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Arsenic can be present in different levels of oxidation, but trivalent arsenic compounds (arsenites) tend to be more toxic then pentavalent arsenates. Arsenic can also be present as organic compounds which tend to accumulate in fish. Inhalation of arsenic compounds may result in upper respiratory irritation, conjunctivitis, peripheral neuropathy (numbness of extremities, muscle weakness, tremors), encephalopathy (hallucinations, emotional lability, memory loss), Raynaud's phenomena, vascular disease, spontaneous abortion, and various cancers (lung, bladder, liver, kidney, prostate, skin). Arsenic tends to accumulate in hair and nails but is short-lived in the blood. Measurement of arsenic in urine is useful particularly since both organic arsenic (from seafood) and inorganic arsenic can be determined separately, thereby allowing a better quantification of exposure from environmental versus food sources that would not otherwise be assessed if only total arsenic were measured. Selected references are provided below.

Selected References

Abernathy, C. O., Liu, Y. P., Longfellow, D., Aposhian, H. V., Beck, B., Fowler, B., Goyer, R., Menzer, R., Rossman, T., Thompson, C. and Waalkes, M., Arsenic: health effects, mechanisms of actions, and research issues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(7), 593-597 (1999).

Alain, G., Tousignant, J. and Rozenfarb, E., Chronic arsenic toxicity. International Journal of Dermatol.ogy, 32(12), 899-901 (1993).

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Toxicological profile for arsenic. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 468 pages, September (2000).

Axelson, O., Arsenic compounds and cancer. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 6(5-6), 1229-1235 (1980).

Baker, B. A., Topliff, A. R., Messing, R. B., Durkin, D. and Johnson, J. S., Persistent neuropathy and hyperkeratosis from distant arsenic exposure. Journal of Agromedicine, 10(4), 43-54 (2005).

Bates, M. N., Smith, A. H. and Hopenhayn-Rich, C., Arsenic ingestion and internal cancers: a review. American Journal of Epidemiol.ogy, 135(5), 462-476 (1992).

Blom, S., Lagerkvist, B. and Linderholm, H., Arsenic exposure to smelter workers. Clinical and neurophysiological studies. Scandanavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 11(4), 265-269 (1995).

Chhuttani, P. N., Chawla, L. S. and Sharma, T. D., Arsenical neuropathy. Neurology, 17(3), 269-274 (1967).

Choucair, A. K. and Ajax, E. T., Hair and nails in arsenical neuropathy. Annals of Neurology, 23, 628-629 (1988).

de Peyster, A. and Silvers, J. A., Arsenic levels in hair of workers in a semiconductor fabrication facility. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, 56(4), 377-383 (1995).

Engel, R. R., Hopenhayn-Rich, C., Receveur, O. and Smith, A. H., Vascular effects of chronic arsenic exposure a review. Epidemiologic Reviews, 16(2), 184-209 (1994).

Enterline, P. E. and Marsh, G. M., Cancers among workers exposed to arsenic and other substances in a copper smelter. American Journal of Epidemiology, 116(6), 895-911 (1982).

Falk, H., Caldwell, G. G., Ishak, K. G., Thomas, L. B. and Popper, H., Arsenic related hepatic angiosarcoma. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2, 43-50 (1981).

Freeman, J. W. and Couch, J. R., Prolonged encephalopathy with arsenic poisoning. Neurology, 28, 853-855 (1978).

Garb, L. G. and Hine, C. H., Arsenical neuropathy: residual effects following acute industrial exposure. Journal  of Occupational Medicine, 19(8), 567-568 (1977).

Gerr, F. and Letz, R., Epidemiological case definitions of peripheral neuropathy: experience from two neurotoxicity studies. Neurotoxicology, 21(5), 761-768 (2000).

Hall, A. H., Chronic arsenic poisoning. Toxicology Letters, 128(1-3), 69-72 (2002).

Hay, R. and McCormack, J. G., Arsenic poisoning and peripheral neuropathy. Australian Family Physician, 16(3), 287, 289 (1987).

Higgins, I., Welch, K., Oh, M. et al., Influence of arsenic exposure and smoking on lung cancer among smelter workers: a pilot study. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2, 33-41 (1981).

Lee-Feldstein, A., Arsenic and respiratory cancer in humans: follow-up of copper smelter employees in Montana. Journal of the  National Cancer Institute, 70(4), 601-610 (1983).

Lin, R. S., A cohort study on cancer in areas among residents chronically exposed to arsenic Archives of Environmental Health, 45(5), 309 (1990).

Lowney, Y. W., Ruby, M. V., Wester, R. C., Schoof, R. A., Holm, S. E., Hui, X. Y., Barbadillo, S. and Maibach, H. I., Percutaneous absorption of arsenic from environmental media. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 21(1-2), 1-14 (2005).

Mahajan, S. K., Aggarwal, H. K., Wig, N., Maitra, S. and Chugh, S. N., Arsenic induced neuropathy. Journal of the Association of  Physicians of India, 40(4), 268-269 (1992).

Massey, E. W., Arsenic neuropathy. Neurology, 31(8), 1057-1058 (1981).

Ott, M. G., Holder, B. B. and Gordon, H. L., Respiratory cancer and occupational exposure to arsenicals. Archives of Environmental Health, 29, 250-255 (1974).

Pershagen, G., Bergman, F., Klominek, J., Damber, L. and Wall, S., Histological types of lung cancer among smelter workers exposed to arsenic. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 44, 454-458 (1987).

Snegireff, L. and Lombard, O., Arsenic and cancer. Archives of Industrial Hygiene, 4, 199-205 (1951).

Tapio, S. and Grosche, B., Arsenic in the aetiology of cancer. Mutation Research, 612(3), 215-246 (2006).

Tsuji, J. S., Benson, R., Schoof, R. A. and Hook, G. C., Health effect levels for risk assessment of childhood exposure to arsenic. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 39(2), 99-110 (2004).

Welch, K., Higgins, I., Oh, M. and Burchfield, C., Arsenic exposure, smoking, and respiratory cancer in copper smelter workers. Archives of Environmetal Health, 37(6), 325-335 (1982).

World Health Organization (WHO), Environmental Health Criteria  18. Arsenic. Arsenic International Programme on Chemical Safety,  Geneva, 174 pages (1981).

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