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Explained in 60 seconds: Arsenic in Bottled Water

Bottled Water like the ones recalled for "above normal levels" of arsenic by the FSAI

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, but it does occur in some wells in certain parts of the country. 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 an essential element 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 prior to 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 periods over five years, arsenic can act as a chronic poison. The symptoms are the pigmentation of the skin followed by lesions (small skin breaks) and can lead to cancer of the bladder.

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?

Arsenic in water is analysed by a plasma mass spectrometer. If
you’re concerned about arsenic in your water, Southern Scientific Services
offers accredited testing

The analysis costs €54 and is part of an entire metal’s suite including aluminium, antimony, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel and selenium. For more information, see our Metals Water Test.


  • Arsenic occurs naturally in low levels in
  • 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 amounts of over 50
    micrograms per litre of water per day for periods over five years.