Arsenic is a metalloid or a semimetal meaning an element whose properties are intermediate between those of metals and semi non-metals (or semi-conductors). It is widely distributed in the earth’s crust and naturally occurring in more than 200 mineral species. In the purest form it is a crystal, however, the grey metallic form is widely used by industries. Owing to its semi-conducting traits, arsenic is heavily used in the making of electronic products. Arsenic poses a lot of threat to the welfare of humanity and most of them are turning towards installing an RO Water Purifier at home to battle arsenic contaminated water.
Naturally occurring arsenic can be found in the atmospheric flux, soil, groundwater, and seawater, which means it is available in water, air, soil, and food. Evidence indicates that many animals including humans contain traces of arsenic. Plants absorb arsenic. Leafy vegetables and seafood contain concentrations of arsenic. Exposure or consumption of arsenic more than a specified level causes severe carcinogenic effects.
According to National Institutes Of Health, the source of arsenic in groundwater are the percolation of water from mines, dissolution of arsenic containing minerals and from agricultural fields infested with pesticides and insecticides. Arsenic seems to be making it’s way into consumer goods such as fruit juices and rice as reported by Consumer Reports in 2012.
Exposure over a brief period causes symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and brain disorders. Long term exposure can result in thickening of the skin, darker skin, abdominal pain, diarrhea, heart disease, and cancer. Even though the arsenic compound, arsphenamine is widely used in modern chemotherapy, the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health report that arsenic causes cancer.
Occupational exposure happens in industries that produce electronic goods, pesticides, and during the mining and smelting of zinc and copper ores. In electronics, arsenic is used in making microchips that combine to make smart phone screens, LCD displays, and gadgets. Agriculturalists who use arsenic to keep off bats, insects and pests are also exposed to this toxic element. The water run-off from mines carries arsenic to rivers thus polluting the villages that the rivers run by.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that the subject of arsenic contamination in drinking water needs awareness and testing in rural and urban areas accessing groundwater. Arsenic contamination is a global concern, which has been reported in Bangladesh, Canada, China, Chile, India, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, and the USA.
The Bengal basin shared by Bangladesh and India contains naturally occurring arsenic. The book Arsenic: Environmental Chemistry, Health Threats and Waste Treatment by Kevin Henke estimates that 57 million people in the Bengal basin are drinking groundwater with arsenic concentrations much higher than the WHO standards. Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by arsenic contamination. It is alarming to note that arsenic contamination is spreading across the Ganga plains up to Punjab. Many parts of the Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra plain are arsenic affected.
Over the years many surveys have been conducted all over the world to detect arsenic contamination in water. The Central Groundwater Board of India states that with every additional survey new arsenic affected villages and it’s inhabitants are being reported.
There are several arsenic removal technologies that have been tested so far for Arsenic remediation, including ion exchange, reverse osmosis, membrane filtration, etc. However, it is important that the method is simple, cost efficient, no power consuming and transferable so that it can be effectively used by people in low-income areas. Bhabha Atomic research Centre (BARC) uses RO (reverse osmosis) method of purifying water not just for desalination but also for removing metals and ions such as arsenic, chlorine, copper, lead, nitrate, zinc, sodium, radium, and iron, etc.
RO purifiers are cost-effective, ergonomic, and do not need power as they are gravity-based.