Arsenic: where is it?

Just because you don’t know it’s there, doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. Whether in apples or well water, arsenic shows up more places than we think – and you can see them all neatly illustrated in Dartmouth College’s recent infographic.

Dartmouth has neatly illustrated an issue OEC has been working on. Arsenic is a naturally occurring, stealth chemical. Like a nefarious poison from a fairy tale, you can’t smell, see, feel or sense it. Yet it can be suspended in our water and found in the food we eat. It seeps into our surface and ground water. It is continually being released into the environment as a product of a broad range of human activities, most notably farming and mining.

Rice grown in soil tainted with arsenic poses acute health risks. Apples harvested from trees with roots that reach into arsenic-contaminated groundwater also present a threat. And groundwater is drinking water: If you are like more than 70% of Oregonians, some of your drinking water comes from wells and other groundwater sources. Approximately 23% of Oregonians rely on private wells as their primary source of water – to drink, to bathe in, and to cook their food.

Long implicated as a cancer-causing agent, arsenic is now associated with a variety of diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Children may be particularly susceptible to its harmful effects. Long-term exposure is always possible since you don’t often know that you’re in harm’s way until it’s too late.

Here’s some personal steps that Dartmouth says you can take to reduce your risk, but if you live in Oregon – the number one thing you can do is test: If your drinking water comes from a private well, have the well tested regularly. Right now, private wells in Oregon only have to be tested when a house is sold. Other than that, testing is voluntary.

Those who do not test their wells do so at their own risk. Just ask Durene Putney from Trail, Oregon in Jackson County. Durene shared with OEC how arsenic poisoning caused debilitating health problems that she continues to deal with years later.

In the 2015 legislative session, OEC laid the groundwork for safer drinking water by bringing landlords and tenants to the table to look into better domestic well testing standards. As we work to provide safe drinking water for every Oregonians, OEC strongly urges property owners who depend on private wells for their drinking water to test their wells for potential contaminants, including arsenic, on a regular basis. And you can be certain that we will be working hard to ensure that all Oregonians have access to the information and tools they need to protect their drinking water. For additional information about OEC’s clean water efforts, go to our water page.

For additional well-testing resources, go here.

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Arsenic in Paradise

Durene Putney’s bucolic house lies on the Rogue River beside Big Butte Creek in Trail, Oregon, halfway between Medford and Crater Lake. She will be the first person to tell you that she lives in a little corner of paradise. Lost Creek Lake drifts onto the edge of her property and Diamond Lake glistens on a nearby hillside. Casey State Park frames the green vistas seen from her living room window. The Rogue River, one of just eight rivers named in the
April 23, 2015, 9:09 pm
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