is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is
odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water
supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from
agricultural and industrial practices.
studies have shown that arsenic has been linked to
cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal
passages, liver, and prostate1.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Department
of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have
determined that inorganic arsenic can cause cancer
Non-cancer effects can include thickening
and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea,
vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet;
partial paralysis; and blindness.
to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), arsenic can
enter the water supply from natural deposits in the
earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution.
Arsenic is a natural element used for a variety of
purposes within industry and agriculture. It is also
a byproduct of copper smelting, mining, and coal
burning. Industries in the United States release
thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment
every year. Once released, arsenic remains in the
environment for a long time.
It is widely believed that naturally occurring
arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations
when ground water levels drop significantly. Surface
arsenic-related pollutants enter the ground water
system by gradually moving with the flow of ground
water from rain, melting snow, and so on.
High arsenic levels may come from certain
fertilizers, animal feedlots, and industrial waste.
High levels of arsenic found in well water are often
used to indicate improper well construction, or the
location or overuse of chemical fertilizers or
NATIONAL ARSENIC OCCURRENCE MAP
EPA has set the arsenic standard for
drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts
per billion) to protect consumers served by public
water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic
exposure to arsenic. Water systems must comply with
this standard by January 23, 2006, providing
additional protection to an estimated 13 million
This map is intended to show the general areas
that are hardest hit by the highest levels of
arsenic. However, to determine whether arsenic has
been found in a particular public water system,
according to data reported to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, refer to the table of water
systems reported in Appendix A. The map cannot be
used by itself to identify whether a particular
water system has an arsenic problem, because often
there are several water systems located immediately
adjacent to each other, and the map was generated at
a scale that cannot be used to identify precisely
which water system contains a given level of
What should I do if I have concerns about arsenic
One thing you can do is have your water
tested. For AMI pricing on testing water for arsenic
You should also see your health care provider to
discuss your concerns. For more information, call
the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR), Division of Toxicology at 1-888-422-8737.
arsenic exposure diagnosed?
Talk to your doctor about tests that
measure the level of arsenic in your body. Arsenic
can be measured in blood, urine, hair and
fingernails. Testing urine will tell you if you have
been exposed to arsenic in the last few days.
Testing hair and fingernails will tell you if you
have been exposed to arsenic in the past six to
twelve months. These tests will tell you if it was
arsenic that made you sick. However, the tests
cannot tell if the arsenic will make you sick in the
What is the treatment for arsenic exposure?
There is no effective treatment for arsenic
exposure. Your health care provider can only help
provide relief from your symptoms.3
Can I remove arsenic from my drinking water?
Yes. There are several types of
point-of-use, in home filters that can be used to
remove arsenic from drinking water, which use
methods such as reverse osmosis, ultra-filtration,
and ion exchange. Distilling the water can also be
used to remove arsenic. If you want to know more
about these removal technologies, please contact NSF
International, an organization for public health and
safety through standards development, product
certification, education, and risk-management.
Contact information is provided below. Boiling water
will not remove arsenic and could slightly increase
the concentration of arsenic in your water if you
continue boiling and lose a large amount of water as
steam. Chlorine (bleach) disinfection will also not
Is my private well at risk from arsenic?
Like many contaminants that enter
drinking water supplies, arsenic is potentially
hazardous at high levels. Because you cannot see or
taste arsenic in water, it is up to the well owner
to test for arsenic. Arsenic tends to occur more
frequently in ground water supplies, especially when
demand causes significant drops in water levels in
certain areas. It is best to consult your local
health department about this situation and ask about
your area. You may also wish to talk with your state
geological survey office or USDA agent.4