Did you know that Diabetes affects 23.6 million peopleft Amazingly, one out of every five health care dollars is spent caring for someone with diagnosed diabetes. This shocking statistic from the AmericanDiabetes Association (ADA) begs the question: how does this happen to Americans?

We know about many causes of diabetes such as family history, obesity, and physical inactivity, but one new shocking risk factor recently emerged.

The August 20, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study by Dr. Ana Navas-Acien and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University which found that "low levels of exposure to inorganic arsenic in drinking water, a widespread exposure worldwide, may play a role in diabetes prevalence."

The study found that participants with type 2 diabetes had a 26% higher level of total arsenic than those that did not have type 2 diabetes.

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in air, water, soil, rocks and minerals, food and living organisms in low concentrations.

Other sources of arsenic are from human activities, which exceed natural sources by about three-fold.

These include urban runoff, pesticides, fossil fuel combustion, treated lumber, smelting and mining wastes. It is also used in paints, dyes and semiconductors.

The Safe Drinking Water Act demands that public water have less than the 10 parts per billion of arsenic, but private well owners are not required to test their wells by law.

Considering that roughly one million households in PA rely on private wells for their drinking water, these families are at risk.

The USGS found that our area has one to three parts per billion of arsenic in at least 25 percent of private wells sampled in their groundwater assessment.

That means one out of every four wells in our area had the presence of arsenic.

Additional health hazards from arsenic in drinking water include cancers of the bladder, lung, kidney, liver, colon and prostate.

Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discol-oration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis and blindness.

Once you find arsenic by having a laboratory test your well water you can remove it with a water treatment system. However, beware of test strips and do-it-yourself test kits-they are not USEPA approved methods of testing for arsenic.

"Our Laboratory undergoes extremely comprehensive audits by the PA Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the quality of our water analysis," stated Rich Stump, Lab Director of Suburban Water Testing Labs in Temple, PA.

"Public health depends on our results, and using EPA approved methods of testing is the best way to ensure sound, valid results."

Suburban Water Testing Labs is currently offering a free arsenic water test with the purchase of their Featured Product. Testing for arsenic alone can cost as little as $25, which is a small price to bay when you think about the possibility of living with diabetes.

57 million people have "pre-diabetes" which is characterized as having higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not yet diagnosed with diabetes.

The ADA says it is possible to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes from occurring by making changes to diet and increasing physical activity. Considering this new study information, having your water tested may also increase your chances of prevention as well.

Sara Kuzma is the Client Services Director at Suburban Water Testing Labs. The Laboratory is located at 4600 Kutztown Rd in Temple.

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