C-FERST Issue Profile: Arsenic
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil, rocks and minerals. Arsenic is also used in various manufacturing processes. Approximately 90 percent of industrial arsenic in the U.S. is used as a wood preservative. Arsenic is additionally used in paints, dyes, metals, drugs, soaps, semiconductors; agricultural applications, and mining and smelting processes.
The major sources of arsenic in drinking water come from erosion of natural deposits, orchards and glass and electronics production wastes.
EPA has classified inorganic arsenic as a human carcinogen. Very little is known about the health effects of organic arsenic compounds in humans.
Exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting, sore throat, irritated lungs, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, skin redness or swelling and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet. Long-term exposure can cause a darkening of the skin, and small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles or torso.
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