Saturday, October 28, 2006

Arsenic

Arsenic diagnosis, especially from low doses of inorganic arsenic (the type found in Chromated Copper Arsenate or CCA-treated lumber) is not easy. According to the EPA, CCA is a highly toxic chemical formulation that contains water, arsenic acid, chromic acid, and copper oxide, and is primarily used as a wood preservative and insecticide/fungicide.

It is found virtually everywhere. It is sold in lumber and hardware stores nationwide and is used by consumers and contractors to construct decks, playgrounds and fences. There is no one set of symptoms; responses vary, depending upon exposure means and levels.

Arsenic can be inhaled, ingested (swallowed) or absorbed through contact. Arsenic poisoning is difficult to pin down; most of the arsenic leaves the body within three days of exposure.

The arsenic that remains is stored in the brain, bones, and tissue and continues to do serious damage. Some people have no immediate symptoms but the exposure can cause diabetes and many types of cancer later on.

There is new evidence that arsenic may also lead to heart disease and strokes. It may cause long term liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage.

Arsenic exposure, even at low levels, can result in a range of symptoms. Swallowing or inhaling low levels of inorganic arsenic can result in stomach ache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

It can also result in decreased production of red and white blood cells, which may cause fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, blood-vessel damage (resulting in bruising), and impaired nerve function. One of the early warning signs of arsenic poisoning is a “pins and needles” sensation in the hands and feet.

Long-term oral exposure to inorganic arsenic can result in skin changes including a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small “corns” or “warts” on the palms, soles, and torso.

Other signs and symptoms include skin thickening, fluid accumulation (resulting in puffiness) especially around the lower eyelids, face and ankles, diarrhea, garlic breath, perspiration, excessive salivation, generalized itching, oral inflammation, sore throat, runny nose, excessive tearing, numbness, skin inflammation, hair loss, weakness, and loss of appetite.

Arsenic can also cause a range of neurological effects, including headaches and vision problems. It can cause noticeable behavioral changes, most commonly aggression or depression.

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