Arsenic (As)

As, Arsenik och arsenikföreningar, som As


Arsenic and compounds

CAS no


Chemical formula


Arsenic is a grey metalloid that is a solid at room temperature.1 The following description refers to arsenic and arsenic compounds.


Arsenic has been used within agriculture as a pesticide and as wood preservative to increase the lifespan of wood. Arsenic has also been used to increase the clearness of glass, as an alloying agent, as additive in feed and as a component in certain pharmaceuticals. The use of arsenic in Sweden has decreased substantially due to regulations on the use for wood impregnation. Currently the main use of arsenic is within the metal goods industry. Very small amounts are still used within the paint manufacturing industry. The use of arsenic is strictly regulated.2 3 4 5 6 7

Sources and transportation pathways

Arsenic occurs naturally in various minerals worldwide. The concentration in the bedrock vary and in areas rich in arsenic, such as Västerbotten, increased arsenic levels in ground water may occur.8 9

China is the leading producer of arsenic, followed by Morocco and Russia. Arsenic is emitted to the environment during combustion of fossil fuels, leaching from arsenic-contaminated ground or from landfills, and by emissions from wastewater treatment plants. Anthropogenic emissions of arsenic in Sweden are small today. Wastewater treatment plants and paper pulp production are the main sources of emissions to water. Emissions to air are smaller and originate mainly from the metal industry.10 11 12

Effects on environment and health

Arsenic is a well-known poison that may severely affect the environment and health. The inorganic compounds are considered more poisonous than the organic arsenic compounds. Arsenic is very toxic to aquatic organisms and may also be toxic to plants.13 14

Arsenic is classified as carcinogenic and long-term exposure may cause tumours on the skin, lungs, liver, kidneys, prostate and urine bladder. Other health effects include breathing issues, skin disorders, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, miscarriage and foetal damage. Humans are exposed mainly through food and drinking water. Increased arsenic levels have been detected in rice when arsenic-rich water is used for irrigation.15 16 17 18 19

International agreements and regulations

Arsenic is regulated by the UN Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the EU Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC), the EU Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC), the EU Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC), the EU Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU) and the EU Regulation as regards maximum levels of inorganic arsenic in foodstuffs (EU 2015/1006). Limit values for arsenic in drinking water is also regulated in the provision of the Swedish National Food Agency.20 In addition, the presence of arsenic in products is regulated in different EU directives and regulations, such as REACH. The UN Protocol on PRTRs and the EU E-PRTR regulation regulate how data on arsenic emissions is made available.


1 Selenius, O. 2010. Medicinsk geologi. Studentlitteratur. 9789144054483. 519 sid.
2 Mandal, B. K. och Suzuki, K. T. 2002. Arsenic round the world: a review. Talanta, 58: 201-235.
7Jones, F. T. 2007. A broad view of Arsenic. Poultry Science, 86(1): 2-14.
8 Mandal, B. K. och Suzuki, K. T. 2002. Arsenic round the world: a review. Talanta, 58: 201-235.
13Finnegan, P. M. & Chen, W. 2012. Arsenic toxicity. Frontiers in Physiology, 3(182):1-
14Singh, S., Singh, Z. och Hundal, S. S. 2015. Assessment of arsenic toxicity in animal and plant models: a review. International Journal of Analytical, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, 4(1-2).
16 Mandal, B. K. och Suzuki, K. T. 2002. Arsenic round the world: a review. Talanta, 58: 201-235.
19 Nordstrom, S., Beckman, L, och Nordenson, I. 1978. Occupational and environmental risks in and around a smelter verk in northern Sweden. Hereditas, 88 -90.