How to Determine the Amount of Arsenic in Groundwater

What You'll Need
Arsenic test kit
Strand of hair
Matches or stick lighter

The groundwater around your home is important and finding arsenic in groundwater is life threatening. Arsenic, in the Victorian era, was used to whiten skin but was also used as a poison. Arsenic is naturally occurring and arsenic in groundwater isn't uncommon but mass amounts can be deadly. Arsenic reduces potassium which can cause irregular heartbeats and heart attacks. Arsenic in groundwater can be linked to several cancers including skin, liver and lungs. The article that follows will go over how you can test the groundwater to determine the existence and concentration of arsenic.

Step 1 – Know the Symptoms

Arsenic in groundwater, the air or other delivery systems will all provide the same type of symptoms. Testing groundwater for arsenic can take time and a lot of money (as do other detection methods) so it is important to know what some of the symptoms are prior to going through the process. The beginning stages of arsenic poisoning begin with headaches, drowsiness and confusion. Longer exposure can cause your fingernail pigmentation to change colors and convulsions to develop. Vomiting, muscle cramps and hair loss are more acute signs of arsenic poisoning. The end result is death or coma.

Step 2 – Extraction

In order to get a sample of groundwater you have to get down to where it resides. This can be several feet deep or more. This is typically done by a professional company as digging is the only way to get there, or by using an extraction probe. Another way is to collect a sample from the reservoir that feeds the local area.

Step 3 – A Simple Test

Once you have your sample of groundwater you can perform two very simple tests to determine the presence of arsenic in the groundwater. The first is to use a test kit that you purchase from a store. The kit will use several chemicals and specially treated test strips. Follow the instructions on the kit. Typically the strip is dipped in the water and the chemicals will react if there is arsenic present. Some kits are more advanced and will provide you with an average of the amount of arsenic. The simplest test you can do is to light a match or stick lighter and heat the water. If arsenic is in the ground water it will smell like garlic.

Step 4 – Chemical Analysis

In order to get an accurate reading of arsenic levels in the groundwater is necessary to send the sample to a lab. You can also send a strand of your hair to determine the level of poisoning (if any) in your body. The results can take several days to several weeks to get back to you.

Step 5 – Lowering Arsenic Levels

If you suspect you are suffering from arsenic poisoning you can combat it by changing your diet to include foods containing sulfur. This can include eggs, beans, garlic and onions. You can also take sulfur in pill form. Eating fiber can also lower arsenic levels.