What’s arsenic poisoning? What’s arsenicosis?


MNT Knowledge Center

Arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis is really a condition brought on by the ingestion, absorption or inhalation of harmful amounts of arsenic. Arsenic is really a natural semi-metallic chemical that’s found around the globe in groundwater.

In certain areas around the globe, natural amounts of arsenic within the water are very harmful and difficult to identify arsenic typically doesn’t have flavor or odor. Arsenic can be found in certain industries, may it be contained inside a chemical used, or even the consequence of the certain process.

Arsenic poisoning may cause major health issues otherwise treated, including dying. Due to the potential risks involved, some safeguards are needed to safeguard the populations and employees vulnerable to arsenic poisoning.

Arsenic has shown to be potentially helpful in cancer treatment, as some research has proven it may send the condition into remission which help thin the bloodstream. Laser hair removal continues to be examined, but tend to show some promise within the ongoing fight against cancer.

According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, Arsenis (As) is:

“1. A metallic element, atomic no. 33, atomic wt. 74.92159; forms a number of poisonous compounds, some of which are used in medicine.

2. Denoting the element arsenic or one of its compounds, especially arsenic acid.”

What are the signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

A symptom is felt by the sufferer and described to the doctors, such as pain or dizziness, while a sign is noticed by other people too. Examples of signs include a rash, pallor, or swelling.

If the arsenic has been ingested orally, the first signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning will appear within thirty minutes, and may include some of the following:

  • drowsiness
  • headaches
  • confusion
  • terrible diarrhea

Please note that if the arsenic has been inhaled, or a less concentrated amount has been ingested, symptoms may take longer to emerge. As the arsenic poisoning develops, the patient may start suffering convulsions and their fingernail pigmentation may change (leukonychia).

The following signs and symptoms are associated in more severe cases of arsenic poisoning:

  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • mouth produces excess saliva
  • problems swallowing
  • blood in the urine
  • cramping muscles
  • loss of hair
  • stomach cramps
  • convulsions
  • excessive sweating
  • breath smells like garlic
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Arsenic poisoning typically affects the skin, liver, lungs and kidneys – hence, the severity of the symptoms. The final stage of the poisoning causes the patient to suffer seizures and go into shock, this could lead to death or coma (and likely subsequent death).

What causes arsenic poisoning and what are the complications?

Arsenic, when consumed in large amounts, can kill a person rapidly, but when consumed in smaller amounts over the long-term, it can cause serious illness, or a prolonged death.

Illnesses, conditions and complications linked to long-term arsenic consumption include:

  • cancer
  • liver disease
  • diabetes
  • nervous system complications – such as loss of sensation in the limbs and hearing problems
  • digestive difficulties

The primary reason for arsenic poisoning worldwide may be the consuming of groundwater that naturally consists of a higher quantity of a contaminant. Water becomes contaminated subterranean by rocks that release the arsenic.

In 2007, research was transported to observe how arsenic poisoning affects a persons population worldwide. It demonstrated which more than 130 million people could have arsenic-contaminated consuming water.


Some industries, which use inorganic arsenic and its compounds, may pose risks for workers if proper safety measures are not taken. Examples of these industries include:

  • glass production
  • smelting
  • wood treatment
  • production and use of (some) pesticides

The way the arsenic makes its way into the body with these industries is dependent in route the arsenic has been used. For instance, within the smelting industry arsenic could be inhaled, as there’s inorganic arsenic in coke pollutants, whereas within the wood treatment industry it might be absorbed with the skin if, for example, a compound that contains arsenic made connection with your skin.

There’s also traces of arsenic in certain meals, for example meat, chicken and fish. Normally chicken consists of the greatest amounts of arsenic, because of the chicken feed that contains particular kinds of antibiotics. Also, grain has been discovered to potentially contain greater amounts of arsenic than water.

How can arsenic poisoning be prevented?

The following measures can help protect people from arsenic that gets into groundwater:

  • Households having arsenic removal systems – this is a short term solution that can be adopted until the arsenic contamination can be dealt with at the source.
  • Testing the water for traces of arsenic.
  • Taking care when harvesting rainwater – in areas where there is high rainfall, arsenic poisoning can be prevented by ensuring the process of collection is acceptable, does not put the water at risk of infection, or cause the water to become a breeding ground for mosquitos.
  • Well depth – the deeper a well is dug, the less arsenic its water is likely to have.

A significant factor of prevention is making people aware of the risks. This can be done by educating populations and workforces (at risk) about the harmful effects of arsenic poisoning and how it can be avoided.

Another important preventative measure is to have health care staff check people at risk for the early signs of arsenic poisoning.

How is arsenic poisoning diagnosed?

In areas and jobs where there’s a danger of arsenic poisoning, you should monitor the amount of arsenic within the people in danger. Amounts of arsenic could be measured if you take bloodstream, hair, urine, and finger nail samples.

Urine tests would need to be transported out within 1-a couple of days from the initial exposure, which makes it a precise indicator of once the arsenic poisoning happened. These tests may also be used to assist identify cases when signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning are apparent.

To look for the degree of arsenic exposure during a period of as much as 12 several weeks, tests on hair and finger nails could be carried out. Although these tests can provide a precise symbol of arsenic exposure levels, they don’t indicate what effects they’re going to have around the patient’s health.

How can arsenic poisoning be treated?

The kind of treatment solution used is dependent around the type and stage from the arsenic poisoning. Some techniques remove arsenic from the body before it will get an opportunity to inflict damage, some repair or minimize the harm which has already occured. Treatment techniques include:

  • bowel irrigation – large amounts of an osmotically balanced polyethylene glycol solution is passed through the entire gastrointestinal tract to flush it out. This removes traces of arsenic and prevents it from being absorbed into the gut.
  • removing clothes that could possibly be contaminated with arsenic
  • thoroughly washing and rinsing skin that has been affected
  • blood transfusions
  • taking heart medication – if the heart starts failing
  • use of mineral supplements – these may help lower the risk of potentially fatal heart rhythm problem
  • observing kidney function
  • chelation therapy – uses certain chemicals (dimercaptosuccinic acid & dimercaprol) to isolate the arsenic from the blood proteins

Video – Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh

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