Testing for Arsenic in Your Water

Arsenic is a naturally occuring element found in water, soil, air, animals and plants. Although it has a reputation for being highly poisonous, most humans are exposed to small amounts of arsenic through the course of their daily activity without incident. However, at higher levels, arsenic can cause a variety of very serious health issues (see list below). In the 1900s, arsenic often appeared in literature as a iconic murder weapon, used by scorned lovers and ambitious politicians to poison their enemies. So when folks read current headlines about high levels of arsenic in drinking water and food, they are justifiably concerned.


This map from USGS shows concentrations of arsenic in the New England states:


Like many environmental contaminants, when arsenic is dissolved in water, you cannot see, smell or taste it. The only way to know if your drinking water is safe is to have it tested by a certified laboratory. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that one in five private wells in New Hampshire has water with dangerous levels of arsenic. Our standard water testing package at ARA includes testing for arsenic, as well as other common contaminants (see sidebar).


To have your water tested, just stop by our office in Portsmouth (or the nearest certified lab) to pick up a water testing kit and instructions. You can view step by step instructions on how to test your water here. The first step to safe water is to test!


Arsenic Exposure & Human Health

According to Dr. Margaret Karagas of Dartmouth College Studies, arsenic is harmful to human health in many ways, such as increasing the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and impacting growth, brain development and immune function. Scientists are learning that health effects can occur even at low levels of exposure, and studies have shown a link between arsenic exposure and the following:

  • bladder cancer
  • lung cancer
  • skin cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • liver cancer
  • nervous system damage
  • heart and blood vessel damage
  • serious skin problems.
  • birth defects
  • reproductive problems


According to the CDC, New Hampshire has the highest incidence of Bladder Cancer in the nation, and in fact has a rate that is 37% higher than the national average. If you suspect something in your environment is making you ill, of course we recommend you see your doctor right away to address your medical issues. ARA can help test your water, air quality, and built environment for environmental contaminants, just give us a call.


Arsenic Resources FMI:

Dartmouth College: "Arsenic & You" website is dedicated educating the public about arsenic in water, food and the environment: https://www.dartmouth.edu/~arsenicandyou/


NHDES Arsenic Fact Sheet   




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