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Arsenic speciation testing

Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology's dedicated Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) laboratory provides fast and accurate reports on arsenic levels in biological samples.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found ubiquitously in trace quantities in rock, soil, water and air. When handled in concentrated forms, it presents a significant health hazard with widespread effects.

Arsenic exposure is a known carcinogen and may cause heart disease, neurotoxicity, birth defects from gestational exposure and in extreme cases, death.

Arsenic and its compounds are generally classified as

  • The metalloid (As)
  • Trivalent compounds (As[III])
  • Pentavalent compounds (As[V])
  • Methylated arsenic compounds Dimethylarsinic acid (DMA),
  • Monomethylarsonic acid (MMA)
  • Organoarsenic compounds

Organoarsenic compounds are routinely found in seafood and are not generally considered harmful.

High-risk work settings

There are a number of industries that are considered to be high-risk for occupational arsenic exposure, these include:

  • Agricultural or farm workers
  • Employees involved in glass manufacturing
  • Construction and mine workers exposed to arsenic-containing soil
  • Recyclers exposed to electronic or e-waste
  • Workers who perform nonferrous smelting

Schedule 14 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 stipulates that health monitoring is required where there is a significant risk of exposure.

Testing for exposure to arsenic

Pathology laboratories provide services for testing the level of arsenic in human specimens. Urine is most reflective of acute exposure. Long term exposure can also be detected in blood, hair and fingernails.

Additional information

Very few laboratories offer the precision instrumentation – mass spectrometry (MS) – required to identify inorganic (harmful) from organic (non-harmful) arsenic in samples. The distinction between inorganic and organic arsenic is critical when assessing the requirements for removal of employees from the workplace under Safe Work guidelines.

SNP’s dedicated Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) laboratory has experienced scientists and cutting edge technology to provide fast and accurate reports on arsenic levels in biological samples. Samples are first tested by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry for total arsenic (including both organic and inorganic forms). If levels are indicated >35g/L, detailed arsenic speciation is then performed using HPLC-ICP-MS to determine the contribution of both inorganic and organic forms.

With over 400 collection centres across New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, SNP offers convenient locations for quick and efficient sample collection. Alternatively, we are able to receive samples for testing collected by your company’s own sampling program.

Test collection information

Sample type: Urine sample

Minimum volume: 20 mL

Transport: Ambient = esky with ice brick

Test performed: Weekly

Cost: $150 (plus GST)

Updated Monday, 26 June 2023