Health Risks

What are the risks of arsenic exposure?

Chronic exposure to the low doses of arsenic found in well water causes a range of serious health problems in adults, including skin lesions, skin, lung, liver and bladder cancer, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, diabetes mellitus, non-malignant respiratory disease, and cognitive and motor function deficits in children. In acute doses, arsenic is lethal on the time frame of a few hours. 

FAQs: Arsenic exposure and health

What are the health risks associated with arsenic exposure?

  • Arsenic is a well-established carcinogen, causing liver, bladder, kidney, lung and skin cancer.
  • Other associated health effects include heart disease, diabetes, immune effects and respiratory problems.
  • In children, exposure is also associated with defects in intelligence

Why are pregnant women and children especially vulnerable?

  • Arsenic crosses the placenta and may affect fetal development.
  • Infants and children may be more sensitive to the effects of arsenic than adults.
  • In utero and early life arsenic exposure has been linked to adverse effects later in life, including increased risks of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers as adults.

How can people reduce their exposure to arsenic?

  • The most immediate option is to switch to bottled water for all drinking and cooking. Note that simple water filters (such as the activated carbon filters) available in the hardware store are NOT effective for arsenic removal. Note also that boiling water DOES NOT remove arsenic from water.
  • If your water has elevated arsenic, information on treatment options and providers is available at and
  • Long term, families should strongly consider either installing an appropriate treatment system or connecting to a public water supply if possible. If a treatment system is installed, water should be tested annually to ensure water is safe for arsenic and the system is working. The State of NJ has a 0% interest 10-year loan program to help homeowners spread the initial cost of buying and installing the units. 

Should people be tested for urine or blood arsenic levels?

  • We do not recommend testing for urine or blood arsenic levels at this time. Several types of tests are available; however, results can be difficult to interpret because there are no widely accepted standard values to distinguish "normal" from "elevated" test results. Test results can also be misleading if seafood was consumed during the week prior to arsenic testing, as the forms of arsenic derived from seafood are not toxic and complicate the interpretation of internal arsenic levels.
  • Instead, you are encouraged to take action to ensure that you are using a safe water source for drinking and cooking. Once arsenic in the source is reduced, blood levels of arsenic will also rapidly decline.