Arsenic in Maryland’s well water increases risk for heart disease. This statement arises from two simple facts. First, that even low to moderate levels of arsenic cause heart and vascular disease and secondly, that low to moderate levels of arsenic have been detected in two of the main aquifers which provide the well water for large sections of Anne Arundel county as well as parts of the Eastern Shore.
In a October 30, 2014 article in the New York Times, titled “A Heart Risk in Drinking Water”, Deborah Blum discusses the findings of Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who is quoted as saying, “On the question of whether arsenic is a cardiovascular risk, I would say yes, and I would put my hand in the fire to that.”
Dr. Navas-Acien further stated, “We’re increasingly understanding the environmental risks for cardiovascular disease,” she said. “Air pollution, lead, cadmium and arsenic are all proven factors. Which leads to a responsibility to do something about that.”
It is well established that high levels of arsenic exposure can cause illness. Studies conducted have suggested that individuals exposed to high levels of arsenic in drinking water (more than 100 μg/L) are at greater risk of peripheral artery disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis, according to the study’s authors.
But in 2013, an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine titled, “Association Between Exposure to Low to Moderate Arsenic Levels and Incident Cardiovascular Disease” concluded that “Long-term exposure to low to moderate arsenic levels was associated with cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality.” The important findings revolved around “low to moderate” arsenic levels–rather than “high” levels.
Research conducted by the Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) confirmed the presence of detectable arsenic in drinking water wells located in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Worcester counties. The aquifers primarily affected are the Piney Point and Aquia.
A tremendous resource can be found in an interactive map of arsenic levels for the Aquia and Piney Point aquifers. Click here to see what levels have been detected in your area: http://www.mgs.md.gov/groundwater/arsenic%20interactive.html.
The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) Water Management Administration has published a very simple and basic resources as well, in February 2008, that reviews Arsenic risk as it relates to Maryland well water in a very nice fact sheet entitled, “Arsenic Water Treatment for Individual Wells in Maryland.” The reader will also find information about how to have their water tested and what to do if levels come back higher than acceptable levels.