Common Contaminants – Arsenic

9th August 2020

Arsenic Soil Contamination. Most people will have heard of Arsenic. As a substance, arsenic is thought of as a poison and something highly dangerous. This is true in high doses; however, it may surprise readers to know that Arsenic is present in all of our soils. Northpoint consider soil contamination from Arsenic and why this may not necessarily mean bad news.

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic is an element and normally forms a metal when processed. As part of the geology beneath our feet, a mineral element such as arsenic is present normally in trace amounts. Since the start of the industrial revolution, arsenic has been utilised to form other products. The use of arsenic has been phased out and banned as it is known to be hazardous to our health.

Common uses of arsenic included pesticides, wood preservatives, batteries, herbicides to name but a few.

Why is it in my soil?

Arsenic is normally found in UK soils naturally. If your home has been built on previously, human related activities may have increased the levels of arsenic in your soil.

Arsenic where naturally present is the result of geological processes. Solid rocks and strata may contain arsenic minerals, and over millions of years these have migrated and mixed into upper soils.

soil contaminationIs Arsenic in my soil harmful?

In answer, not normally. Arsenic is present in trace amounts, and is mostly non-hazardous to your health in small doses.

Arsenic is considered a likely carcinogen. Don’t worry, as you would need to intake large amounts of arsenic over a long time before longer term health issues develop. Other long term exposure related health can include skin lesions, lung and bladder cancer.

How can I know for certain I am safe?

Building on a brownfield site may come with unexpected constraints. Consequently, one of these is discovering the legacy of a sites historical use and how this has impacted the shallow soils that are going to be built on.

Through a soil investigation, consultants routinely report contaminant levels, and provide an assessment to characterises the level of associated risk.

In the first instance contact experts such as Northpoint. We can investigate your soils and provide you with detailed analysis. If high levels of arsenic are present, we can provide you with a range of measures to make your land safe.

soil contaminationSoil Contamination – Making an Assessment

Northpoint specialise in detailed land contamination assessments. Furthermore, our team of experts follow guidelines set out in statute to determine whether your health is potentially at risk from high levels of arsenic in soil.

We commence with the design of our sampling strategy and testing regime. We physically collect soils then analyse these in a laboratory. The team then use the laboratory data to prepare risk assessments and recommendations.

It is common to find higher concentrations of arsenic in soils located in built-up areas or brownfield sites. If you are currently considering a development and require some advice regarding soil quality, please contact the team.