Toxic Effects of Arsenic



Throughout the ages, arsenic has been used in medicine, cosmetics industry and agriculture. It has been used as an insecticide, and it still is used as a desiccant, rodenticide, and herbicide. Industrial uses of arsenic include doping of solid state devices, laser material, bronzing etc.

Many arsenic compounds have found commercial applications. The arsenites (trivalent arsenic compounds, for example, calcium arsenite) are important herbicides and wood preservatives. Some arsenates (pentavalent arsenic compounds, for example, calcium arsenate) are used as insecticides and pigments. Many organic compounds have been employed in medicine, or as war gases. The health effects that result from the ingestion of arsenic-contaminated drinking water manifest slowly. Arsenic is considered a silent pollutant since there is generally NO smell or taste associated with its presence. Arsenic poisoning can easily go undetected because many of it's symptoms are also indicative of a number of other illnesses.

Health effects from arsenic exposure include skin damage, circulatory system problems and an increased cancer risk, especially the skin, bladder and lungs. Early warning signs may include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and numbness in extremities.

Drinking water exposure to inorganic arsenic lead to large scale cases of poisoning in Argentina, Chile, Taiwan, U.S.A., Canada and Japan. In excess of 0.25 million people exposed for several decades in Chile.

What is ARSENIC?

Arsenic is a highly toxic, naturally occurring grayish- white element used as a poison in pesticides and herbicides. Arsenic is also found as an ingredient in pigments and wood preservatives. Arsenic contained in wolmanized lumber will not release toxic compounds unless burned.

Arsenic can be harmful through inhalation, absorption through skin and mucous membranes, skin contact, and ingestion. Accidental poisoning can occur through breathing fumes, licking paintbrushes to a point when using pigments containing arsenic, or from wearing inadequate clothing when applying arsenic-based products. Effects of mild poisoning from inhalation include loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. Effects of more severe chronic or acute exposure include skin lesions, skin rash, chronic headaches, apathy, garlic odor on breath, a metallic taste in the mouth, a bronzing pigment of the skin resembling "raindrops on a dusty road," and possible damage to the liver. Arsenic and arsenic compounds are known cancer-causing agents and have been implicated in lung and skin cancer and associated with birth defects.

Sources of occupational exposures to arsenic may include:

  • Mining and processing: Arsenic is a constituent of many alloys, including those of copper, lead, zinc, silver and germanium. It is alloyed with lead in making, for example, lead shot, lead-based bearing metals and battery grids. Arsenic is often removed as an impurity during the smelting of copper, lead and zinc.
  • Wood preservation: Wood fibres are impregnated under pressure with copper chrome arsenate.
  • Herbicide: Monosodium methyl arsenate, disodium methyl arsenate and sodium arsenate are used extensively in agriculture.
  • Pesticide: Lead arsenate is used to some extent in horticulture. Arsenic trioxide is used in termite control.
  • Glass making: Arsenic trioxide and pentoxide are used to produce clear glass, free from the green stain of iron impurity.
  • Hide preservation: Arsenic trioxide and sodium arsenite are used as hide preservatives.
  • Food additive: Derivatives of phenylarsenic acid are added to fowl and pig feed.
  • Laboratory procedures: Arsenic trichloride is used in organo-arsenic chemistry and in chemical analysis procedures.

The future burden of arsenic-caused skin cancer in Bangladesh is uncertain, but large numbers of skin cancers have been reported in Taiwan, and elsewhere (IARC, 1980, 1987; WHO, 1981). In other countries studied, the main causes of death due to chronic ingestion of arsenic in drinking water are internal cancers; skin cancers are not usually fatal with appropriate treatment. Dramatic increases in mortality rates from internal cancers have been reported in Taiwan (Chen et al., 1985, 1988, 1992), and Chile (Smith et al., 1998). Long-term drinking of water containing 500 µg l of arsenic may ultimately result in 1 in 10 persons ultimately dying from arsenic-caused cancers including lung, bladder and skin cancer (NRC, 1999). Dr. Shukuruddin Mridha, the Civil Surgeon of Khulna Medical Hospital where a unit for arsenic afflicted people has been opened, said that the patients were initially found to have some skin diseases in the hands and legs but ultimately their kidneys and livers were damaged and with the failure of these two vital organs, they soon died.

Nonetheless, the strength of the current findings in terms of the high prevalence ratios, along with the plausibility of finding corresponding from Taiwan, that diabetes mellitus and hypertension are effects that may indeed result from ingestion of inorganic arsenic. However, the mechanism underlying the ability of inorganic arsenic to induce these disorders is still unclear. Various sources of exposure should be taken into consideration in further investigations of the indicated effects of arsenic (Mahfuzar Rahman, Olav Axelson, Elsvier, 2001).

