A number of health issues result from long-term exposure to arsenic in your home’s water. NH has a relatively high incidence of arsenic and it is something that we treat for often. Arsenic is one of the most common elements of the earth’s crust. It is present in our bedrock and small amounts dissolve into the water that travels through the rock. It ends up in the water we pull from our wells and offers no taste, odor or color to warn us of its presence.
More than 75% of the wells in New Hampshire are bedrock wells, and 20 to 30% of all private bedrock wells measure above the EPA arsenic limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Ten ppb is roughly equivalent to a few drops of ink in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. New Hampshire lowered the Maximum Contaminant Level for arsenic in public drinking water in July 2021 from 10 ppb to 5 ppb.
People who drink water containing arsenic in excess of EPA’s standard over many years have experienced circulatory system problems, neurological issues and skin damage. Those who are exposed at higher levels have increased risk of several types of cancer. Research from Dartmouth College suggests this is one reason the state has some of the nation’s highest rates of certain cancers, such as bladder cancer.
Radon gives off harmful radiation, which is attributed to an increased risk of certain cancers. The radon in a water supply poses both an inhalation risk and an ingestion risk. Inhaled radon is known to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in many countries, second only to cigarette smoking. Radon from granite dissolves into well water and goes directly into NH homes’ drinking and cleaning water. Radon also seeps into homes through cracks and seams in foundation floors and walls.
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that exists due to the radioactive decay of uranium, a common element in our bedrock. Radon in well water occurs when the gas dissolves into groundwater. Radon is released into the air when water is used in a home or building.
Radon accounts for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. annually, and 15% of all cases worldwide. It is estimated that 100 lung cancer deaths per year in New Hampshire are due to radon exposure. Smokers are at particularly high risk if exposed to radon concentrations. Because of NH’s prevalence of bedrock, the state has a relatively high occurrence of radon in well water. Radon gas is found in all types of wells, but particularly in bedrock (aka drilled wells).
The main concern of uranium in water is consuming it. That’s how uranium accumulates in your bloodstream over time. Consumed uranium travels through our cells, destabilizes nearby atoms and damages chromosomes. This exposure can lead to cancer. Uranium is a naturally occurring metal found mainly in New Hampshire granite – which means, here in the “Granite State,” there’s potentially a lot of uranium out there.
Uranium naturally occurs in other bedrock, too. Wells that are drilled into bedrock aquifers may produce water containing uranium. Secondwind Water used to find uranium only in a specific part of New Hampshire, off of Interstate 89. Recently, our team has found it in many other areas of the state and even on the border of Maine.
As a heavy metal, uranium typically accumulates in the kidneys. This can lead to cancer in the kidneys along with the liver and bones. Uranium exposure can also lead to reproductive issues.
- Installing a new well
- Replacing or repairing any part of your well system
- Your well has a history of bacterial contamination
- You have a home water treatment system
- Your water leaves stains on clothes and household surfaces
- An infant is in the home or a family member is in the early months of pregnancy
- You notice a change in the taste, appearance or odor of the water
- There’s man-made land displacement, such as removing trees and installing lawns
- Natural disasters from floods or earthquakes
- Completed construction projects that used large equipment and trucks
- Chemical spills or leaks
- A malfunctioned septic system
- Recurring gastrointestinal illnesses