- 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