In early 90s came several headlines in the daily newspaper of Bangladesh that ground water was contaminated in Bangladesh with arsenic. Government and aid agencies neglected this unwanted discovery while the poor rural population continued to be poisoned.

The Daily Star comments on August 20,1999

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2. Stakeholders of the Arsenic Trade

"Stakeholders of the Arsenic Trade" , "even after the allocation of 32 million US dollars by the World Bank to tackle the problem arsenic affected people drinking arsenic contaminated water... It is not only meetings, seminars and workshops, money is going down the drain in the name of programme implementation....Nothing concrete has so far been done to hold the victims.. A health Ministry Official said: "The only beneficiaries in the whole issue have been the national and international consultant."

The Daily Star 17.02. 99:

The well off people, with a view to meeting the necessity of drinking water, resorted to using waters from deep tube-well.
Jessore Feb 16: Villagers said that besides the death toll, the conditions of 33 people were serious due to the same reason and they had been waiting for the tragic end of their life. They said various teams of experts from home and abroad have been visiting their localities, but they are busy only collecting data and sample taking interviews of the victims. No measure was there to effectively help the people about how could they save themselves from this problem, they complained.

Recently the Daily Star reports( July 13, 2000):

Many non-government organisations (NGOs) are allegedly using arsenic patients for their own gains. These NGOs collect samples of tube well water and also of blood, hair and nail from arsenic patients. Most of these NGOs collect money from external sources in the name of doing experiments with these samples, it was alleged by the victims and as well a government agency involved in arsenic-related activities. The NGOs, while taking samples, promise to the victims that the test results would be made known to them, but it is never done even in several months.
This correspondent visited some villages in Manikganj, Faridpur and Narayanganj districts and talked to a good number of arsenic patients and other people.
Most of the victims alleged that NGO representatives collected samples of their blood, hair and nail without mentioning the purpose and also took their photos. Some of them even refused to talk to this correspondent, thinking him to be an NGO representative. When they were convinced that he was a journalist, they alleged that NGOs took samples several months back promising that the test results would be made known to them. Some NGOs also took samples of tube well water. But they could not know any of the test results, they alleged. "I have given blood samples to representatives of at least three organisations. But none of them gave us the name or address of his organisation," said Mollah Mia, an arsenic patient at Hatibari village in Manikganj district.

Ulli Schmetzer on February 7, 1999 in Chicago Tribune reports that a Belgium study has found the arsenic contained in well water and used for irrigation has crept into leaves, roots and cattle fodder, and may have poisoned the entire food chain in this river-braided delta, the world's most densely populated region, home to 126 million people. Another potential danger is fish consumption. Fish is the main protein supplier of Bengali nation

The daily Star on November 1999 reports:

In Pabna, nine out of 13 members of a family at Doyalnagar village in Bera thana were found suffering from arsenicosis, Shimul said. Four of the patients were brought to the hospital on November 11 for treatment. They are Sona Banu, his son Hanif Sheikh, daughter Rahela Khatun and grand daughter China.
Sona Banu, mother of four, developed gangrene in her left leg recently. Her right leg was amputated earlier due to gangrene. There are symptoms of arsenicosis in a finger of her right hand also, the official said. Rahela Khatun's left leg was amputated about two years ago due to gangrene from arsenicosis. Her right leg is also affected now. Of the remaining five family members of Sona Banu, the condition of two is deteriorating, but they were not willing to come to Dhaka for treatment, the officials said.

Sona Banu may have died. There are innumerable cases repeated all over the country. The tragedy is that most of them do not know the cause of their sufferings or deaths. God has punished them as they usually and traditionally think after every disaster. But this time an invisible disaster that penetrates slowly and so severely will destroy them. I still remember the crying of a mother, whole body full of arsenic affected lesion, that penetrated me so severely who lost her son crying, " Oh God, why have you not taken me, I don't care for the poisonous water .. I shall not listen to you!"

When we visited the village in March 2000.Mumta Sudhor had died and left behind the family still drinking arsenic poisonous water. The newly constructed well under arsenic mitigation project poured out the same poisonous water (As 176 µg/L).

In Faridpur and many places in Bangladesh deaths due to arsenic poisoning have been reported, Shahidul Islam of Harshava, Faridpur recently died at the age of 25 due to drinking water containing Arsenic more than 1,7 mg/litre. The whole family and others like Usha Rani Sutrodhor, Momta Sutrodhor, Mubarak Hossain of Dhakin Tapakhola and may other places are now awaiting a painful end to their lives without getting any help or advice or knowing the reasons of their misery. Paradoxically a newly drilled tube-well at the roadside which should be arsenic free contains as high as 1,7 mg/ litre. Women are suffering tragically from arsenic disease. Arsenic affected poor women do not get the chance to get a job. Many marriages are collapsing soon after the detection of arsenic cases in brides. None of the other villages want to establish any marital or social relations with the people of arsenic affected villages.

