Groundwater is the main source of drinking water for most of the world’s population with boreholes drilled to various depths. The water source is usually recharged by rainwater which seeps through the pores of soils and replenishes the underground water. Water moves through pores and gets free from microorganisms by some natural processes. Soluble components of rocks may, however, get into this water source as it passes through the pores. These soluble components could contain some compounds of heavy metals or poisonous elements which could pose deadly health issues to groundwater users. One of such elements with dangerous effects on human health is Arsenic (As).
Arsenic occurs in water as arsenous acid and arsenic acid which may be just names as the pH of water with these compounds is approximately 7. Medical geologists have since been creating awareness concerning the hazards the element poses. Although the compounds of Arsenic are in small amounts in groundwater, they become more concentrated when groundwater contains in what is called Source Rocks. In such rocks, the levels of the compounds of the element become high, posing a threat to users.
The hotspots for this chemical around the world are more in the Asian continent. Ground and surface water in such places are usually rich in Arsenic compounds. Majority of the world’s rice and tea plantations come from this region. Research is on to ascertain the possibility and if so, the concentration of arsenic in these food items. No matter the method of ingestion or absorption of Arsenic, the effects can be devastating. The severity of symptoms and effects are highly dependent on the level of exposure to the chemical.
Symptoms from mild exposure include; redness of the skin and swellings, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting among a few others. Continuous and unchecked ingestion of Arsenic can lead to constant sore throat, skin sores which widen over time and digestive disruptions. With water being a necessity for survival, Arsenic-laden water can be the only source of water for some environments. Boiling actually increases the concentration of the element in water as more water leaves as vapour. Distillation, reverse osmosis and ion exchange are possible solutions to this problem.
Laboratories are currently closed due to the recent world health issues, but there are advocates for labs to reopen. Though the collection of on-site data may not be possible at the moment, research which had begun can be continued as a solution to this poisonous chemical needs to be found. Arsenic may not be the deadliest of elements, but its presence in groundwater makes it difficult to treat.