Arsenic Fact Sheet


Reference: NSF/ANSI Standards 53 and 58 - 2002

Arsenic (As) is a naturally occurring contaminant found in many ground waters. It generally occurs in two forms (valences or oxidation states): pentavalent arsenic (also known as As(V), As(+5), or arsenate) and trivalent arsenic (also known as As(III), As(+3), or arsenite). In natural ground water, arsenic may exist as trivalent arsenic, pentavalent arsenic, or a combination of both. Although both forms of arsenic are potentially harmful to human health, trivalent arsenic is considered more harmful than pentavalent arsenic. More information about arsenic and its toxicity can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

Trivalent arsenic is generally more difficult to remove from drinking water than pentavalent arsenic. Trivalent arsenic can be converted to pentavalent arsenic in the presence of an effective oxidant such as free chlorine. The arsenic in water containing detectable free chlorine or that has been treated with another effective oxidant will be in the pentavalent arsenic form1. Treatment with chloramine (combined chlorine) is not sufficient to ensure complete conversion of trivalent arsenic to pentavalent arsenic.

Consumers using public water supplies can contact their utility to verify whether free chlorine treatment chemicals are being used. Private water supplies and waters that do not have detectable free chlorine residuals should be analyzed to determine the form(s) of arsenic present and the potential need for oxidation of trivalent arsenic to pentavalent arsenic.

Arsenic does not generally impart color, taste, or smell to water, therefore, it can only be detected by a chemical analytical test. Public water supplies are required to monitor treated water for total arsenic (trivalent arsenic plus pentavalent arsenic) and the results are available to the public from the utility. Consumers using private water sources will need to make arrangements for testing. A total arsenic test usually costs about $15-$30 and it is recommended a certified laboratory conduct the test. Local health departments or environmental protection agencies can help provide consumers with a list of certified laboratories. Some laboratories may also be able to analyze specifically for (speciate) the two forms of arsenic present in a water sample if requested.

Water treatment systems are tested under laboratory conditions and found to reduce either 0.30 mg/L or 0.050 mg/L (refer to the product listing for influent tested levels) in the test water to less than 0.010 mg/L, under standard testing conditions. Actual performance of the system may vary depending on specific water quality conditions at the consumer's installation. Following installation of this system, the consumer should have the treated water tested for total arsenic to verify arsenic reduction is being achieved and the system is functioning properly.

The pentavalent arsenic removal component of this system must be replaced at the end of its useful life. Replacement component(s), can be purchased from the original source of this system (retailer or distributor), from other sources of this treatment system, or directly from the manufacturer. Refer to the installation and operation manual of your water treatment device to obtain replacement frequency and ordering information.


1 - Source: Laboratory Study on the Oxidation of Arsenic III to Arsenic V, EPA/600/R-01/021, March 2001

See original of this document at NSF International Website


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