Frequent Questions

4. What are EPA's drinking water regulations for arsenic?

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for arsenic is zero.EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. Based on the MCLG, EPA has set an enforceable regulation for arsenic, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.010 mg/L or 10 ppb. MCLsare set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Contaminants Monitoring Final Rule, the regulation for arsenic, became effective in 2002. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review and revise contaminants, if appropriate, based on new scientific data. The regulation for arsenic will be included in a future review cycle.

States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for arsenic than EPA.

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