Arsenic in Water, Consumer Products, and Pressure Treated Wood

There are several ways you can be exposed to arsenic. Arsenic is a natural element found in some rocks and soil in Vermont and may get into groundwater. Every day you take in very small amounts of arsenic from the air, from water, and from food. Of these, food is usually the main source. This is generally because of the levels found in seafood and fish. But this form of arsenic is different than the arsenic found in rocks and soil, and is not as harmful to your health.

Both smelting and the burning of fossil fuels can release arsenic into the air, where it can be inhaled. Pressure treated wood can be a source of arsenic during sawing or sanding. Pesticides that were formerly used in orchards contained arsenic, and it still may be present in those soils. Arsenic is also used in some consumer products.

Health Effects from Exposure to Arsenic

Drinking Water

Health effects from drinking water with arsenic depend on two things:

  1. How much arsenic is in the water
  2. How many years you've been drinking the water

Drinking water with arsenic over a long period of time may cause an increased lifetime risk of bladder, lung or skin cancer. There also may be links to skin and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or other cancers. Learn more about arsenic in drinking water

Pressure Treated Wood

Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) is a chemical preservative comprised of arsenic, chromium and copper. Health effects from exposure to the arsenic in CCA-treated wood depend on the concentration of arsenic present on the wood surface, the amount of time spent on the wood structure, and any hand-to-mouth behavior during exposure.

Potential effects include stomach irritation, blood vessel damage, skin changes, and reduced nerve function. Long-term exposure to elevated levels of arsenic has been linked to skin, bladder and lung cancer. Ongoing research is being conducted on other health effects.

For questions about disposal, call the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Waste Management and Prevention Division at 802-828-1138.

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