Environmental Medicine

Environmental Medicine -
Heavy Metal Burden: Arsenic

Arsenic is a heavy metal that can exist in a benign "organic" form or a toxic inorganic form. The organic form tends to manifest itself in shellfish. Arsenic is a carcinogen with sufficient evidence for a cause and effect relationship between human cancers of the lung, skin, liver, bladder, and kidney. Arsenic is deposited in keratin rich tissues of the body including hair, skin, nails, teeth, and bones. In utero transmission of arsenic is well documented, but it is not found in breast milk. Environmental sources of arsenic include:

  • Water Reservoirs
  • CCA Pressure Treated Wood
  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides
  • Fungicides
  • Cigarettes
  • Wine From Sprayed Grapes
  • Seafood
  • Rice/Rice Bran
  • Seaweed
  • Chicken/Chicken Feed
  • Glass
  • Alloys
  • Coloring Agents
  • Cattle/Sheep Dip

Potential signs and symptoms of an excessive total body load of arsenic include:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy w/ Weakness
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Skin/Mucous Membrane Irritation
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Numbness/Tingling in Extremities
  • Hearing Loss
  • Skin Loss
  • Dark Skin
  • Callus Formation
  • Low Red Blood Cells
  • Low White Blood Cells
  • Elevated Liver Enzymes

Chronic arsenic exposure is associated with liver diseases, liver cancer, Raynaud's Syndrome, Type II Diabetes, hypertension, and vascular disease. Basal cell carcinoma in sun protected regions is another association.

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