Your health risks are determined by the following factors:
- The amount of arsenic in your water,
- The amount of water you drink each day,
- The number of years you drink the water, and
- Your individual sensitivity to arsenic.
In general, chemicals affect the same organ systems in all people who are exposed. However, the seriousness of the effects may vary from person to person. A person's reaction depends on several things, including individual health, heredity, previous exposure to chemicals including medicines, and personal habits such as smoking or drinking.
It is also important to consider the length of exposure to the chemical; the amount of chemical exposure; and whether the chemical was inhaled, touched, or eaten.
Yes. Prenatal and early childhood exposures to arsenic can increase the risk of lung cancer and respiratory disease in later life. Arsenic exposure has also been associated with lower IQ scores in school-aged children and can affect learning. The current standard is intended to protect the developing fetus and young children from these effects.
Long-term exposure to toxic forms of arsenic may affect the following:
Arsenic has been associated with certain types of skin cancer. Some studies also show a possible link with lung, bladder, liver, colon, and kidney cancers.
Skin - Very high exposure to arsenic can cause noticeable changes to skin and nails. Arsenic exposure can cause a certain pattern of skin changes that resemble warts, called "hyperkeratosis." Fingernails may show ridges and yellowing. Dark or light spots may also appear. Consult your physician if you have any health problems that you think may be caused by arsenic exposure.
Nervous System - Arsenic is harmful to the nervous system. Symptoms of arsenic exposure include tremors, headaches, and numbness.
Other health effects - Other effects may include blood vessel damage, high blood pressure, anemia, stomach upsets, and diabetes.
Urine can be tested for arsenic up to a week after the exposure. Arsenic can also be measured in hair and fingernails within a few months of exposure. The results of arsenic urine tests may be misleading if you have eaten seafood, marine fish or ocean-derived vitamin supplements in the past five days.
If a person suspects high arsenic exposure, tests that monitor the functioning of the liver and kidneys should be done. These tests can be done by a doctor on blood samples.
Seek medical advice if you have any symptoms that you think may be related to chemical exposure.