Arsenic is a chemical element in the environment. It can be found naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, in plants and even animals. There are some agricultural and industries that do release arsenic into the environment.
2 Compounds of Arsenic
Arsenic has no smell nor taste. Arsenic in its pure form is a steel, gray metal. But it is also sometimes a part of chemical compounds.
1. Inorganic Compounds
- Arsenic is combined with oxygen, iron, chlorine, and sulphur.
- Inorganic arsenic compounds are found in industries such as processing of glass, pigments, textiles, paper, metal adhesives, wood preservation, ammunition, and as an alloying agent.
- Inorganic arsenic compounds are also found in pressure-treated wood and in 'arsenic-contaminated water'.
- This form of arsenic is more toxic and tends to lead to various health problems and cancer.
2. Organic Compounds
- Arsenic is combined with carbon and other atoms.
- Organic arsenic compounds are very much less toxic than inorganic arsenic compounds.
- These compounds are found in food such as fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy products and cereals.
Arsenic compounds are used in many ways, such as:
1. In pressure treated lumber, it is used as a preservative. It helps protect wood from rot and insects.
2. In pesticides.
3. In animal hides, it is used as a preservative.
4. As an additive to lead and copper for hardening purposes.
5. In certain glass manufacturing.
6. In electronic semiconductor manufacturing.
7. In homeopathic remedies, arsenic is extremely diluted to be sued for digestive disorders, food poisoning, insomnia, allergies, anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive-disorder-behaviour (OCDB).
8. In traditional Chinese medicine formulas, arsenic is used to treat psoriasis, syphilis, asthma, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, cough, itchiness, as an anti-inflammatory agent, general tonic and pain-killer.
9. In treating acute promyelocytic leukemia, arsenic trioxide is given intravenously.
Arsenic in Food
As arsenic is found in water, soil and air, arsenic is absorbed by all plants. Although arsenic is absorbed by all plants, it is more concentrated in leafy vegetables, rice, apple and grape juice and seafood too!
Rice absorbs arsenic from soil or water much more effectively than most plants as it is a crop that grows in water-flooded conditions. This allows arsenic to be absorbed easier by the roots and stored in the grains.
An example would be the southern region of US. Certain parts of California, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas have rice acreage which have high levels of arsenic as previously, those lands were filled with cotton. And cotton back then was heavily treated with arsenic pesticides for decades to combat the boll weevil beetle.
Brown rice has higher levels of arsenic than white rice. In brown rice only the hull is removed. Where else in white rice, the rice is processed by polishing the rice to remove the surface layers. Thus, this reduces the level of arsenic in white rice.
As rice cereals are produced from rice, it is not surprising if cereals contain worrying levels of arsenic.
The worrying thing is that the cereals that were found to contain worrisome levels of arsenic were for babies between 4 and 12 months!
Also ready-to-eat-cereals and rice drinks contain worrying amounts of arsenic.
Click on LINK to read in detail.
3. Marine Fish & Seafood
These naturally contain high levels of organic arsenic. It is labelled as 'fish arsenic'. Calcium supplements which are made from seashells sometimes do contain arsenic too.
Exposure to Arsenic
Being exposed to arsenic (for a short time) can cause many problems in our human bodies such as:
2. Nausea and vomiting
4. Muscle weakness and cramping
5. Skin changes/rashes
Long term exposure can cause irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage and cancer.
How to Minimise Exposure to Arsenic
1. Rotate your food. Try alternating foods with arsenic and without arsenic (as you can't just stop eating!)
2. Use gloves and respirator in areas that have high levels of arsenic blowing in the air.
3. Make sure your water is from arsenic-controllable-sources.
4. Avoid homeopathic remedies and Chinese medicines that contain arsenic.
5. Avoid products that have been pre-treated with arsenic or use arsenic as a preservative.
Clink on Arsenic: Medicinal Double-Edged Sword to read.
Click on Arsenic to read more.