Study eyes arsenic in well water, cancer link

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LISLE, Ill. - Sunday marked the beginning of National Drinking Water Week, an annual event intended to raise awareness about water quality issues in the U.S. During National Drinking Water Week, the Water Quality Association, a trade group representing the water treatment industry, encourages private well-owners to test their systems and seek appropriate remedies as necessary.

With reports of arsenic in drinking water around New England, residents can ensure protection by installing water treatment systems in the home.

"There is hardly any issue more important than clean and healthy water," remarks Pauli Undesser, WQA's deputy executive director. "These reports send a signal to well owners that they must empower themselves with testing and treatment."

A recent National Cancer Institute study looked at the connection between elevated levels of bladder cancer detected in New England and concentrations of arsenic - a waterborne contaminant known to increase the risk of bladder cancer - found in private wells around that region.

The study found that reports of bladder cancer in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont were 20 percent higher than the national average.

This research took into consideration the fact that New England has a large population receiving their drinking water from private wells which are not held to the same regulations as municipal water systems. Arsenic can occur naturally or from arsenic-based pesticides that can find their way into ground water.

According to the study, "When investigators focused on participants who had used private wells, they saw that people who drank the most water had almost twice the risk of those who drank the least. This association was stronger if dug wells had been used. Dug wells are shallow, less than 50 feet deep, and potentially susceptible to contamination from manmade sources."

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