Arsenic

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What other names is Arsenic known by?

Arsenate, Arsenic Pentoxide, Arsenic Trichloride, Arsenic Trioxide, Arsénico, Arsenicum Album, Arsenicum Iodatum, Arsenite, Arsénite, Arsénite de Sodium, As, Atomic Number 33, Fowler's Solution, Numéro Atomique 33, Pentoxyde d'Arsenic, Sodium Arsenite, Solution de Fowler, Trichlorure d'Arsenic.

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a trace element. It is found in several foods including seafood, poultry, grains (especially rice), bread, cereal products, mushrooms, and dairy products. Some forms of arsenic are used as medicine.

Despite serious safety concerns, arsenic is often used as a part of extremely diluted homeopathic remedies that are used for digestive disorders, food poisoning, sleep problems (insomnia), allergies, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Arsenic is also contained in traditional Chinese medicine formulas and used for psoriasis; syphilis; asthma; joint pain (rheumatism); hemorrhoids; cough; itchiness; cancer; to reduce swelling (as an anti-inflammatory agent); and as a general tonic and pain-killer.

Healthcare providers sometimes give arsenic trioxide intravenously (by IV) to treat a type of blood cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia. This arsenic product is available by prescription only.

Natural medicines can be contaminated with arsenic and may produce symptoms of poisoning when consumed in large amounts or for extended periods of time. Cases of arsenic poisoning have been reported with homeopathic arsenic products and with kelp supplements. High arsenic levels have been reported in people who consume raw opium for long periods of time. Measurable levels of arsenic may be found in some calcium supplements made from algae or shells. A study of 251 herbal products sold in the US detected arsenic in 36 (14%) of them.

Effective for...

  • Treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia). A specific prescription-only intravenous medication is used for this purpose.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of arsenic for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Arsenic work?

Arsenic is a trace element that occurs naturally in very small amounts in the diet. Its exact functions are not known. The estimated adult daily intake of arsenic from a typical diet is 12-50 mcg. A dietary requirement of 12-25 mcg/day has been suggested.

In leukemia, arsenic trioxide increases death of cancer cells.

Are there safety concerns?

Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts. The form of arsenic found naturally in foods (organic arsenic) does not seem to cause any harm.at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.

Also, arsenic trioxide (Trisenox) is LIKELY SAFE when given intravenously (by IV) to adults by a healthcare provider. It is an FDA-approved prescription drug.

Other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. These forms can be very poisonous, even in small doses. Don't take arsenic supplements. Taking 10 mcg/kg/day over a period of time can produce symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Taking 5 mg of arsenic, or sometimes less, can cause digestive tract symptoms. Higher doses can cause severe poisoning and death. Inorganic arsenic is classified as a human cancer-causing agent.

Laws have been made to regulate the amount of arsenic that is allowed in the water supply. The maximum permissible level of arsenic in drinking water is 10 mcg/L. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Children: Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten by children in normal food amounts. The form of arsenic found naturally in foods (organic arsenic) does not seem to cause any harm. Other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. However, other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Arsenic has been linked to birth defects and other serious harm in animals. Do not take arsenic supplements if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Low levels of folic acid (folic acid deficiency): There is some evidence that folic acid deficiency changes the way the body processes and removes arsenic and may contribute to higher arsenic levels.

Heart problems: The prescription form of arsenic (arsenic trioxide, Trisenox) can affect heart rhythm in some patients.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat (QT interval-prolonging drugs)
Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Some forms of arsenic might cause an abnormal heartbeat. Taking arsenic along with other medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat might cause serious side effects including heart arrhythmias.

Some medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat include amiodarone (Cordarone), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), ibutilide (Corvert), procainamide (Pronestyl), quinidine, sotalol (Betapace), thioridazine (Mellaril), and many others.

Dosing considerations for Arsenic.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

INTRAVENOUS:
  • For treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia): Healthcare providers give prescription-only arsenic intravenously (by IV).
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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