U.S. Water News Online
HELENA -- A study seeking to confirm higher levels of heavy
metals in Montanans living in high risk areas proved some residents
are more at risk for exposure to the metals than people in other
A monitoring study analyzed urine and drinking water for 87
volunteers in Park, Jefferson, Madison, and Lewis and Clark counties.
The state said those areas were picked because they are known to
have naturally high levels of arsenic and other metals in the
groundwater that is used for drinking. While public drinking water
systems are regulated, private wells used for drinking water are not
The study found that 54 percent of the participants had levels of
arsenic or other metals in their bodies that were higher than
national averages, said Kammy Johnson, epidemiologist for the Montana
Biomonitoring Program of DPHHS.
The state said 47 percent of the wells tested had levels higher
than recommended for drinking water.
"But these results didn't surprise us since we only tested people
and water from areas we knew had a history of high levels," Johnson
said. "We also need to remember that the test we used for the urine
samples are screening tests and don't mean that people may get sick."
Participants received the test results and were referred to their
physician if they were worried about the results. The state also gave
them tips for making their well water safer to drink.
The state said the quality of drinking water from private wells is
often an overlooked aspect of health.
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