back to OSHA Safety and Health Topics

Arsenic - Copyright WARNING: Not all materials on this Web site were created by the federal government. Some content  including both images and text  may be the copyrighted property of others and used by the DOL under a license. Such content generally is accompanied by a copyright notice. It is your responsibility to obtain any necessary permission from the owner's of such material prior to making use of it. You may contact the DOL for details on specific content, but we cannot guarantee the copyright status of such items. Please consult the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress  to search for copyrighted materials.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment as an element of the earth's crust. Arsenic is combined with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Exposure to higher-than-average levels of arsenic occurs mainly in workplaces, near or in hazardous waste sites, and areas with high levels naturally occurring in soil, rocks, and water. Exposure to high levels of arsenic can cause death. Exposure to arsenic at low levels for extended periods of time can cause a discoloration of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts.


Exposures to arsenic are addressed in specific standards for general industry, shipyard employment, and the construction industry. This section highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules (background to final rules), directives (instructions for compliance officers), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), and national consensus standards related to arsenic. Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.


General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915 Subpart Z, Toxic and hazardous substances
    • 1915.1018, Inorganic arsenic. The requirements applicable to shipyard employment under this section are identical to those set forth by 29 CFR 1910.1018.

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

  • 1926 Subpart Z, Toxic and hazardous substances
    • 1926.1118, Inorganic arsenic. The requirements applicable to construction work under this section are identical to those set forth by
      29 CFR 1910.1018.

Preambles to Final Rules


Standard Interpretations

National Consensus

Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection.

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)

Hazard Recognition

Arsenic exposure in the workplace occurs through inhalation, ingestion, dermal or eye contact. Chronic exposure to arsenic can lead to dermatitis, mild pigmentation keratosis of the skin, vasospasticity, gross pigmentation with hyperkeratinization of exposed areas, wart formation, decreased nerve conduction velocity, and lung cancer. Acute exposures can cause lung distress and death. The following references provide information about the hazards and health effects associated with arsenic.

  • Arsenic, (inorganic compounds, as AS). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1994, May). Provides an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLHs) document that includes acute toxicity data for arsenic.

  • TOXNET for Arsenic Compounds. The National Library of Medicine.

  • Report on Carcinogens (RoC). US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP). Identifies and discusses agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [522 KB PDF, 7 pages]. World Health Organization (WHO). IARC Classification: Carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).

  • Toxicological Profile for Arsenic. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2007, August). Provides exposure risks, exposure limits, and health effects for arsenic.

  • ToxFAQs™ for Arsenic. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2007, August). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about arsenic.

  • Arsenic, inorganic (CASRN 7440-38-2). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), (1998, April 10). Discusses the health effects of arsenic, inorganic.

  • Arsenic Compounds. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (2000, January). Lists arsenic as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) under the National Emissions Standard Hazardous Air Pollutants section of its Clean Air Act.

  • International Chemical Safety Cards: Arsenic. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (2010, May 4). Summarizes essential health and safety information on arsenic.

Related Literature

  • Hertz-Picciotto I, Arrighi HM, Hu SW. "Does arsenic exposure increase the risk for circulatory disease?" American Journal of Epidemiology 2000 Aug 1;152(3):290-3.

  • Jensen GE, Hansen ML. "Occupational arsenic exposure and glycosylated haemoglobin." Analyst 1998 Jan;123(1):77-80.

  • Arrighi HM, Hertz-Picciotto I. "Controlling the healthy worker survivor effect, an example of arsenic exposure and respiratory cancer." Occupational Environmental Medicine 1996 July;53(7):455-62.

  • Tollestrup K, Daling JR, Allard J. "Mortality in a cohort of orchard workers exposed to lead arsenate pesticide spray." Archives of Environmental Health 1995 May-Jun;50(3):221-9.

  • Nriagu J. Arsenic in the Environment. Hoboken(NJ): John Wiley and Sons, Ltd; 1994. Provides a two part set of a comprehensive review of arsenic, including health impacts, sources, and analytical methods.

  • Hertz-Picciotto I, et al. "Synergism between occupational arsenic exposure and smoking in the induction of lung cancer." Epidemiology 1992 Jan;3(1):23-31.

  • Jaerup L, Pershagen G. "Arsenic exposure, smoking, and lung cancer in smelter workers; a case-control study." American Journal of Epidemiology 1991 Sep 15;1346:545-51.

Exposure Evaluation

Industries that use inorganic arsenic and its compounds, where sampling may be necessary, include wood preservation, glass production, nonferrous metal alloys, and electronic semiconductor manufacturing. Inorganic arsenic is also found in coke oven emissions associated with the smelter industry. Arsenic and its compounds occur in crystalline, powder, amorphous, or vitreous forms. The following references provide information on evaluating occupational exposures to arsenic.

Analytical Methods


OSHA has developed and validated methods for use by the Salt Lake Technical Center (SLTC) laboratory. The following method has been adopted by many laboratories for the analysis of chemical compounds.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Related Literature

  • Christensen JM. Human exposure to toxic metals: factors influencing interpretation of Biomonitoring results. Science of the Total Environment 1995 April 21;166:89-135.

Possible Solutions

The following link and references provide information for the control of occupational arsenic exposures.

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-149, (2007, September). Provides a physical description, exposure limits, measurement method, personal protection and sanitation, first aid, respirator recommendations, exposure routes, symptoms, target organs, and cancer sites.
  • Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 81-123, (1981, January). Contains information on identification, physical and chemical properties, health hazards, exposure limits, exposure sources and control methods, monitoring, personal hygiene, storage, spills and leaks, and personal protective equipment.

Related Literature

  • Priha E, Ahonen I, Oksa P. "Control of chemical risks during the treatment of soil contaminated with chlorophenol, creosote, and copper-chrome-arsenic wood preservatives." American Journal of Industrial Medicine (AJIM) 2001 Apr;39:402-9.

  • Sheehy JW, Jones JH. "Assessment of arsenic exposures and controls in gallium arsenide production." American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 1993 Feb;54(2):61-9.

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

Other Resources

Accessibility Assistance: Contact the OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.