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Arsenic and fluoride in the groundwater of Mexico

Abstract

Concentrations of arsenic and fluoride above Mexican drinking water standards have been detected in aquifers of various areas of Mexico. This contamination has been found to be mainly caused by natural sources. However, the specific processes releasing these toxic elements into groundwater have been determined in a few zones only. Many studies, focused on arsenic-related health effects, have been performed at Comarca Lagunera in northern México. High concentrations of fluoride in water were also found in this area. The origin of the arsenic there is still controversial. Groundwater in active mining areas has been polluted by both natural and anthropogenic sources. Arsenic-rich minerals contaminate the fractured limestone aquifer at Zimapán, Central México. Tailings and deposits smelter-rich fumes polluted the shallow granular aquifer. Arsenic contamination has also been reported in the San Antonio–El Triunfo mining zone, southern Baja California, and Santa María de la Paz, in San Luis Potosí state. Even in the absence of mining activities, hydrogeochemistry and statistical techniques showed that arsenopyrite oxidation may also contaminate water, as in the case of the Independencia aquifer in the Mexican Altiplano. High concentrations of arsenic have also been detected in geothermal areas like Los Azufres, Los Humeros, and Acoculco. Prevalence of dental fluorosis was revealed by epidemiological studies in Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosí states. Presence of fluoride in water results from dissolution of acid-volcanic rocks. In Mexico, groundwater supplies most drinking water. Current knowledge and the geology of Mexico indicate the need to include arsenic and fluoride determinations in groundwater on a routine basis, and to develop interdisciplinary studies to assess the contaminant’s sources in all enriched areas.

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Armienta, M.A., Segovia, N. Arsenic and fluoride in the groundwater of Mexico. Environ Geochem Health 30, 345–353 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-008-9167-8

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Keywords

  • Arsenic
  • Chronic arsenicism
  • Fluoride
  • Fluorosis
  • Groundwater
  • Mexico