The quality of China’s mineral water has been in danger of being compromised by pollution, new research has found.
In an investigation published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from the University of Manchester and the University for Science and Technology (UST) analysed a large quantity of the country’s coal mining wastewater and found that levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium were dangerously high in the water.
“We know from other studies that in China a significant number of these pollutants are being dumped into the environment through mining, but until now, the actual impact of the water pollution has been unknown,” said Dr James C. Sallie, the lead author on the study.
“Our study provides an important and detailed overview of the levels of these chemicals in water samples collected from a number of sites across China’s northern and southern provinces.”
It also gives us a clearer picture of the current levels of toxic chemicals in the groundwater, as well as how the water quality is changing across the country.
“The findings are significant because they show that arsenic and lead have been found to be highly toxic to fish and fish food, with arsenic causing cancer in humans, and cadmine poisoning causing kidney damage.”
Lead is not only a carcinogen, it can also damage DNA in humans and can also affect brain development,” said Sallies co-author, Professor Stephen J. Brown.”
When we think of the risks of drinking water, we usually think of lead, but cadmite can also cause serious brain damage.
We need to be looking at cadmites as well.
“This research gives us new insights into the water contamination of China.
We have seen from previous studies that the levels we found in our samples are very low, but this is the first time we have been able to show that cadmides, which are very common in water, have been accumulating in groundwater.”
Professor Brown said the research could help the international community monitor the health of water resources in China.
“The quality of the drinking water is very important in China,” he said.
“China has a long history of environmental pollution, and we know that water pollution is a key issue.”
In particular, we need to understand the environmental impacts of the pollution in China because this affects everything from air quality to the ability of plants to grow and reproduce.
“Dr Salliews team analysed samples of groundwater from six different sites in China, from Shanxi to Zhejiang.”
Each sample is collected in a very precise manner, and there is no contamination in the samples, so it’s possible to get an accurate assessment of how the samples are being used,” he explained.”
What is particularly exciting about this study is that we have seen that arsenic is a very toxic chemical.
“As we understand more about the pollution that is occurring in China it’s very likely that arsenic levels in the drinking waters are also increasing,” Professor Brown said.
The findings have implications for the global water security of the world.
“These results provide important insight into how arsenic levels are affecting water quality around the world and will help to inform water management and water pollution control in China in the future,” Dr Sallison said.
“It will also be important for the international water management community to keep up with the progress of China in reducing the use of arsenic-containing minerals and to keep an eye on the extent of the damage caused by cadmism.”
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