Wondering what arsenic tastes like? Or, if you can taste it at all? Read on to discover the dangers associated with this common, cancer-causing mineral, how to “sniff” it out in your water, and what to do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Can You Taste High Levels Of Arsenic In Your Drinking Water?
Arsenic Is A Naturally-Occuring Metalloid
Arsenic is a naturally occurring semi-metallic element found in the ground, dirt, rocks, water, and air. It is classified as a human carcinogen and it can also be produced by human activities, such as mining, smelting, and other industrial processes.
Arsenic Found In Rocks, Minerals, & Soil Regularly Poisons Our Tap Water
There are two main forms of arsenic – organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic. Organic arsenic is less toxic and is found in living organisms such as seafood and certain plants.
Inorganic arsenic is generally more toxic and is often found naturally in rocks, minerals, soil, and even aquifers. Given its location, inorganic arsenic can easily leach into groundwater sources… and therefore, tap water.
It can also sneak into drinking water supplies through industrial processes as well as through runoff and leaching of pesticides and wood preservatives that contain arsenic compounds.
It’s Linked To More Than 6 Types Of Cancers
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and numerous other public health authorities, long-term exposure to arsenic can cause severe health problems — even at low levels.
These health effects range from gastrointestinal issues and skin conditions such as corns and skin cancer, to more severe conditions including lung cancer, heart disease, and an increased risk of several other cancers.
Plus, arsenic ingestion is particularly dangerous for pregnant women as it can affect the health of both the mother and the unborn child.
In Most Cases, You Can’t Taste Arsenic
During the Middle Ages, arsenic was known as "the king of poisons" and "the poison of kings'' because it was associated with murders and assassinations. After all, arsenic is typically colorless, odorless, and tasteless. In other words, it’s virtually undetectable by the senses.
In Rare Cases, High Levels Of Arsenic Can Make Water Taste Slightly Metallic Or Sweet
When there are higher levels of arsenic in water, some people report a metallic or even a mild, sweet taste. However, this taste is not universal. Even when there are extreme levels of arsenic in drinking water, most people will not be able to taste it. Therefore, taste alone is not a reliable method to pinpoint arsenic in your water.
Debunking The “Bitter Almond” Myth
Some inorganic arsenic compounds have been associated with a bitter almond taste or odor in water or other liquids. But in most cases, a bitter almond taste points to a compound called amygdalin, not arsenic.
The confusion is due to the link between amygdalin and arsenic in historical cases of arsenic poisoning. In some instances, arsenic had been intentionally added to amygdalin-containing products. Therefore, arsenic became associated with the bitter almond taste and smell that was likely produced by amygdalin.
The Bottom Line:
Taste Is Not A Reliable Indicator Of Arsenic Contamination.
Our tap water supplies can be polluted with hundreds of contaminants. And the mild metallic taste that is occasionally associated with arsenic could be a warning sign of dozens of other contaminants including:
Meanwhile, a slightly sweet taste in your water can be a warning sign of certain types of glycols, pesticides, cleaning solvents, and even medical waste in your water.
So while a metallic or sweet taste is often a sign of contamination, that doesn’t mean arsenic is the culprit!
Arsenic Is Allowed In Our Tap Water In All 50 States
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), the organization responsible for regulating our tap water supplies, allows up to 10 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic in our tap water, without repercussions. In other words, up to 10 ppb of the cancer-linked contaminant is legally allowed in our tap water today. Meanwhile, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests that no more than 4 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic should be allowed in water to protect the public from cancer. For perspective, 4 ppb is basically equal to 4 drops of arsenic mixed into an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
In other words, even the EPA’s “acceptable levels” of arsenic can likely carry cancer risks.
How To Protect Yourself From Arsenic In Your Drinking Water
Remember, arsenic is not just allowed in tap water at potentially dangerous levels, it’s also been found in tap water in all 50 states. So how do you protect yourself from this cancer-linked danger?
Typical carbon filters can not remove arsenic. Popular, mainstream water filters rely on basic carbon technology which is why they can only remove as few as 5 of the 320+ contaminants found in tap water. And the vast majority of them are not powerful enough to remove arsenic.
Boiling water does not remove arsenic. Boiling water kills bacteria and viruses, not chemicals like arsenic.
Bottled water is just as dangerous as tap water. While the EPA regulates tap water, the FDA regulates bottled water. And just like the EPA, the FDA allows up to 10 ppb of arsenic in bottled water.
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So if you want proven protection from arsenic and complete confidence in your water, upgrade to Clearly Filtered today to get easy access to clean, safe drinking water!
Arsenic is linked to six types of cancer and other dangerous health effects.
Arsenic has been found in drinking water supplies in all 50 states.
The U.S. EPA allows up to 10 ppb of arsenic in tap water. EWG research suggests arsenic levels above 4 ppb carry cancer risks.
Arsenic is generally colorless, tasteless, and odorless, but high levels of arsenic have been occasionally associated with a metallic or mildly sweet taste.
Mainstream water filters do not remove arsenic. Boiling water does not remove arsenic. And bottled water can contain as much arsenic as tap water.
1. What are the Physiologic Effects of Arsenic Exposure? https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/arsenic/physiologic_effects.html
2. ToxFAQs™ for Arsenic https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/ToxFAQs/ToxFAQsDetails.aspx?faqid=19&toxid=3
3. Pichler G., Grau-Perez M., Tellez-Plaza M., Umans J., Best L., Cole S., Goessler W., Francesconi K., Newman J., Redon J., Devereux R., & Navas-Acien A. (2019). Association of Arsenic Exposure With Cardiac Geometry and Left Ventricular Function in Young Adults. Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, 12:e009018.