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Lower Levels of Arsenic Linked to Cancer

Washington, D.C. -- A recent National Academy of Sciences report reinforcing that cancer risks are higher even with low levels of arsenic in tap water may indicate that the Environmental Protection Agency may have underestimated arsenic's potential health hazards.

This data may push the EPA to tighten the federal regulations on allowable levels of arsenic in drinking water, according to an EPA spokeswoman.

The current standard for aresnic in drinking water is 50 parts per billion (ppb), but in his last few days in office, former President Bill Clinton put in action plans to adopt a tougher standard of 10 ppb. The Bush administration, however, delayed the adoption of the new reglation until February, questioning the need for the tougher rule. The current administration asked for more studies to be conducted to avoid creating unnecessary and costly changes.

The new report, however, indicates that even at 3 ppb, the risk of bladder and lung cancer is between four and 10 cancer deaths per 10,000 people, according to one person who’s seen the report.

Arsenic is a naturally occuring substance and byproduct of industrial operations, such as burning of fossil fuels, smelting of ores and manufacturing.

The Associated Press and MSNBC contributed to this article.