IS&R Project- Arsenic Information

Arsenic is a powerful poison. It occurs naturally in the earth’s crust in small amounts.  It is also found in minerals and ore. You can’t taste or smell arsenic. Once released it it doesn’t evaporate, but it can dissolve in water. It can stay in a dissolved form until the water source disappears.  Still dissolved it settles into the ground. It can change from one form to another.Listed are several ways arsenic is released into the air and water:

  • Mining – The International Smelter and Refinery released arsenic, lead,and other compounds from the smoke stacks for a period of about 70 years
  • it is a by-product of mining for copper, gold, silver and lead/zinc mining
  • a volcano will release arsenic upon eruption
  • geothermal eruptions (Yellowstone Nat. Park) releases arsenic
  • rocks, minerals, and ore release arsenic when they are broken down by wind and rain
  • exhaust fumes from vehicles, trains, boats, and planes
  • natural drainage from abandoned mines and industry plants
  • processing of glass and production of pharmaceuticals
  • when coal is burned

It’s main use today is to preserve wood. It is a powerful insecticide and weed killer.  Parents need to make sure their wood at home is safe:

  • have it tested or test it yourself using an arsenic testing kit
  • don’t burn it – arsenic can be released in smoke
  • don’t saw or cut it up – sawdust can contain large amounts of arsenic
  • if you suspect you have arsenic treated wood, it must be disposed of properly according to environmental regulations
  • seal it – coat it every year with a waterproof sealant such as polyurethane or an oil based sealer
  • when you go to the lumber yard ask questions – if wood has been treated or you suspect it has – don’t buy it. Treated wood should carry a warning label and kept away from non-treated wood

The EPA has set limits on the amount of arsenic that industrial sources can release to the environment and has restricted or canceled many uses of arsenic in EPApesticides. EPA has set a limit of 0.0 1 parts per million (ppm) for arsenic in drinking water. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set limits for workplace air for 8 hour shifts and 40 hour per work week.

There are several ways a person may be exposed to arsenic:

Exposure to higher than average levels of arsenic occurs mostly in the workplace and near hazardous waste sites. At high levels, arsenic can be fatal. At low levels it can still be dangerous.The effects of exposure depend on several things:

  • The dose – how much as been consumed
  • The duration – how long a person has been around it
  • How exposure occurs
  • Genetics
  • Personal hygiene habits
  • Whether or not other chemicals are present.

Exposure may occur:

  • Arsenic Living in areas at risk for exposure
  • Arsenic Eating food, drinking water, or breathing air containing higher than normal amounts
  • Arsenic Breathing sawdust or burning smoke from wood treated with arsenic
  • Arsenic Swimming in contaminated water
  • Don’t swim in dangerous water

Health effects from too much arsenic:

Symptoms are common with many illnesses and may be ignored. Once the exposure has stopped, the body heals quickly from low levels and arsenic poisoning may not even be considered. Besides humans,it has a detrimental effect on wildlife and habitats. Other symptoms are more noticeable:

  • Arsenic in soil Arsenic Irritability and unexplained mood changes
  • Arsenic itching and burning on the skin
  • Arsenic redness and swelling
  • Arsenic Sore throat, irritated lungs
  • Arsenic Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Arsenic Decreased production of red and white blood cells due to muscle tissue damage (intestines, stomach, colon)
  • Arsenic Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Arsenic Sensation of “pins and needles” in hands and feet
  • Arsenic Darkening of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts

Medical Tests Available

  • Medical TestsTests are available to measure levels of arsenic in blood, urine, hair, and fingernails
  • Medical TestsUrine tests are the most reliable
  • Medical TestsThese tests can measure exposure to high levels or arsenic over the past 6 – 12 months
  • Medical TestsVisit with your health care provider and have your family tested if necessary

The Good News:

Arsenic is rather quickly removed from your body. Most of the arsenic in your body will be gone several days after stopping use of water for drinking and cooking. Some of the health effects described above either partly or completely go away after use of high arsenic water has ended.

Other helpful links:

Today’s Air Quality

Tooele County Health Department

151 North Main Street
Tooele, Utah 84074
(435) 277-2300

Monday-Thursday 8am - 6pm
Friday 8 am to noon
Closed holidays.

920 East Wendover Boulevard, Wendover Utah 84083
P.O Box 554
Call (435)277-2326 or 277-2327 for available services and hours.

To report an emergency after hours call (435) 882-5600.