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Arsenic in Your Water?


Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless.

Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and plants and animals. It can be further released into the environment through natural activities such as volcanic action, erosion of rocks and forest fires, or through human actions. Approximately 90 percent of industrial arsenic in the U.S. is currently used as a wood preservative, but arsenic is also used in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps and semi-conductors. High arsenic levels can also come from certain fertilizers and animal feeding operations. Industry practices such as copper smelting, mining and coal burning also contribute to arsenic in our environment.

How does arsenic get into my drinking water?

Arsenic Filter

Because it occurs naturally in the environment and as a by-product of some agricultural and industrial activities, it can enter drinking water through the ground or as runoff into surface water sources.
Most arsenic enters water supplies either from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution. Arsenic is a natural element of the earth's crust. It is used in industry and agriculture, and for other purposes. It also is a byproduct of copper smelting, mining and coal burning. U.S. industries release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment every year.

High levels of arsenic tend to be found more in ground water sources than in surface water sources (i.e., lakes and rivers) of drinking water. The demand on ground water from municipal systems and private drinking water wells may cause water levels to drop and release arsenic from rock formations. Compared to the rest of the United States, western states have more systems with arsenic levels greater than EPA’s standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Parts of the Midwest and New England have some systems whose current arsenic levels are greater than 10 ppb, but more systems with arsenic levels that range from 2-10 ppb. While many systems may not have detected arsenic in their drinking water above 10 ppb, there may be geographic "hot spots" with systems that may have higher levels of arsenic than the predicted occurrence for that area.

What are arsenic's health effects?

According to a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences, human exposure to arsenic can cause both short and long term health effects.  Short or acute effects can occur within hours or days of exposure. Long or chronic effects occur over many years. Long term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver and prostate. The study also found that arsenic harms the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems. It also may cause birth defects and reproductive problems

Does it occur often?

In a February 2000 report, NRDC analyzed data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on arsenic in drinking water in 25 states. Our most conservative estimates based on the data indicated that more than 34 million Americans were drinking tap water supplied by systems containing average levels of arsenic that posed unacceptable cancer risks. We consider it likely that as many as 56 million people in those 25 states were drinking water with arsenic at unsafe levels -- and that's just the 25 states that reported arsenic information to the EPA.

Can water systems reduce arsenic levels in drinking water?

Yes. Some systems may be able to reduce arsenic levels by cleaning up or changing the source of their water. For example, some arsenic contamination results from leaching from old waste dumps, mines or tailings, or from past use of arsenic-containing pesticides. In other cases, arsenic in drinking water is caused by continuing industrial pollution. Government officials, water system managers and citizens can join forces to ensure that polluters are held accountable for cleaning up contaminated sites and reducing or eliminating new arsenic pollution. In addition, readily available treatments can remove arsenic from tap water.

I drink bottled water-- Do I have to worry about arsenic?

Bottled water is not necessarily any safer than tap water. Often, it is nothing more than tap water that may or may not have been filtered. Click Here for more on bottled water.

How Do You Filter Arsenic from Water?

Fresh Water Depot uses a synthetic resin embedded with ferrous oxide to attract and bind the arsenic. The cartridge is rated at 1500-2000 gallons and best changed once a year. The cartridge is more suited for municipal sources where the arsenic would be mostly or all in the A5/arsenate form. If more than 25% of the arsenic is in the A3/arsenite form, this cartridge may not perform satisfactorily.

Based on ARSENIC AND OLD LAWS, a February 2000 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

There are two basic types of water filter. Those that are installed inside a water ionizer and those that are installed outside a water ionizer or as a standalone filter. External filter systems can be configured in any number of stages with each stage removing a particular type or group of contaminants. Removing one type or group of contaminants is often considered a 1-Stage filter (i.e. removing either chlorine, fluoride-lead-arsenic, or nitrates). Filters can be combined to form any number of stages to form: 2-Stage, 3-Stage, and even 7-Stage (i.e. reverse osmosis) filter systems. How many stages you need to filter your water depends on the possible contaminants in your water. The most common water contaminants include:

By combining different filters into a 2-Stage or 3-Stage system, you can remove multiple contaminants to produce a higher quality drinking water than with just a 1-Stage filter. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are more expensive, however, they are recommended for removing the highest percent (up to 99%) of contaminants from your water.

Please contact our customer support center for help with your water ionizer questions.

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