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 GEP  Vol.6 No.2 , February 2018
Health Consequences of Acid Rain in South West Sweden
Abstract: Acid rain leads to loss of essential elements from soils and bedrock, causing an imbalance in especially dug well waters, as essential element concentrations decrease and potentially toxic element concentrations increase. In this study 72 private dug wells from acid regions (pH < 6) were compared with 68 wells from an alkaline area on limestone bedrock (pH > 7.0) in South-western Sweden. Women, drinking the water for at least 5 years, were interviewed about their health and water and hair samples were collected. The concentrations of about 40 elements in water and hair were analysed, mostly by ICP-MS. The concentrations of essential elements such as Ca, Cr, Mo, Se, K, and SO4 as well as the body’s buffering agent HCO3 were significantly lower in acid than in alkaline water. The median Ca concentration was 6 times lower in acid waters, and also in hair compared to alkaline. Median HCO3 was 14 times lower in acid waters. Mg was similar in both populations, since the Swedish bedrock in general has low Mg content, even so limestone in the alkaline area. The concentrations of especially Ca, Cr, HCO3 and SO4, peaked at pH 7.0 - 8.0, due to precipitation of carbonates and sulphates in alkaline soils and leaching from acid soils. The levels of toxic metals such as Cd and Pb were significantly higher in acid well water. High Cu concentration from pipes, causing especially diarrhoea, is a serious acidification problem. The contribution of essential elements to the daily intake from these well waters, 2 Litres consumption per day, was from 0% to above 30% for some elements, clearly showing that 10%, which is generally predicted, can be exceeded for people with private well waters, as well as provide 0%, which is the case for many acid well waters. Water elements were mirrored in hair, e.g. Ca and Mo. The loss of essential minerals, and increased concentration of toxic elements in acid well water, caused mineral imbalances in the body, as mirrored in hair. Women living in the acid area reported more negative health changes than women in the alkaline district, during the time they had been drinking their well water. The number of reported heart, intestinal, muscle, and skin problems were between 2 and 9 times higher among women drinking acid than alkaline well water.
Cite this paper: Rosborg, I. and Nihlgård, B. (2018) Health Consequences of Acid Rain in South West Sweden. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection, 6, 126-142. doi: 10.4236/gep.2018.62009.
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