Arsenic Poisoning

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View the Fat-Fighting Foods Slideshow

Arsenic facts

  • Arsenic is an element (metalloid) that can combine with organic and inorganic substances.
  • Inorganic arsenic is arsenic alone or combined with inorganic substances that are very toxic to most biologic systems, including humans.
  • Organic arsenic is arsenic combined with organic substances and may be non-toxic or far less toxic to many biologic systems than inorganic arsenic.
  • Symptoms of arsenic poisoning vary with the type and concentration of the poison. Inorganic arsenic may cause abdominal pains, destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis), shock, and death quickly. Lower concentrations of inorganic arsenic and organic arsenic cause far less severe symptoms.
  • Diagnosis of arsenic poisoning is made by determining inorganic and organic levels of arsenic in the blood and urine.
  • Treatment of arsenic poisoning in acute toxic poisonings needs to begin quickly; treatment involves removal of arsenic by dialysis, chelating agents, replacement of red blood cells, and if ingested, bowel cleansing.
  • Acute toxic inorganic arsenic poisoning has only a fair to poor outcome. Chronic poisoning has a better outcome.
  • Arsenic is found in groundwater, many chemicals, and foods. If arsenic is in the organic form, it is likely nontoxic or weakly toxic to humans, but inorganic arsenic can also be found in similar locations and materials and in high concentrations in industrial processes. In 2013, the FDA made recommendations that less than 10 parts per billion of arsenic was acceptable for levels in apple juice. Levels for arsenic have yet to be FDA approved for rice (still under study), although groundwater levels that provide arsenic to rice are FDA set at less than 10 parts per billion.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Arsenic Poisoning - Symptoms

    Describe the signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning in a case with which you are familiar.

    Post View 3 Comments
  • Arsenic Poisoning - Diagnosis

    Discuss the events that led to a diagnosis of arsenic poisoning.

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Arsenic Poisoning - Treatment

    Do you know someone who was treated for arsenic poisoning? Please describe the experience.

    Post
  • Arsenic Poisoning - Foods

    Do you drink apple juice or eat rice on a consistent basis? Are you concerned about the amount of arsenic in these products?

    Post View 3 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors