Expanding Quantification of Arsenic in Water to 0 μg L−1 with a Field Test Kit: Substituting 0.4% M/V Silver Nitrate as the Colorimetric Reagent; Employing Digital Image Analysis

  • James K. Kearns
  • Cody B. Edson


This study confronts the questionable reliability and accuracy of field test kits distributed globally to determine arsenic in drinking water. Because kits are the primary method of arsenic analysis in the areas most affected, an alternate, nontoxic formulation is needed to provide accurate results. Hypothesizing that introducing silver nitrate as the reagent in test kits could successfully substitute for restricted mercuric bromide, the study found that the reformulated kits provided reliable, precise, and accurate results over a broader range of contamination. Digital image analysis was used to examine the blue color value produced when arsine reacts with silver nitrate impregnated test strips. An optimal concentration of AgNO3 exhibiting the greatest linearity was determined by graphical comparison and the color intensity of the strips observed to be inversely proportional to the concentration of As (III). Adapted field test kits were then constructed to examine water samples ranging in arsenic contamination from 0 to 50 μg L−1. A series of reactions was completed to demonstrate reproducibility and test for the accuracy of the procedure. Statistical examination of colorimetrically quantified results confirmed the hypothesis that silver nitrate can reliably and precisely expand the kit’s range of detection while maintaining its low cost, quick assessment, and uncomplicated technique. This new method, using 0.4% m/v AgNO3 as a reagent for the Gutzeit reaction, was able to distinguish between concentrations of 0, 5, 10, 15, and 50 μg L−1 at the 95% confidence level.


Arsenic Drinking water Field test kit Colorimetry 



This research was carried out with the advice of Dr. Vincent T. Breslin of the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, Hamden, CT, and assistance of the CSU-AAUP (Connecticut State University—American Association of University Professors) University Research Grants program. We thank Dr. Julian F. Tyson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for his encouragement of research into the worldwide threat of arsenic poisoning. Special thanks go to Dr. Paul Nardi, a member of the Tyson research group and to Dru Nelson for developing ADI Color Basics.exe.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistrySouthern Connecticut State UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Chemical BiologyRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA

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