More than 500,000 New Hampshire homeowners using well water may be at greater risk of cancer and other illnesses due to daily doses of arsenic in their water, according to recent studies.
According to a study in Bangladesh — the first of its kind to look at the effects of low levels of arsenic exposure — drinking as little as 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter of water on a regular basis was linked to death and an increase in chronic and fatal diseases.
“The levels of arsenic they were seeing in Bangladesh — 10 to 50 micrograms per liter — are similar to levels our citizens in New Hampshire have in their water,” said Bruce Stanton, director of Dartmouth’s Superfund Research Program, which is studying toxic metals in New Hampshire water. “And what the study clearly shows is as the levels of arsenic increase from 10 to 50 to 100, there is quite a bit higher incidence for disease and death.”
“The majority of homeowners in New Hampshire have private well water,” said James Martin, spokesman for the NHDES.
Arsenic is a metal-like element that naturally occurs in New Hampshire bedrock. It also exists in runoff from manmade sources, including hide-tanning, pesticides, pressure-treated lumber preservatives and coal ash, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Long-term arsenic exposure has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the liver, kidney, bladder, and skin, vascular disease and other serious health problems.