Analyzing the metals in our environmental waters is important because many heavy metals pose a serious threat to our health. Arsenic (metalloid), cadmium, lead, and mercury are among the leading metals found in water. Because of their toxicity, they are also listed in the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. You may be familiar with them, but do you know the following facts?
- All four metalloid or metals threaten health quality, especially children. These toxic substances have been reported to be associated with autism and are regulated in drinking water, pharmaceuticals, and toys.
- Inorganic arsenic is very toxic, causing severe problems, while organic arsenic is excreted from the body quickly without harm.
- Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic causes skin pigmentation change and lesions and eventually can lead to cancer.
- Cadmium targets mainly the kidneys to cause renal diseases and stays in our body with a half-life of 10 to 35 years.
- Smoking is a major source of cadmium intake.
- Lead has multiple targets in our body and is deposited mainly in bones; lead testing can be done using blood, teeth, and bones.
- Children absorb four to five times as much lead as adults; children who ingest lead may suffer from neural diseases and anemia.
- Both elemental mercury and methyl mercury are toxic; coal-fired power plants and methylmercury from fish and shellfish are two important sources of mercury.
- Mercury stays in the air for one year but can be stable in ocean sediments for millions of years.