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NM EPHT Environmental Exposure: Contaminants

Many environmental contaminants have been detected in air, water, soil, and biological media throughout the state. The following provides information about common contaminants of concern in New Mexico.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found on the earth’s crust. Over many years, drinking water with high levels of arsenic can cause health problems. Learn more about the health effects and how to reduce exposure.

Blue-Green Algae

Contact with blue-green algae is a common concern for recreation visitors and their pets at lakes and rivers. Learn more:

Blue-green Algae (40.3 KB)


Mercury is a naturally occurring metal, a useful chemical in some products but it can also be a potential health risk. Elemental mercury at room temperature is a shiny, silver-white liquid, which can produce a harmful odorless vapor. Methylmercury, an organic compound, can build up in the bodies of long-living, predatory fish. For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Liquid elemental mercury primarily causes health effects when it is inhaled as a vapor.Learn more about the health risks and how to protect yourself from mercury exposure.


Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is known to cause lung cancer. Because it has no taste, no smell and is invisible, you will not know if radon is present unless a specific test is done. Learn more about the health effects of radon and how to reduce exposure.


Uranium is a radioactive heavy metal that occurs naturally in the earth. People may be exposed to more uranium if they live in an area with naturally higher amounts of uranium. Some geographical regions of the United States, particularly the western states such as New Mexico, exhibit higher than average uranium levels due to natural geological formations coupled with extensive uranium ore mining and milling activities. These higher levels of uranium may result in increased human exposure and subsequent risk of adverse health effects. Learn more about uranium and health effects.

Toxicological Profile

Toxicological Profile information about contaminants can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (EPA/CDC) Web site for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxpro2.html.

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