Arsenic Exposure

You might be surprised by the amount of arsenic in well water, food, certain beverages and other sources like pressure treated wood and cigarettes. Even though you can’t see it, taste it or smell it, you can take action to reduce your arsenic exposure and protect your family’s long-term health.

How do you know if you are exposed to arsenic?

Everyone is exposed to some arsenic, but if you answered yes to any of the questions above, the embedded links will help you learn if you might be exposed to more arsenic on a regular basis. If you need to reduce your arsenic exposure, look for the What You Can Do action steps on each page.

Certain people are more at risk from arsenic exposure:


Be Proactive

  • Identify all of the potential sources of arsenic in your world by scanning the pages in this website.
  • Compare what you and your family eat and drink each day to the food and beverages that contain arsenic.
  • Learn how to test your private well, since testing is the only way to know that water contains arsenic.
  • Read the What You Can Do action steps to reduce your total arsenic exposure to avoid health concerns.
  • If you have babies or children at home, or if you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to reduce your arsenic exposure as much as possible.

Get Help

By following the simple recommendations in this website, you can reduce your total arsenic exposure. Reducing your arsenic exposure now will improve your long-term health.

Why is arsenic a problem?

You can’t see, smell, or taste arsenic. At very high levels, arsenic can cause death or harmful health effects. In the U.S., levels of arsenic in food and water are usually too low to make you sick right away.

If you are exposed to low amounts of arsenic every day, through your food, water or other sources, you increase your risk for:

Where is the arsenic?

Arsenic is a metalloid naturally found in rocks, soil, air, water, plants and animals. Arsenic has also been used in pesticides, animal feed, and certain industrial processes. Human activities that result in arsenic entering our environment include:

Burning coal for energy; mining metals; metal smelting operations; pesticide application; glass manufacture; disposal of wastewater sludges; pharmaceutical waste; livestock dips; phosphate fertilizer application; wood preservatives; and chemotherapeutic drugs.

Arsenic Exposure: Animated Information

This interactive info-graphic provides an overview of exposure and health information about arsenic in water and common foods.

Is Arsenic Regulated?

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates arsenic in public water supplies.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates arsenic in bottled water (scroll to “FDA Regulations and Guidance to Industry to Limit Arsenic in Food”).
  • If you drink from a private well, it is your responsibility to test your well water for arsenic.
  • There are currently no U.S. regulatory limits on arsenic in food, but there are recommendations for arsenic in baby rice cereal and apple juice (scroll to “FDA Regulations and Guidance to Industry to Limit Arsenic in Food”).

In the U.S., high concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic are more common in the West, Midwest, parts of Texas, and Northeast, but can occur almost anywhere. This map shows the probability of arsenic in private well water greater than 10 parts per billion (ppb), the federal maximum contaminant level for arsenic in public water supplies (New Hampshire and New Jersey have adopted 5 ppb as their regulatory limit). Note: 1 ug/L is the same as 1 ppb. Remember, arsenic is not just a problem in those regions, so test your well for arsenic no matter where you live. Data and map from U.S. Geological Survey

“Arsenic has no taste, smell or color. It is in foods and beverages, drinking water, soil, pressure treated wood and cigarettes. Learn about the potential sources of arsenic in your daily life, and make simple changes to keep your arsenic exposure as low as possible to protect your long-term health.”

Dr. Margaret Kurzius-Spencer, University of Arizona

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