A shiny gray element with atomic symbol As, atomic number 33, and atomic weight 75. It occurs throughout the universe, mostly in the form of metallic arsenides. Most forms are toxic. According to the Fourth Annual Report on Carcinogens (NTP 85-002, 1985), arsenic and certain arsenic compounds have been listed as known carcinogens. (From Merck Index, 11th ed)


Arsenic(As) is a ubiquitous metalloid found in several forms in food and the environment, such as the soil, air and water. Physiologically, it exists as an ion in the body. The predominant form is inorganic arsenic in drinking water, which is both highly toxic and carcinogenic and rapidly bioavailable. Arsenic is currently one of the most important environmental global contaminants and toxicants, particularly in the developing countries. For decades, very large populations have been and are currently still exposed to inorganic Arsenic through geogenically contaminated drinking water. An increased incidence of disease mediated by this toxicant is the consequence of long-term exposure. In human's chronic ingestion of inorganic arsenic (> 500 mg/L As) has been associated with cardiovascular, nervous, hepatic and renal diseases and diabetes mellitus as well as cancer of the skin, bladder, lung, liver and prostate. Contrary to the earlier view that methylated compounds are innocuous, the methylated metabolites are now recognized to be both toxic and carcinogenic, possibly due to genotoxicity, inhibition of antioxidative enzyme functions, or other mechanisms. Arsenic inhibits indirectly sulfhydryl containing enzymes and interferes with cellular metabolism. Effects involve such phenomena as cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and inhibition of enzymes with antioxidant function. These are all related to nutritional factors directly or indirectly. Nutritional studies both in experimental and epidemiological studies provide convincing evidence that nutritional intervention, including chemoprevention, offers a pragmatic approach to mitigate the health effects of arsenic exposure, particularly cancer, in the relatively resource-poor developing countries. Nutritional intervention, especially with micronutrients, many of which are antioxidants and share the same pathway with Arsenic , appears a host defence against the health effects of arsenic contamination in developing countries and should be embraced as it is pragmatic and inexpensive. (A7664, A7665).

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Arsenic Health Effects

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Arsenic Interacts with Diseases

Arsenic Interacts with Genes