Recent headlines have warned of deadly arsenic in bottled drinking water. Keurig Dr. Pepper suspended manufacturing its Peñafiel brand on June 21, 2019, citing high arsenic levels. Whole Foods’ Starkey bottled water was the second such product found by the Center for Environmental Health to have elevated levels of this known poison.
Arsenic is a heavy metal – actually a metalloid with both metal and nonmetal properties – that can cause disease and impair child development. Unfortunately, it is an element that is found throughout the Earth’s crust, in water, air, food, and soil so it is pretty much impossible to avoid exposure to the toxin completely.
Still, smart humans will want to minimize how much arsenic we ingest from eating and drinking. That’s why many people pay more money to imbibe bottled water, much of which is marketed as spring-sourced, incredibly pure from contaminants, and better for our health than tap water.
That’s why reports of illegally high levels of highly toxic arsenic in bottled or groundwater grab headlines. Enquiring minds want to know what they are drinking, and cooking and washing with, and bathing in.
What’s odd is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about high arsenic levels in imported Mexican Peñafiel bottled water since at least 2013, according to news released on April 26 2019 from Consumer Reports. The consumer watchdog group quoted natural foods grocery chain Whole Foods’ Chief Operation Officer (COO) A. C. Gallo when the new bottled water product was trotted out in 2015 at an investor event:
“It naturally flows out of the ground. We built, actually, a spring house over it so we can let the water go down to the bottling plant. It’s amazingly pristine water.”
Gee, you’d think the stuff had divine properties from the way Gallo described Peñafiel bottled water.
But the facts show otherwise. Between late 2016 and early 2017, Starkey Water recalled in excess of 2,000 cases of water after regulators’ testing measured arsenic above the federally-established maximum limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb).
Consumer Reports (CR) conducted its own investigation which “has found that in some cases bottled water on store shelves contains more potentially harmful arsenic than tap water flowing into some homes.”
CR’s chief scientific officer James Dickerson, Ph.D., said:
“It makes no sense that consumers can purchase bottled water that is less safe than tap water. If anything, bottled water—a product for which people pay a premium, often because they assume it’s safer—should be regulated at least as strictly as tap water.”
CR’s Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives, confirmed that Peñafiel water from Keurig Dr. Pepper warranted a speedy recall by the manufacturer or the Federal Drug Administration (FDA):
“An arsenic level of 17 ppb is a clear violation of the federal bottled water standard of 10 ppb.”
Industry and agriculture find arsenic useful for many purposes. The metalloid (with metal and nonmetal characteristics) is also produced by copper smelters, burning coal, and mining operations. Among its uses, arsenic compounds are used to preserve the wood and as a pesticide on cotton and other crops.
Arsenic can be introduced into the water supply from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution. Certain domestic industries release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment annually. And remember: some groundwater eventually becomes tapwater.
Groundwater in countries such as Argentina, China, Mexico, and the U.S. can be tainted with high levels of naturally-occurring inorganic arsenic. In the U.S., New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, and the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions commonly have higher levels of arsenic in drinking water from bedrock source contamination.
Arsenic hangs around the environment for a long time. Rain, snow, and gradual settling will cause airborne particles to wind up on the ground or in surface water. From there, it can only go down, into the groundwater.
Private wells may have high levels of arsenic from fertilizers or industrial waste. A poorly-built well is especially at-risk for arsenic pollution.
If you want to know how much arsenic is in your water, contact a fee-based certification laboratory to submit a water sample for analysis of water quality and compliance with federal regulations for safe levels of arsenic.
Arsenic has no odor and no taste. A standard carbon filter can’t remove arsenic from water. Instead, use a Reverse Osmosis System inside your home or from a point-of-use water dispenser to ensure clean drinking water.
Reverse Osmosis is a process that forces water through a semi-permeable membrane under pressure that leaves contaminants behind and dispenses more pure and healthy drinking water.
Reverse Osmosis drinking water filter systems are readily available online and at home improvement stores. Advocates report that improved health and peace of mind more than makeup for the initial installation cost. Expect to pay about $50 for a basic unit and $150-$600 for more robust and effective water cleansers.
Water is life. If we don’t drink it, we die.
Protect yourself and your family by consuming as few heavy metal toxins as possible, including arsenic.