Explained in 60 seconds: Toxic Arsenic in Bottled Water – What You Should Know

Bottled water like the ones pulled for Arsenic by the FSAI

Explained in 60 seconds: Toxic Arsenic in Bottled Water – What You Should Know

How does arsenic get into bottled water?

Groundwater wells, such as the ones used for bottled water, will contain naturally occurring arsenic. This arsenic is present naturally as a trace metal salt in the bedrock.

Where are the higher levels of arsenic in groundwater found?

In Ireland, we rarely see elevated levels of arsenic above the EU Drinking water limit of 10 micrograms per litre. Still, it does occur in some wells in certain parts of the country. For example, because sandstone bedrock regions can be affected, Kerry is a hotspot area. Recently, above-normal levels of arsenic were found in bottled water by the FSAI.

Do humans need arsenic?

Arsenic is not essential for normal body function, but it can act as a stimulant in small doses. There are plenty of examples of where arsenic has been used as a stimulant for greyhounds, horses before racing, and by humans as well.

What are the health risks associated with the consumption of high levels of arsenic?

At high intake levels, above 50 micrograms per litre of water per day and for over five years, arsenic can act as a chronic poison. The symptoms are pigmentation followed by lesions (small skin breaks) which can lead to bladder cancer.

How can people filter drinking water for arsenic?

Commonly, ion exchange filtration is used to remove elevated arsenic from water.

How can people test for arsenic in their water?

A plasma mass spectrometer analyses arsenic in water. Southern Scientific Services offers accredited testing if you’re concerned about arsenic in your water.

The analysis costs €54 and is part of an entire metal suite, including aluminium, antimony, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel and selenium.

For more information, see our Metals Water Test.


  • Bottled water is filled from groundwater sources.
  • Arsenic occurs naturally in low levels in groundwater.
  • Sandstone bedrock areas are most likely to be contaminated with arsenic.
  • Arsenic is not an essential element for normal body function.
  • Arsenic is dangerous in over 50 micrograms per litre of water daily for over five years.

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