Arsenic and Your Health

Arsenic may be harmful to your health in many ways, from causing cancer to potentially disrupting child development, even though the levels of arsenic in the U.S. are rarely high enough to cause obvious symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

What health problems can arsenic cause?

Arsenic is linked to many health problems, such as:

  • Bladder, Lung and Skin cancer
  • Heart and Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lower immune function
  • Poor brain function in children
  • Skin lesions

Who can get sick from arsenic?

Anyone can be harmed by arsenic including:


  • If you use a private well, test your drinking water.
  • If you are a parent, learn about how to protect your baby and kids.
  • Make your diet as low in arsenic as possible. Learn which foods you should limit.
  • Eat a varied diet to make sure you’re getting balanced nutrition.
  • Don’t completely stop eating a food if it provides nutritional benefits.
  • Check out the other sources of arsenic exposure to see if they apply to your family.
  • Review this site to better understand your total arsenic exposure.
  • Talk to your doctor if you think you have had unsafe amounts of arsenic.

How does arsenic affect children?

Young children have very small bodies and eat more food per pound of body weight as they grow. As a result, they get more arsenic from food or drinks compared to adults. Also, babies and young children can be more sensitive to the harmful effects of arsenic because their bodies are rapidly growing and they may not have fully developed systems to get rid of harmful chemicals as well as adults.

If you’re pregnant, your baby could be exposed to arsenic too. Arsenic can cross the placenta, which means that a pregnant woman’s arsenic exposure through food and water may affect her baby’s growth and development or lead to health problems later on.

Expert agencies such as the American Cancer Society, the World Health Organization, and the National Institutes of Health all classify inorganic arsenic, the type found in drinking water and in many foods, as a “human carcinogen,” meaning something that causes cancer in humans.

How does arsenic make you sick?

Arsenic enters your blood stream and is carried to the cells in your body. Unlike other toxins, arsenic leaves your system within a couple of days in your urine. Even though arsenic doesn’t build up inside you, the longer you are exposed to it, the more it affects your cells and over time, can make you sick. As soon as you lower the arsenic you get each day, you are protecting yourself and your family from the harmful effects of arsenic.

“Arsenic is harmful to human health in many ways. It increases the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, and may impact growth, brain development and immune function. Scientists are learning that health effects can occur even at low levels of exposure. ”

Dr. Margaret Karagas, Dartmouth College

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