Heavy Metal Contamination of Hand-Pressed Well Water in HuNan, China

(1) McCallie School, Chattanooga, Tennessee, (2) Shenzhen Smoore Technology Limited, Shenzhen, China, (3) Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, China

Unprocessed water from hand-pressed wells is still commonly used as a source of drinking water in Chenzhou, the “Nonferrous Metal Village” of China. Because of the industry of mining and smelting, groundwater is vulnerable to having undue amounts of heavy metals and causing serious health problems. To study the heavy metal contamination levels and potential health effects in this area, 160 household water pump samples were collected in this research. The samples were analyzed through Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICPOES) and the concentrations of 20 metal elements, which are either monitored in drinking water or the main metal elements in local mineral resources, including aluminum (Al), boron (B), beryllium (Be), calcium (Ca), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), potassium (K), lithium (Li), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), sodium (Na), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), silicon (Si), zinc (Zn), zirconium (Zr) and silver (Ag), were measured. Results showed that although none of the samples had dangerous levels of heavy metals, the concentrations of Al, Fe, and Mn in many locations substantially exceeded those suggested in the Chinese Drinking Water Standard and the maximum contaminant levels of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The percentage of samples with the concentration of Al, Fe, and Mn higher than Chinese standards are 20.6%, 12.5%, and 14.4%, respectively. The samples with the highest concentrations exceeded the standard by 54 times, 11 times, and 13 times, respectively. Although these elements do not cause immediate poisoning, long-term ingestion might lead to damages to the brain and other health issues. Therefore, we suggest that water treatment systems should be built for these households to ensure the quality of their water.

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