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Detected after Taal eruption

Arsenic contaminates groundwater in 9 Batangas localities

/ 04:40 AM June 06, 2022

Batangas map. STORY: Arsenic contaminates groundwater in 9 Batangas localities

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — The groundwater in a city and eight towns in Batangas province have been found positive for arsenic contamination.

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This was disclosed by Dr. Rhodora Reyes, Batangas Medical Center Toxicology Center chief, during the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council meeting on June 2, the Batangas public information office (PIO) reported on Saturday.

The areas with high levels of arsenic contamination were Tanauan City and the municipalities of Laurel, Balete, San Nicolas, Mataas na Kahoy, Alitagtag, Santa Teresita, Lemery, and Taal, the PIO report said.

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The level of arsenic in these areas was above the normal level of 10 parts per billion, the report added.

The presence of arsenic in the groundwater was first detected after the eruption of Taal Volcano on Jan. 12, 2020, according to the PIO.

According to health experts, arsenic is naturally occurring and can contaminate water and soil. Aside from volcanic eruption, other causes of arsenic contamination include mining and industrial spills.

Health authorities in the province have been conducting continuous monitoring of arsenic levels in the groundwater in these localities and the provincial government has allotted P3.5 million for regular water testing. Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking contaminated water, eating food prepared with this water, and eating food irrigated with arsenic-rich water, can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning, the World Health Organization has said.

The immediate symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. These are followed by numbness and tingling of the extremities, muscle cramping, and death, in extreme cases.

—DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

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