Measuring Arsenic Contamination in Water – Challenges and Solutions

Arsenic is a toxic chemical found naturally in soil and rock but can also enter groundwater supply through human activities such as industrial processes, mining, and agriculture. Arsenic contamination in groundwater can pose serious health risks if consumed over a prolonged period. In this article, we will explore the sources of arsenic contamination, the health impacts, and the methods for determining the concentration of arsenic in water.

Arsenic can enter the groundwater supply through natural processes such as the weathering of rock formations and the breakdown of minerals. It can also enter the groundwater through human activities such as the use of arsenic-based pesticides, mining operations, and the release of industrial waste into the environment. It is a carcinogenic substance that can cause long-term health problems if consumed over a prolonged period. Chronic arsenic exposure can lead to a range of health problems including skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. In severe cases, arsenic exposure can also lead to kidney failure, nervous system damage or worse.

What methods are available to measure arsenic contamination in water?

Arsenic contamination in groundwater can be identified through regular monitoring and testing of the water supply. There are several methods available to test for arsenic in water, including:

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

This is a highly sensitive laboratory method that can accurately detect and measure very low levels of arsenic in water samples. For this test method, samples must be collected and sent to a laboratory for testing.

Colorimetric Tests

These are simple and quick tests that use a chemical reaction to produce a colour change which indicates the presence of arsenic. The most used colorimetric tests for arsenic are usually based on the Gutzeit method, which can determine arsenic concentrations in the field, but is does require the use of hazardous chemicals.

Anodic Stripping Voltammetry (ASV)

This is a type of electrochemical method which involves the reduction of metals on mercury electrodes by a current, followed by using a doped electrode as a conductor to determine the number of metals plated on the electrode and therefore, the concentration of metal in the water. It is a sensitive and precise method that can detect low levels of arsenic and can be used to generate quick and accurate results in the field, if used with a portable testing system.

Palintest’s Kemio Solution

Kemio is a portable testing solution which uses ASV to test for heavy metals in water. Palintest have introduced a range of new arsenic sensors which can be used in the Kemio Heavy Metals and Kemio Multi. The new sensors can detect both total arsenic and arsenic (III) and measure in the range of 2 to 250 μg/L.

Our Kemio instruments don’t require any specialist training, and tests can be performed on-site in minutes, meaning that a user can test for arsenic across more locations in a single day, and the arsenic sensors provide users with a safer testing method than other common field-testing procedures, which use toxic chemicals such as mercury bromide in the testing process.

Mitigating the Risks of Arsenic Contamination in Water

If high levels of arsenic are found in drinking water, it’s important to take immediate action to mitigate the risk to health. Below are some steps to handle high arsenic in water, but we would always recommend following local regulations and guidelines:

Stop using the water for drinking and cooking

High levels of arsenic in drinking water can be harmful to human health, so it’s important to stop using the water for drinking and cooking until the problem is addressed.

Install a water treatment system

If the water tests positive for high levels of arsenic, you may need to install a water treatment system to reduce the arsenic content. Options include reverse osmosis systems, activated alumina filters, and iron precipitation filters.

Seek alternative water sources

If installing a water treatment system is not feasible, you may need to seek alternative water sources, such as bottled water or a public water supply, for drinking and cooking purposes.

Stay informed

Stay informed about the arsenic levels in your water and the actions being taken to address the problem. Regular water testing and monitoring will help ensure that the water remains safe for consumption.

Arsenic contamination in groundwater is a serious health concern that can lead to long-term health problems if not addressed promptly. Regular monitoring and testing of the water supply is essential to identify and mitigate the risks.

Palintest’s brand new arsenic sensor range can help determine the concentration of arsenic in water quickly, accurately and more safely. To find out more, click here to contact the team.

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