• Gary Moller

Harm associated with bathing in Geothermal Hot Pools

In July 2015, my husband and I, along with our two daughters aged 9 and 13, stayed in a motel in Tokaanu, south of Lake Taupo.

The emerald green of arsenic-laced water

Our youngest mentioned that she was not feeling well during our soak in the motel's private thermal hot pool. Thinking that this could be due to the pool's heat, we retired to the motel room, where she rapidly became ill. She started vomiting, had diarrhea and was complaining of a headache along with a sore throat. Her older sister also started to feel unwell, experiencing sore throat, nausea, and stomach cramps. In addition, her lymph nodes were the size of marbles on the back of her neck. We were all sick throughout the rest of our trip and became so exhausted it was a relief to get home. The symptoms we all experienced were random and lasted sporadically for months.

March 2018, we visited Taupo and Rotorua. This time we swam in a natural thermal hot stream and waterfall in the bush, located between Rotorua and Lake Taupo. Shortly after swimming, we all started to feel sick, experiencing fatigue, nausea, sore throats, stomach cramps, neck and shoulder pain, chills and sweats, migraines, vomiting and diarrhea. Our youngest started to complain of rib pain during the next few months, particularly when she exercised. In August 2018, during a dance lesson, she suffered unusual foot pain. Over time the pain progressed to both feet and eventually both legs. Due to numbness, extreme cold and pain, it became difficult for her to dance and play sports. She was tired and nauseous, and school became an effort. Beginning year 9, she started having severe nose bleeds, sometimes four a day, some lasting up to 2 hours at a time. During sports, she would experience dizzy spells and disorientation, nausea, irritability, and extreme tiredness.

Knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what was highly frustrating. Blood tests came back negative. X-ray's and MRIs picked up nothing, and after months of Physio and Chiropractor appointments, she still had random bouts of pain and numbness in her feet, along with rib pain.

In June 2020, we holidayed in Taupo. Whilst there, we bathed at one of the local thermal hot pools. Yet again, while in the water, our youngest complained of feeling nauseous. Over several weeks, we each experienced some of the same symptoms, sore throats, sweats, chills, hot/cold, migraines, vomiting, diarrhea, neck and shoulder pain and the usual fatigue.

After more blood tests coming back negative, desperate to find out what was going on, our youngest had a hair analysis.

When we received the results, we were all shocked to see that she had high levels of arsenic in her body. Subsequently, we all had a test done and found we had varying degrees of arsenic poisoning. We learnt that arsenic only remains in your blood for a brief period before depositing in your organs, fatty tissue and bones – (which is why the blood tests kept coming back negative).

The symptoms that we have experienced as a family over six years match up with the symptoms of arsenic poisoning. While we are relieved to know why we have been sick and are doing all we can to rid our bodies of arsenic, the impact has been detrimental. Our eldest daughter still feels fatigued, suffers from migraines, and often feels nauseous. Our youngest struggles to get out of bed due to fatigue and nausea suffers debilitating anxiety regarding school due to her many absences and health issues.

My husband, during this time, has had septic appendicitis and tendons snap from both arms.