What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

Question: What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?



Arsenic Poisoning Accidental poisoning in the home is the cause for all childhood deaths. Although arsenic poisoning is not thought to be common in childhood accidents it will be the focus of this paper. A review of reference sources will provide the required information to the public, parents, students, and children about arsenic poisoning, its symptoms, the types of poisoning and how it is introduced into the population.

Arsenic poisoning does cause a variety of systemic problems when and if an individual does get the toxic of arsenic poisoning. The typical symptoms are; diaphoresis, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, garlic odor to the breath, diarrhea, anuria, dehydration, hypotension, cardiovascular collapse, aplastic anemia and death1. The degree to which symptoms a person has will be determined by the severity of the exposure.

Possible methods of exposure to toxic substances is common to all products. The possible methods of exposure are contact, ingestion and inhalation. The first method is by contact and when the substances is arsenic the initial complication is a corrosive effect to the dermal layers. Over a prolonged contact exposure the resulting symptoms can be very dangerous and can cause focal hyperemia, which means it decreases to blood flow to your arteries and veins and vesicular eruptions2.

The second possible method of poisoning with an arsenic compound is by ingestion. The ingestion of arsenic will typically lead to the development of symptoms within thirty minutes. The initial symptoms may include a metallic taste in the mouth, hypersalivation, and dysphagia2. The progression of symptoms would then include; vomiting, cramps, diaphoresis, breath odor(garlic like), and diarrhea. If the exposure was of a large concentration then the progression of the arsenic poisoning event would lead to seizures, electrolyte disturbances and systemic shock. An exposure of an individual to arsenic that has resulted from a large quantity or concentration usually will result in death. If death does not occur with in a few hours then death will occur during the next few days due to renal failure.

The third method of exposure is by inhalation. The inhalation of arsenic compounds can lead to inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nasal and oral pharyngeal passage ways. The process may be delayed by this type of exposure because the concentration may be lower, but the end result will be the same symptoms as arsenic poisoning by contact, and by ingestion . Regardless of the method of the exposure toxic event can end in the same result, death!

Arsenic is a metal compound that can easily find its way into the environment and the human population. The substance is found in our water, soil, food products and eventually , us3. Even though we have governmental guidelines for controlling such toxic "substances" or "compounds" on a daily basis, we drink contaminated water and eat contaminated food products. This will lead to some degree of arsenic poisoning in each of us, according to Joe Harrison the technical director of Water Quality Association. Daily consumption of water with greater than 50 micrograms per liter of arsenic, less than 1 % of the fatal dose, can lead to problems with skin, circulatory and nervous systems3. Greater problems can occur if the arsenic poisoning is of a chronic nature and resulting in neural disorders, vital organ damage and eventually death.

Arsenic is a compound that should be more closely monitored by parents, teachers and children because of its fatal results. The three main methods of exposure are contact, ingestion and inhalation. Regardless of the method of exposure all can produce basically the same symptoms.


  1. http://hna.ffh.vic.gov.au/phb/alters/arsenic.htm
  2. http://gnv.ifas.ufl.edu/~fairsweb/text/pp/15309.html
  3. http://gnv.ifas.ufl.edu/~fairsweb/text/text/pp/15462.html

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This article was prepared by: Zelia Zuniga , Chemistry 1, Fall 1997.

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