kidney, liver, lungs, nose, and skin.

Fertility

Baby

  • Increased risk of life-threatening diarrhea
  • Epigenetic changes that may hinder lung development
  • Increased susceptibility to influenza, lower respiratory infections, and bronchitis into adulthood

To Minimize Exposure

  • Test home water supply and use arsenic-specific water filters.
  • Eat a varied diet composed of organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Fish, algae, and mushrooms often contain a high concentration of inorganic arsenic said to be non-toxic. Consume with caution, especially if pregnant or hoping to become so in the near future.
  • Use twice as much water, preferably filtered, as a recipe calls for when cooking rice. Cook it separately, drain off the excess water, and then combine it with any other ingredients in the dish.
  • Recycle batteries from cars and electronic devices to keep arsenic out of landfill groundwater.

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Source: Ramsey, Kathryn A, et al. “Early Life Arsenic Exposure and Acute and Long-term Responses to Influenza A Infection in Mice.” Environmental Health Perspectives. US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health. October 1, 2013. Web. November 20, 2013.