Abstract The generation and development of effective adsorption materials for arsenic removal are urgently needed due to acute arsenic contamination of water sources in many regions around the world. In the search for these new adsorbents, the application of nanomaterials or nanocomposites, and especially the use of nanoparticles (NPs), has proven increasingly attractive. While the adsorptive performance of a range of nanocomposite and nanomaterial-based systems has been extensively reviewed in previously-published literature, the stability of these systems in terms of NP release, i.e. the ability of the nanomaterial or nanocomposite to retain incorporated NPs, is less well understood. Here we examine the performance of nanocomposites comprised of aluminium oxide nanoparticles (AluNPs) incorporated in macroporous polyacrylamide-based cryogels (n-Alu-cryo, where n indicates the percentage of AluNPs in the polymer material (n=0–6%, w/v)) for As(V) adsorption, and evaluate AluNP leakage before and after the use of these materials. A range of techniques is utilised and assessed (SEM, TEM, mass weight change, PIXE and in vitro toxicity studies). The 4-Alu-cryo nanocomposite was shown to be optimal for minimising AluNP losses while maximising As(V) removal. From the same nanocomposite we were further able to show that NP losses were not detectable at the AluNP concentrations used in the study. Toxicity tests revealed that no cytotoxic effects could be observed. The cryogel-AluNPs composites were not only effective in As(V) removal but also in immobilising the AluNPs. More challenging flow-through conditions for the evaluation of NP leakage could be included as a next step in a continued study assessing particle loss and subsequent toxicity.