Medindia

X

» » Arsenic Poisoning - Signs - Symptoms - Treatment - Prevention - Reference

Arsenic Poisoning / Arsenicosis

Rating : 12345
Rate This Article : 1 2 3 4 5
G J 4
A -A +

About

Arsenic poisoning occurs when a personís body contains greater than normal levels of arsenic, a semi-metallic element.

Arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis is a condition that is caused by consuming, absorbing or inhaling more than the optimum levels of arsenic, which is a semi-metallic element that is capable of forming an array of poisonous compounds. It is present in ground water all over the world.
Advertisement

Arsenic Poisoning / Arsenicosis

Arsenic has no smell or taste and hence is hard to detect, even if it is present in dangerous levels. Arsenic poisoning occurs mainly through contaminated drinking water and occupational exposures.

One of the most severe cases of poisoning by arsenic through drinking water was reported in Bangladesh, which the WHO termed as "largest mass poisoning of a population in history."

The recommended limit of arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 mg/L (10ppb). The inorganic forms of arsenic, such as arsenic trioxide, found in drinking water, are much more poisonous than the organic forms.

Studies in Northern India have revealed that arsenic has not only seeped into and contaminated ground water, but has also entered the food chain, as revealed by tests on samples of food crop such as rice, maize and sugarcane. Rice is particularly susceptible to arsenic poisoning. Foods such as poultry, fish and meat have also been found to contain traces of arsenic.

Certain industries such as that of glass, wood, smelting and pesticide industry make use of arsenic or produce it as by-product.

In adults, the acute minimal lethal dose of arsenic is estimated to be about 1 mg/kg/day. Arsenic poisoning has been found to be detrimental to health. It has now come to light that people who have been drinking water contaminated with arsenic for several years suffer various ailments.

Arsenic poisoning is linked to heart diseases, stroke, cancer, diabetes, skin problems, chronic lower respiratory diseases, liver diseases, digestion-related issues and complications of the nervous system. Chronic exposure has been linked to vitamin A deficiency and night blindness.

Symptoms and Signs of Arsenic Poisoning

Arsenic poisoning displays an array of symptoms and needs to be properly treated to avoid fatality.

Body organs that are usually affected by arsenic poisoning include skin, lungs, kidneys, and liver.

Initial symptoms include the following-

Headaches
Confusion
Drowsiness
Severe diarrhea
Pallor
Rashes
Swelling

As the poisoning increases, convulsions and fingernail pigmentation changes (leukonychia) could occur.

Symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include-

Diarrhea
Vomiting
Cramping muscles
Blood in the urine (hematuria)
Stomach pain
Hair loss
Breath that smells like garlic
Convulsions

If arsenic poisoning is not treated properly, the patient could enter into a coma and eventually die.

Treatment and Prevention of Arsenic Poisoning

Arsenic poisoning is capable of causing life- threatening health issues and can even prove fatal if not treated on time.

Diagnosis of arsenic poisoning over a year can be measured by studying samples of blood, hair, urine, and fingernail. Urine tests within a day or two after exposure can help to analyze poisoning at the initial stage.

Treatment for arsenic poisoning has been the same as that of metallic poisoning, especially in third world countries, and this has not been able to provide the necessary relief to long-time sufferers. Instead of single drug therapy, a combination therapy has been tried using a drug which has monoisomyl succimor as its base, along with aloe vera. The drug has a better ability to penetrate cell membranes, get attached to the arsenic content and to excrete it from the body. The potent antioxidants in aloe vera can combat the oxidative stress that arises from arsenic poisoning.

Other steps to counter arsenic poisoning-

Removing contaminated clothes and washing and rinsing skin thoroughly
Bowel irrigation - Passing large quantities of polyethylene solution through the GI tract to flush out arsenic
Blood transfusions
Supportive treatment for complications like heart failure and seizures

Arsenic poisoning can be prevented through the following methods-

Fixing arsenic removal system in homes
Periodically testing drinking water for arsenic
Rainwater harvesting
Digging wells that are adequately deep

The problem of groundwater being contaminated with arsenic can be mitigated to a large extent by installing filters at community level. Care must be taken to see that these filters are cleaned and maintained regularly and that the sledge generated by these filters is disposed off properly.

Although arsenic has been found to be beneficial in treating cancer, its risks far outweigh its benefits. Proper prevention can only be brought about by educating people about the hazards of arsenic poisoning.

Those who are exposed to arsenic for longer periods of time must be monitored periodically for early signs of damage.
Advertisement

Post your Comments

Comments should be on the topic and should not be abusive. The editorial team reserves the right to review and moderate the comments posted on the site.
User Avatar
* Your comment can be maximum of 2500 characters
Notify me when reply is posted I agree to the terms and conditions
If anyone intakes 5 spoons of arsenic trioxide without their knowledge what will happen? will that end their life?
vallishiva Friday, May 30, 2014

Ask an Expert

C
If you have a question about health related issues, you can now post it in our Ask An Expert section on our community website Medwonders.com and get answers from our panel of experts.

You May Also Like

Advertisement
View All
Advertisement