How to Test for Arsenic in Water

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If you’re a private well owner, there’s a real risk that you may be exposed to harmful arsenic concentrations in your drinking water.

A 2019 national study by the USGS detected arsenic in nearly half of drinking water wells at a concentration of 1 µg/L or greater, estimating that around 2.1 million people drink from wells high in arsenic. Given that chronic exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage, and immune effects, this isn’t good news.

You can’t taste, see, or smell arsenic, so your first step is to test your water to find out whether or not arsenic is present in your water, and if at what concentrations.

Our experts have tried all the methods of testing for arsenic in drinking water that are currently available in the US. In this guide, we’ve shared how to test your water for arsenic using our top recommended methods.

How to Test for Arsenic in Your Well Water

🚰 Pay For Accredited Laboratory Testing

There are hundreds of certified laboratories that offer accurate, informative arsenic testing for well owners.

Most laboratories send out kits with containers for collecting your water samples, and anything else that’s needed. You can leave the testing to the lab itself.

Here’s the process for getting your drinking water tested for arsenic by a laboratory.

  1. Buy your preferred arsenic lab test and wait for your sample kit to be shipped to you.
  2. Follow the kit instructions to take sample(s) of your tap water.
  3. Ship the sample(s) back to the lab – the best laboratory tests provide a free return shipping label.

Once the lab has received your water sample, it will test the water for specific contaminants. You can expect to receive your arsenic test results back, usually via email, within 5-7 days.

tap score water testing

Laboratory water testing gives highly accurate, detailed results. Your arsenic test results will outline exactly how much arsenic your water contains in parts per billion (PPB). You may choose to test for other contaminants with health effects, which will give you a broader idea of what your well contains.

Our recommended certified laboratory is Tap Score by SimpleLab. The Tap Score Essential Well Water Test is ideal for private wells, and tests for a broad range of common naturally occurring contaminants that affect water quality, including hardness, turbidity, bacteria, iron, mercury, zinc, and more. If you just want to test your water for arsenic, the lab also sells a total arsenic test at a lower price.

water testing with tap score

🧪 Use An At-Home Test Kit

A typical DIY water test kit using test strips is highly unlikely to detect arsenic.

Arsenic testing is complex, and most at-home water test kits aren’t designed for this purpose.

However, there are some kits out there that you can use to test for arsenic in your drinking water at home, without having to send off samples to the lab.

In our research, we found a few companies selling reagent test kits for arsenic. These tests use specific reagents designed to react with arsenic ions present in the water.

When the reagents are introduced to the water sample, a chemical reaction occurs, causing the solution to change color. The intensity or hue of this color indicates the concentration of arsenic in the water (most tests can detect arsenic levels between 2 and 300 PPB).

The method for using an at-home arsenic water test kit may vary from one test to the next. However, the general process goes like this:

  1. Collect a water sample from your tap. Use a clean container or cup, or a bottle/vial included in the water test kit.
  2. Follow the test instructions to add the reagents to your water.
  3. Wait for the reaction to take place.
  4. Compare the color of the solution to the included color chart to get a reading of your water’s arsenic concentrations.

Reagent tests for arsenic can estimate the range of arsenic present in your water, but they don’t provide an exact reading of the amount of arsenic detected, and they can’t usually distinguish between types of arsenic (organic arsenic, inorganic arsenic, etc.).

📝 Interpreting Your Results

Once you have your results, you can decide whether or not you need to take action.

The Environmental Protection Agency has set a legal limit of 10 PPB (parts per billion) for arsenic in drinking water.

While the EPA doesn’t regulate private water systems, you can still use this information when analyzing your results. If more than 10 PPB of arsenic is detected in your water, you know that it’s present in concentrations that may pose health risks.

The best way to address arsenic contamination in your water supply and reduce your arsenic exposure is to install a water treatment system that can reduce or remove arsenic.

There are a number of water filtration methods that can be used to filter arsenic out of your drinking water supply, including:

  • Reverse osmosis systems – These thoroughly remove organic and inorganic arsenic and are one of our top recommended best water treatment solutions for this purpose.
  • Water distillers – Countertop units that boil water until it evaporates, leaving the arsenic behind in a separate chamber.
  • Anion exchange systems – Point-of-entry systems that replace arsenic with non-toxic ions.
  • Activated alumina filters – These are effective in adsorbing arsenic and are typically found in point-of-entry water filtration systems.
Reverse Osmosis

If very high arsenic levels (above the EPA’s acceptable levels) are detected in your ground water, switch to bottled water while you choose a suitable water treatment system to address the issue.

To learn more about the best methods of removing arsenic from well water, check out our full guide here.

📑 Final Word

We hope that this guide served as a helpful resource for you if you wanted to know how to test for arsenic in your water.

Whether you go for DIY test kit or a lab test, your results should help you to determine whether or not you need to reduce arsenic from your water supply with a water filtration system.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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