Worldwide Occurrences of Arsenic in Ground Water

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Science  21 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5576, pp. 2143-2145
DOI: 10.1126/science.1072375

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Numerous aquifers worldwide carry soluble arsenic at concentrations greater than the World Health Organization--and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency--recommended drinking water standard of 10 mg per liter. Sources include both natural (black shales, young sediments with low flushing rates, gold mineralization, and geothermal environments) and anthropogenic (mining activities, livestock feed additives, pesticides, and arsenic trioxide wastes and stockpiles). Increased solubility and mobility of arsenic is promoted by high pH (>8.5), competing oxyanions, and reducing conditions. In this Policy Forum, Nordstrom argues that human health risks from arsenic in ground water can be minimized by incorporating hydrogeochemical knowledge into water management decisions and by more careful monitoring for arsenic in geologically high-risk areas.