Arsenic toxicity occurs when a person is exposed to arsenic. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the earth’s crust. It has no smell or taste. If you suspect you have been exposed to arsenic, contact your doctor immediately.
There are two primary forms of arsenic:
- Inorganic arsenic—arsenic combined with hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, or sulfur; found in the environment, sometimes as a gas
- Organic arsenic—arsenic combined with carbon and hydrogen; found in animals and plants
Inorganic arsenic is much more harmful than organic arsenic.
Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and minerals, and may enter the air, water, and soil. It is also used:
- To preserve or pressure-treat wood—this use is being phased out except for specific applications such as railroad ties and utility poles, but old stocks may still be around and pose a risk
- As an ingrediant in pesticides
- To produce glass
- In copper and other metal manufacturing
- In the electronics industry
- In medicine
Arsenic toxicity may occur when a person is exposed to toxic amounts of arsenic due to:
- Breathing air containing arsenic
- Eating food contaminated with arsenic
- Drinking water contaminated with arsenic
- Living in areas with high natural levels of arsenic
- Working in a job that involves arsenic
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Last reviewedFebruary 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.