Arsenic Poisoning in Water – Sources, Effects & Prevention

Last Updated on 13 February, 2024 by Sourav Roy

Since the last few years, India has been suffering from the issues of groundwater pollution. There are several different contaminants out there that have taken part in this situation. However, among them, arsenic is probably the most prominent one. In the state of Bihar, almost around 10 million people are estimated to be suffering from arsenic intoxication.

Arsenic Poisoning in Water

Unlike a few other pollutants, the arsenic molecules are highly toxic and indigestible. So, it becomes almost impossible for your kidney to filter it from your blood. This, in turn, will lead to a gradual increasing in the amount of arsenic in your body and cause numerous life-threatening diseases. Due to this reason, it becomes extremely crucial for every individual to know about the aspects of arsenic poisoning in water.

So, without any further ado, let’s get started with it.


Arsenic – A Brief Detail about the Dangerous Contaminant

Arsenic Marked tubewell

Well, arsenic is actually a type of metalloid, which gets generated from the crusts of the Earth. Thus, while it is not really a pure metal, in essence, it still contains some of its unique qualities. You can find this component in the rocks, especially those in mountain areas, soil, water, and air.

Arsenic poisoning in water can occur due to several reasons. It might be either natural or human-made or both. However, most times, it is us, humans, who tend to aggravate this situation by using a high quantity of pesticides and metal mining.

Recommended Reading: Best Water Purifiers In India 2024


Fast Facts about the Essential Aspects of Arsenic

Fast Facts about the Essential Aspects of Arsenic

Unlike most other groundwater-polluting toxins, arsenic generally occurs naturally. Yes, you have seen it right. It usually comes in two different forms, which are – inorganic and organic. The organic components typically do not cause any harm to our health, as our kidneys can filter out effortlessly.

Nonetheless, it cannot do the same with inorganic arsenic. Besides, they are quite toxic and carcinogenic as well. Hence, if you consume arsenic-mixed liquid daily, you might develop any form of cancer in the near future. Moreover, if you also do use them for irrigational purposes, then the plants might die as well.

Besides adults, arsenic poisoning can also affect young people and unborn children through their mothers. So, if you are pregnant, it will be better to drink after purifying it through a best water purifier.


What are the Main Sources of Arsenic?

The issues of arsenic poisoning in water can occur due to various sources. The following are some of them.


1. Industrial Purposes

Believe it or not, but arsenic compounds generally serve a huge purpose in several industrial procedures. As it is an alloying agent, you can use it, creating glass or textile-based materials. Moreover, you can also utilize it to make the exterior section of the bullets and guns.


2. Eatables

As mentioned before, the inorganic arsenic compounds reside quite prevalently in the groundwater. Hence, they can, sometimes, get integrated with the plants through irrigation. This, in turn, helps the metalloid reach the core of the tree and affect its crops or foods.


3. Tobacco

tobacco plants

The tobacco plants usually soak up arsenic directly from the groundwater or the Earth. Hence, if you are an avid smoker, you will have a higher risk of being affected by the compound’s toxic effects.


What are the Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning?

If your body, indeed, contains a high amount of arsenic, then you will start encountering numerous symptoms. Some of them can be somewhat light, while others will be pretty severe. So, let’s check out a few of them.


1. Headache

Headache is a Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning

The arsenic compounds can be quite invasive in some cases. They can move through your blood and start piling up in any portion of your body. If they start gathering in your brain, you will encounter a persistent and severe headache. The same can also occur if you have suddenly drunk a substantial amount of arsenic through the water.


2. Diarrhoea

If the headache keeps getting more painful by the minute, then loose motion or diarrhoea may also occur to you. In that case, you will have to keep yourself as much hydrated as possible. If the situation starts getting worse, then going to a physician might be the best idea for you.


3. Confusion

Confusion can occur due to two different reasons, which are – headache and nerve failure. If your doctor determines the latter to be the main reason behind this issue, then he will ask you to get admitted to a hospital as soon as possible.


4. Blood in Urine

If the arsenic gets piled up in your kidney or the urinary tract, then it can damage these organs of yours severely. So, in that case, you might see blood in your urine, or the colour might change in deep red or brown. However, coloured urination can also be a prominent symptom of dehydration. So, in this case, it will be better for you to go to your doctor as soon as possible.

Besides these, a few other issues, too, can occur due to arsenic poisoning in water. The following are some of them –

  • Sudden hair loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Disproportionate saliva secretion
  • Tiredness and drowsiness
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Swallowing difficulties


Long-Term Complications

To avoid arsenic-based health issues, most people, these days, use purifiers. However, if you do not use one for your cause, then the long-term consumption of arsenic can affect your health pretty gravely. Here are a few complications that might arise during this situation.


1. Diabetes


One of the most common health effects of arsenic poisoning in water is diabetes. It usually occurs when your pancreas gets heavily damaged due to extensive arsenic consumption.


2. Liver Disease

Liver Disease

Arsenic can also affect the liver tissues and cause scarring. If you do not treat it quickly, then it might lead to liver cirrhosis.


