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E-M:/ Boron in Parts of Williamston's Water

Enviro-Mich message from joonmck <joonmck@gateway.net>

Readers of the "Journal of Environmental Health" know about the
following item, but ironically, many Williamston residents do not!

There are elevated levels of the element boron in a few pockets of the
northeast quadrant of  Ingham County's groundwater. Boron is a soft,
brown, crystalline substance commonly found in rock formations
underground. It is usually found in low proportions in the groundwater
and is not a cause for concern. But a 1999 study by Garry Rowe, the
groundwater specialist with the Ingham County Health Department, has
revealed boron levels that exceed the EPA's health advisory of 0.9 parts
per million. The elevated levels may also affect agriculture in the
Williamston area. 

Based on the information that we have from the EPA, ATSDR and other
sources, it appears that we do not know the actual impact on human
health.  Boron is currently under review by the EPA, and the health
advisory may change. 

The EPA's health advisory recommends a limit of 0.9 ppm (per day) for
long-term (7 years or more) exposure to boron in drinking water for a 22
pound child. The advisory is is 3 ppm, (per day) for long-term (7 years
or more) for a 154 pound adult.

What does this mean in English? Well, first you should know that 1 ppm
equals 1 milligram per liter. A liter is about 1 quart. Keep in mind
that it is recommended that the average adult drinks 8 glasses of water
per day, or 2 quarts. This means, that an adult can ingest up to 6
milligrams (3 mg/l x 2 liters) per day and not experience any health
effects, according to the EPA. For a child, it is assumed that they
drink only a quart of water per day. So children should ingest no more
than 0.9 milligrams (0.9 mg/l x 1 liter) per day, according to the EPA. 

In his study, Rowe analyzed the water chemistry of 1,509 wells in Ingham
County. He discovered that boron was associated with soft-water bedrock
wells, which constituted about 15% of his sample. In the 207 soft water
wells studied, the median boron level was 1.41 parts per million, in
excess of the advisory for children by 0.51 PPM. This means that
children consuming this water should limit their consumption, and that
their parents should learn more about the possible health effects of
boron. However, these elevated levels were about half of the long-term
health advisory for adults because 1.41 PPM equals 2.82 milligrams per
day for an adult drinking 2 quarts of water per day.

What are some of the health the risks for those who have private
drinking water wells? That is currently under investigation by a number
of researchers. Some medical research demonstrates that women with
osteoporosis can actually benefit from a supplement of boron. Doctors
often prescribe a boron supplement of 3 PPM to reduce the urinary
excretion both of calcium and magnesium. However men can experience
reproductive difficulties from elevated boron.

Rowe published his findings in the Journal of Environmental Health
(December 1999). He recommended that "the county conduct a health survey
of the areas in which the population has been drinking the soft
groundwater over an extended period of time." He said that, "a
lower-than-expected incidence of osteoporosis or a higher than expected
level of male reproductive system problems would indicate that high
levels of boron in the drinking water may be having health effects on

In summary, since high levels of boron are associated with wells having
naturally soft water (with hardness less than 200 ppm as calcium
carbonate), it is advised that private well owners with soft water get
their water tested. This is particularly true if you live in Williamston
and Meridian Townships.

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