Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Arsenic in food

For thousands of years, arsenic and its compounds have been used for therapeutic reason, but it owes its bad reputation primary to its widespread use for homicidal purposes.

Arsenic poisoning has a long history. The first occupational disease related to arsenic was described by Agricola in 1556, who observed skin lesions due to contact with arsenical cobalt.

All arsenic compounds, including the inorganic tri- and penta-valent forms as well as its organic compounds are easily absorbed form the gastrointestinal tract.

Once absorbed arsenic is rapidly distributed to lungs, liver, kidney and spleen and subsequently redistributed to the skin, nails and hair where it is tightly bound to keratin.

Arseniasis manifested in the form of skin lesion, vascular damage, cancers of the bladder, lung, liver, and kidney. It arises from the ingestion of excessive quantities of arsenic, through drinking water, diet and inhalation of arsenic containing aerosol.

Headaches, confusion, drowsiness, convulsions and changes in fingernail pigmentation may occur with chronic arsenic poisoning.

Acute arsenic poisoning is not normally associated with environmental exposure through food or water and is much more commonly associated with accidents or deliberate poisoning.

Symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody urine, dermatitis, gastrointestinal pain and convulsion.

Acute poisoning takes two forms: acute paralytic syndrome and acute gastrointestinal syndrome.

Acute paralytic syndrome either cardiovascular collapse of depression of the central nervous system, and can cause death within hours.

Acute gastrointestinal syndrome, which is more common, involves violent vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and internal ruptures and may followed by failure of multiple organs.
Arsenic in food

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