What is it?
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What is arsenic?

CCA-treated wood
Regularly burning or handling CCA-treated wood is one way people can get arsenic poisoning. Photo via the National Pesticide Information Center.

Arsenic is a metal that can be found in nature. All people have some arsenic in their body. For most people the amount is not harmful.

In rare cases, people can get arsenic poisoning. The most frequent causes are:

  • Drinking water from wells with high levels of arsenic over a period of time
  • Burning wood treated with arsenic (CCA), or handling or sawing CCA-treated wood on a regular basis

What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

People with arsenic poisoning may have ongoing symptoms such as:

  • Stomach cramps or diarrhea
  • Weakness, numbness, tingling or “pins and needles” in their hands and feet
  • A dry, itchy rash on their skin
  • Thickened skin, like a callus, on the palms of their hands or the soles of their feet. Sometimes these skin patches also have bumps like little warts.

Even if you do not feel sick, arsenic in your well water can make you more likely to get cancer of the skin, bladder, liver or lungs.

What should you do if you think you have arsenic poisoning?

If you think you have arsenic poisoning, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat now or text POISON to 85511. The NNEPC staff can help you figure out what type of testing you may need.


How can you prevent arsenic poisoning?

If your water comes from a private well:

  • Test your well water for arsenic. It is a good idea to do this about every two years.
  • If you are unsure if there is arsenic in your water, drink bottled water or filtered water until you know your well is safe.

Take safety steps with CCA-treated wood:

  • Wear gloves, goggles and a mask when handling or sawing.
  • Use a sealant on your CCA-treated wood every year, especially if it is wood that children may touch, such as on a playground. Use an oil-based sealant or a varnish made with polyurethane.
  • Do not burn CCA-treated wood.

If use products that have arsenic in them at your job, ask your safety officer or supervisor for safety training.

Last Updated: Friday February 19th 2016