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Michigan environmental health official encourages well users to test drinking water for arsenic

Michigan Radio

Arsenic concentrations in Michigan’s groundwater are already higher than in much of the rest of the country, and they could get higher still if a drought hits the state, a study from the United States Geological Survey has found.

Arsenic is a poisonous substance that’s associated with developmental impairments, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer.

Drought or no drought, Eric Oswald, who directs the division of drinking water and environmental health at the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said he recommends that anyone getting drinking water from a private well have their well water tested for arsenic.

There’s no safe level of exposure, he said, but health officials start to worry when concentrations get above one-tenth of a milligram per liter, or 10 parts of arsenic per billion parts of water.

Well-water users can call the state drinking water laboratory to request the $18 kit to test for arsenic.

If the test detects arsenic, Oswald said there are three common options for minimizing the risk it poses: installing a reverse osmosis filter, connecting to a municipal water system, or digging a deeper well.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.
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