Gerencia Química, Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica, CONICET, Av. Gral. Paz 1499, 1650, San Martín, Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina; Instituto de Investigación e Ingeniería Ambiental, Universidad Nacional de General San Martín, Campus Miguelete, Av. 25 de Mayo y Francia, 1650, San Martín, Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina; Red de Seguridad Alimentaria de CONICET, Godoy Cruz 2290, 1425, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Electronic address: [Email]
An overview about the presence of arsenic (As) in groundwaters of Argentina, made by a transdisciplinary group of experts is presented. Aspects on As occurrence, effects of As on human health, regulations regarding the maximum allowable amount of As in drinking water as well as bottled water, and analytical techniques for As determination are presented. The most affected region in Argentina is the Chaco-Pampean plain, covering around 10 million km2, where approximately 88% of 86 groundwater samples collected in 2007 exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline value. In the Salí river basin, As concentrations ranged from 11.4 to 1660 μg/L, with 100% of the samples above the WHO guideline value. In the Argentine Altiplano (Puna) and Subandean valleys, 61% of 62 samples collected from surface and groundwaters exceeded the WHO limit. Thus, it can be estimated that, at present, the population at risk in Argentina reaches around four million people. Pathologies derived from the chronic consumption of As, the metabolism of As in the human body and the effects of the different As chemical forms, gathered under the name HACRE (hidroarsenicismo crónico regional endémico in Spanish, for chronic regional endemic hydroarsenicism) are described. Regarding the regulations, the 10 μg/L limit recommended by the WHO and the United States Environmental Protection Agency has been incorporated in the Argentine Food Code, but the application is still on hold. In addition, there is disparity regarding the maximal admitted values in several provinces. Considerations about the As concentrations in bottled water are also presented. A survey indicates that there are several Argentine laboratories with the suitable equipment for As determination at 10 μg/L, although 66% of them are concentrated in Buenos Aires City, and in the Santa Fe, Córdoba and Buenos Aires provinces. Conclusions and recommendations of this first part are provided.