Passing Arsenic

Lurking in the depths,
a ghostly presence
thirsts for life.
an illusion,
as it falls
through wells
and pipes
to touch our lives
with foul
and tainted hands.
Pushing at its rotten door
we peer into ripples
of malaise,
secreted shadows
tracing dark and
poisoned paths.
Danger swells
in wells that run,
a current unbound
to quench our thirst
from toxic,
ever-flowing tides.

A ‘monitor well’, such as this one in Texas, is used to check for possible contamination of water sources (Image Credit: Paul Iverson/AP).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that water arsenic is linked to higher urinary arsenic totals among the US population.

Arsenic is a toxic element and a known carcinogen with no known safe level of exposure. Long-term exposure to arsenic even at low and moderate levels can increase the risk of cancer and other types of chronic disease. As such, in the US the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates arsenic in public drinking water supplies, but private wells are not subject to the same regulations. Drinking water and diet are major sources of arsenic for most people, but the exact contribution of drinking water to overall arsenic exposure has been unclear, especially at lower levels in public water supplies.

In this new study, researchers found a connection between water arsenic levels and higher urinary arsenic in people who use both private wells and public water systems in the United States. The study involved over 11,000 participants from the 2003-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In analysing these results, they figured out how much arsenic was in the water of private wells and community water systems for each person, based on where they lived. They then compared these values to Recalibrated urinary dimethylarsinate (rDMA), which as a substance found in urine when the body processes and gets rid of arsenic is a way to measure the amount of arsenic in a person’s body. Results showed 25% higher arsenic levels in community water system users’ urine and 20% higher in private well users. The strongest links were among people in the South, West, and among Mexican American and Non-Hispanic White and Black participants, highlighting the need for action to protect those at risk from arsenic exposure.

4 thoughts on “Passing Arsenic”

  1. I cannot help but see in my mind, arsenic slithering stealthily, sapping our life strength. the words…very well chosen.


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