Though arsenic is well known to be a source of poisoning, many people misunderstand the common sources that put them at risk. While arsenic is famous for being in rat poison, that is actually a very rare cause of arsenic poisoning because very rarely is rat poisoning ingested. Instead, arsenic toxicity is most commonly due to drinking groundwater contaminated with arsenic. In fact, it is estimated that over 100 million people throughout the world have been affected by Arsenic poisoning from groundwater.
Beyond water, the most common cause of arsenic poisoning, the ingested substance that most concentrates Arsenic is actually rice in soil contaminated by arsenic-containing water.
Manufacturing is a source of arsenic as well. In Asia many pesticides contain arsenic, but this is seldom used in the West. Instead, smelting of copper and zinc ores produces arsenic as a by-product.
Early symptoms of arsenic poisoning include:
As levels increase or become more acute, symptoms can include:
At the most severe levels, arsenic can cause dysfunction of the lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Fortunately, arsenic toxicity is avoidable by decreasing exposure such as decreasing contaminated water and rice in the diet. If you are unsure whether such measures are worthwhile, you can test your arsenic levels, as well as that of other heavy metals. If your arsenic levels are elevated, you can then consider and avoid any exposures you might have so that heavy metals do not have a heavy effect on you.