Arsenic in water: the new exemptions exclude food businesses, including restaurants and bars, but they must be respected

Arsenic in water: the new exemptions exclude food businesses, including restaurants and bars, but they must be respected

The umpteenth new derogations on the quality characteristics of drinking water have been published in the Official Gazette. They mainly concern the presence of arsenic and affect numerous municipalities in Lazio (in the provinces of Latina, Rome and Viterbo), Tuscany, some areas of Lombardy and Trento and the province of Naples.

The decree, published in the Official Gazette of 1 July, is dated 11 May 2011. The Ministry of Health authorizes exceptions regarding the arsenic content in water: maximum level 20 micrograms per liter against the 10 foreseen.

The water “in derogation”, however, must not be used for the drinking of infants and children up to 3 years of age and cannot be used by food companies that must comply with the limit of arsenic concentration not exceeding 10 mcg for liter. This was established by the European Commission, the Ministry of Health confirmed it and the Lazio Region confirmed it.

According to the document, “Water containing arsenic concentrations higher than those established by law must not be used for drinking by infants and children up to the age of 3. It is up to the Regional Authority to verify that the food industries, in the territory affected by the derogation provision, implement the necessary measures, also within the self-control plan so that the water introduced as a component in the final products does not present concentrations of the parameters in derogation exceeding the limits established by Legislative Decree 31 of February 2, 2001 “.

But there is more: “The Regions must ensure that the population concerned is informed about the high concentrations of the aforementioned values ​​in the water supplied regardless of its use, including that for the production, preparation or treatment of food”.

“Arsenic, explains Isde in a note, is classified by the International Cancer Research Agency (IARC) as a certain class 1 carcinogenic element and placed in direct correlation with many oncological pathologies, in particular with lung cancer , bladder, kidney and skin. Chronic arsenic intake, especially through contaminated water, is also indicated as being responsible for cardiovascular and neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes, and so on “.

The problem is more serious than expected if we consider that in Lazio alone there are over 5,000 food businesses at risk. Not to mention the points of sale: restaurants, bars, bakeries and pastry shops. 

The Italian Association of Doctors for the Environment appeals to the institutions “to do their utmost to fully comply with the current provisions of the law and to implement, as already indicated several times, rapid, concrete and decisive interventions for the complete de-dorsenification of drinking water and inform all citizens residing in municipalities where a provision of derogation is in force in a correct and customary manner “.

In order to immediately guarantee the safe and complete healthiness of the water, according to the ISDE, the municipal, provincial and regional administrations and the authorities and water service management companies “have the duty to act immediately using the best technologies available, for the purchase and installation of which they can and must also use their own funds, subsequently starting the recovery procedures of the amount advanced and spent to protect health “.

In Italy, over a million people drink water with arsenic percentages beyond the legal limits every day. At the roots of the problem there would be the geological composition of the territory, mainly of a volcanic nature, but also the human factor: an excessive withdrawal, higher than the recharge capacity of the aquifer, the use of pesticides and pesticides in agriculture and the presence of cement factories, coal-fired power plants and waste incineration plants that would help spread arsenic into the air, land and water. Citizens have been demanding rights and guarantees for some time, but a decisive intervention by the institutions continues to be expected.

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