3. Cancer


As stated previously, the inorganic arsenic compounds tend to contain a considerable amount of carcinogens. Therefore, in the cases of long-term consumption, it might cause stomach or intestinal cancers.


4. Indigestion


Arsenic can damage the cells of your stomach pretty gravely. So, if you are otherwise healthy and but tend to suffer from several indigestion issues, then arsenic consumption might be the culprit behind it.

Recommended Reading: Effects of Heavy Metals Contamination in Drinking Water


Arsenic Intoxication – Diagnostic Procedures

urine sample testing for arsenic intoxication

There are a few procedures available right now, which can help doctors to diagnose diseases related to arsenic poisoning in water. Among them, pathological testing is probably the most effective one.

To determine the long-term effects, the physician will first take a urine sample from you and test it arsenic. It might help him to find out the time when the poisoning had, first, occurred. It may also help him to understand the condition of your kidney or the UT.

However, as urine testing is a lengthy procedure, it wouldn’t really be ideal for acute cases. Hence, in that case, your doctor would check the condition of your hair or nail to find the existence of arsenic in your blood.

When suffering from arsenic intoxication, the colours of your nails and palms tend to turn black. Sometimes, smaller black dots can occur as well. However, these symptoms alone cannot indicate the case of arsenic poisoning in your body. So, make sure to keep this in mind.


Treatment Options

Chelation Therapy

Like most other long-term diseases, the treatment of arsenic poisoning depends on two things – stage and type. However, the good thing about it is that you can altogether remove the molecules from your body through a few treatments.

One of the most common treatments of arsenic elimination is Bowel Irrigation. In this procedure, your doctor will insert a small tool inside your large intestine and pass a specific medication-based solution through it.

Once it enters your body, it will trigger the nerves of your bowel and prompts it to flush itself naturally. Hence, if even a little arsenic was residing in your gut, it will come out almost immediately.

Another excellent technique of getting arsenic out of your body is Chelation Therapy. In this case, you will have to drink up a unique mixture of dimercaprol and dimercaptosuccinic acid. It, in turn, will separate the protein compounds from the arsenic molecules.

However, in no way does your doctor eliminate the harmful compounds from your body, he will ask you to undergo a complete blood transfusion. Moreover, if you are suffering from any heart-related issue, you should also try to take your medication as quickly as possible. You can also try to start exercising daily to keep your heart condition intact. Drinking pure water can also be an option for you in this case.

Lastly, you should also observe your kidney functions as meticulously as possible. If you have persistent back pain or have encountered blood urination, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible.


Preventing Arsenic Exposure

Preventing Arsenic Exposure

One of the best ways to prevent diseases related to arsenic poisoning in water from occurring is by restricting the overall exposure. But how would you do that? Well, there are a few ways that can help you with it. Here are a few of them.

You can install a best RO water purifier and distil your drinking water with it. As the inorganic arsenic molecules are bigger than water molecules, the product will easily trap them in its membrane. Thus, once you are done drinking, you can simply take the membrane out and wash it thoroughly. Almost 3% of Indians currently are using an RO purifier. So, why don’t you start doing the same too?

However, only the RO technology-based purifiers can eliminate arsenic entirely from the water. The other similar products, such as UF or UV ones cannot. So, make sure to keep this factor in mind.

Recommended Reading: Best Water Purifiers In India 2024

Anyways, purifiers are not really a long-term solution to the problem of arsenic poisoning in water. So, in that case, the local authority has to take stern steps in this aspect. For starters, they can conduct full-fledged research on the groundwater sources of an area. If they find traces of poisoning in it, they should make sure to eliminate it as soon as possible.

Besides the government, the people of the nation, too, has to be adequately concerned about this grave situation. For example, if you work in an arsenic-based industry, you should always try to wash your hands as many times as possible. Moreover, after you return home, you would have to clean your clothes thoroughly before you wear them again.

Make sure to check out the level of arsenic or TDS in water before you start the irrigation procedure. It can help you to save the lives of your plants. If you do not know how to check the TDS of water, then make sure to ask a professional to do it for you.

Recommended Reading: How to check TDS of water

Lastly, we would also have to educate the residents of the rural areas about the harmful effects of arsenic. They are the ones who get exposed to arsenic daily. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, almost 70 million people drink arsenic-mixed water without even knowing. So, they need to acknowledge the danger first. Otherwise, it will do no good for us.


Arsenic in Groundwater – What is the Acceptable Level?

How to Measure Arsenic in Groundwater

Well, the most acceptable level of arsenic in water would zero. However, the more you look at the sources of the compound, the more it seems to be impossible. Hence, to let everyone know about the acceptable level of arsenic in water, WHO has gone with an amount of 10 µg/litre.

But, based upon the overall condition, different countries have set up different standards for their cause. For instance, in Bangladesh, the safest level of arsenic in water is considered to be 50 µg/litre.

Yes, we know that the amount is pretty high, to say the least. However, you would also have to keep in mind that Bangladesh actually one of the most affected countries.



Since the last few years, the issues of arsenic-based water contamination have become quite prevalent, especially in Asian countries. Hence, if we do not keep the crucial measures in mind and try to be more conscious of them, then this problem will keep increasing. We do not really want to encounter that situation right now, do we?

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