Health Effects of Arsenic

By: Ali Gorman, R.N.
By: Ali Gorman, R.N.

With news that the water supply at Gunnisonville Elementary School will not meet new standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency come January, many people are questioning what are the health effects of a high concentration of arsenic in drinking water.

Short-term effects include:

  • Stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin irritation
  • Tingling in the hands and feet

Long-term effects include:

  • Thickening of the skin
  • Heart and blood vessel damage
  • Increased risk for cancer

Robert McCann of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality says the short-term effects are not a concern because levels of arsenic in the water would have to be in the 100s to 1000s parts per billion. This is a concentration not found naturally. However, the long-term effects could be seen if someone drank well water that did not meet EPA standards for 10 to 15 years.

Whether someone would be affected would depend on their body composition, how high the level of arsenic was and how long they were exposed.

All well-water is tested every three years and more frequently if it does not meet standards.

The school district at Gunnisonville Elementary will be working with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department to remedy the problem there. School officials say they are being proactive by having kids drink only bottled water. The EPA guidelines are set to switch this January.


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