How to Detect Arsenic and Cyanide Contamination

September 29th, 2021 | in Containments
How to Detect Arsenic and Cyanide Contamination

When old buildings will be demolished, considerable testing should take place first to determine if there are dangerous or combustible materials that will be a risk for those working at the site. The question may arise how to specifically detect arsenic and cyanide.

As professionals in the abatement and decontamination of hazardous materials for many years, our advice is to let professionals to the testing. Without the knowledge on how to perform these types of tests, the results will not be meaningful.

There are always quick and cheap home tests available for almost all hazardous materials. But most of these tests are not accurate, and do not tell you how much of the material exists. Furthermore, even if the home were accurate, if you do not know where to take samples, the test result is still meaningless.

Now let’s talk about arsenic and cyanide, specifically.


Arsenic could be anywhere in an old building. It was historically used in pressure-treated lumber (copper arsenate) and in pesticides (arsenic trioxide). Arsine green, a compound made with arsenite, used to be used also as a pigment in old wallpaper.

A trained professional will know where and how to test for arsenic.


Cyanide is less commonly found in old buildings, even though it is used in small amounts in many building components. Where cyanide can be a problem is if a building had a fire in the past, as cyanide is commonly liberated in a fire.

Just like for arsenic, you should allow a trained professional to test for cyanide if needed.

Trained professionals in hazardous materials abatement know where to look for hazardous compounds, how to take samples, and then have state-of-the-art laboratories process the samples. Then you can know exactly what your building has, and where it is located. The abatement professionals will then be able to create and execute a plan of action to remove the hazardous materials safely.

Enviro-Vac is one of the oldest privately owned environmental contractors in Canada. They offer full suite of services in hazardous materials abatement and decontamination including shrink- wrap containments and are available to work both small and large-scale projects across Canada. The head office is based in Surrey, BC.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to talk to us about hazardous materials abatement, decontamination or shrink-wrap solutions, please call us on our toll-free number, (888) 296-2499.

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