Arsenic is an element found in nature. It is used to harden copper and make things like:
Arsenic is found naturally in soil, rocks, and minerals. It is also found in some pesticides, fertilizers, and treated wood products.
Arsenic gets into water directly through rocks, minerals, ores, industrial waste, and deposits from the air.
Arsenic can also get into water from run-off (water flowing across the surface of land) and leaching (water flowing through soil). Arsenic can leach into water from:
Arsenic is classified as a human carcinogen, which means it can increase the risk of getting cancer. Being exposed to arsenic for many years may increase the risk of these types of cancer:
Arsenic might also cause respiratory disease, heart disease, nervous system problems, GI problems, and blood diseases.
The risk to your health depends on:
Children might be exposed to more arsenic because they drink more water per kilogram than adults do.
You may also have some exposure to arsenic when you take a bath or shower using water with arsenic as it gets on your skin. You might also breathe in water droplets while bathing or showering.
You can't see, taste, or smell arsenic. Your water can be tested to see how much arsenic is in it. Learn more about
testing your drinking water in Alberta.
All public water supplies are checked for total arsenic. You can find out results from your supplier.
If you have a private water source, do a chemical and trace metals test to make sure it’s safe to drink. Make sure to have your water sample tested by an accredited lab.
Treatment processes for removing arsenic are limited, so Health Canada’s
Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality have set the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of arsenic in drinking water at 0.01 mg/L (milligrams per litre) even though health risks are possible below this level.
Try to keep arsenic levels in drinking water as low as possible.
If you are concerned about arsenic in your drinking water:
You can remove arsenic from drinking water with:
Any treatment device must be certified to meet these standards:
After you have installed your system, have your treated water tested for total arsenic at a private accredited lab to make sure your system is working properly. Monitor and maintain your water treatment equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you have any questions about arsenic in drinking water, contact Alberta Health Services
Environmental Public Health.
Current as of: April 26, 2022
Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.