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Water Engineering and Development Centre

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Arsenic in drinking water [Reviewed and updated by Lucy Smith, June 2005, Quality assurance: Sandy Cairncross]

Author(s): Cairncross, Sandy  |  Smith, Lucy

Publisher: WEDC
Place of publication: Loughborough University, UK
Year: 1999

Series: WELL Fact Sheet
Collection(s): WELL


Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical widely distributed throughout the earth's crust with a number of commercial uses, primarily in preservatives and alloying agents. It can be introduced into water through the dissolution of minerals and ores, and from industrial effluents and emissions.

Arsenic can also be consumed by humans via contaminated foodstuffs e.g. due to wide use of arsenic-based pesticides in the past. However, such arsenic is organic and in that form has extremely low toxicity. Drinking water containing inorganic arsenic therefore represents by far the greatest hazard.

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