"If this were the United States, they'd call out the National Guard and get everyone bottled water," said Willard R. Chapel, a physicist who is one of the world's leading experts on arsenic contamination (New York Times, 10.11.98) . Fred Pearce of TheGuardian London describes occurrence of arsenic is one of the biggest outbreak of poisoning this century and foreign agencies are to blame. Experts say half the population is being slowly poisoned.

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3. Sixty five Million People in Bangladesh at Risk of Arsenic Contamination

Some 65 million people in Bangladesh are now at risk of arsenic contamination. This was revealed from the latest survey jointly conducted by Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH) and the School of Environmental Studies (SOES). After analysing the data experts opined that groundwater arsenic contamination and sufferings of people in Bangladesh may be the biggest arsenic calamity in the world.


The survey was carried out in 161 thanas in 60 out of 64 districts of the country. Arsenic at alarming level was found in the water of 41 districts. Some 65 million people reside in these districts having a total area of 87390 square kilometer. May be not all of the 65 million people are drinking arsenic contaminated water regularly, but it can be said that they are always at the risk of being affected with arsenic. Arsenic contamination in groundwater was found in various countries of the world. But there is no instance of such a huge population facing the risk of arsenic pollution.


Till September 1997, water samples from 6101 tube-wells, 3518 human tissues (hair, nail) and urine samples from 830 people were tested in laboratory under the DCH-SOES survey. The presence of high level arsenic was detected in 45% samples of water, 94% samples of hair and nail, and 95% samples of urine. This reveals a disastrous situation regarding arsenic pollution in Bangladesh


Some 210 samples of skin-scales were also tested in the SOES laboratory in which high level of arsenic concentration was found. But as there is no fixed or recommended value of arsenic on skin-scales, it is difficult to say anything about the nature of arsenic poisoning on human body through skin.

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The WHO recommended value of arsenic contamination in water is 0.01 mg/l, while the maximum permissible limit for Bangladesh and India has been fixed at 0.05 mg/l. In the DCH-SOES survey, less than 0.01 mg/l arsenic concentration was detected in 46% or 2803 out of 6101 water samples while above the WHO recommended value (0.01 mg/l) was found in the rest 54% or 3298 samples. On the other hand, arsenic concentration at less than the permissible limit (0.05 mg/l) was detected in 62% or 3783 samples, while above the limit was found in the rest 38% or 2318 water samples.

Arsenic contamination at higher level than the WHO recommended value was found in the tube-wells of 52 districts out of the 60 surveyed. Of these, the level of arsenic presence exceeds the maximum permissible limit in the tube-wells water of 41 districts. In 11 districts, the level of arsenic concentration was found more than the WHO recommended value, but less than the maximum permissible limit. That means, highest 0.05 mg/l exist in the tube-wells water of these districts. These areas may be considered moderately safe. These 11 districts are: Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Bogra, Dhaka, Joipurhat, Gazipur, Borguna, Bhola, Sylhet, and Habiganj. A total of 695 tube-wells were brought under investigation in these districts. Less than 0.01 mg/l was found in 582 tube-wells (84%). The level of arsenic concentration between 0.01 mg/l and 0.05 mg/l was found in the rest 113 tube-wells (16%).

Besides, after testing the water of 328 tube-wells of 8 districts, the survey did not find alarming level of arsenic. Arsenic was found in less than 0.01 mg/l in these samples. These districts may be considered as completely safe from arsenic pollution. These 8 districts are: Panchagar, Thakugaon, Nilfamari, Dinajpur, Gaibandha, Naogoan, Patuakhali and Moulavi Bazar.

Dangerous level ( above 0.05 mg/l) of arsenic was found in the water of 41 districts. These are: Nawabganj, Rajshahi, Pabna, Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jhenida,Jessore, Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Narayanganj, Faridpur, Rajbari,Magura, Chandpur, Noakhali, Luxmipur, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Narail, Barisal, Jhalakati, Gopalganj, Natore, Comilla, Manikganj, Munshiganj, Feni, Narshindi, Chittagong, Sherpur, Netrokona,Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Tangail, Kishoreganj, Sunamganj, Sirajganj and Brahmanbaria

The water of 5036 tube-wells were tested in these 41 districts. Of those 38% or 1983 tube-wells were found having arsenic at less than WHO-recommended value. Arsenic at a level of upto 0.49 mg/l or less than the maximum permissible limit was found in 55% or 2760 samples. And the rest 2286 samples (45%) were found having above 0.05 mg/l.

The survey in these 41 districts revealed a more dangerous fact. That is the presence of high level of arsenic in the polluted water. The detected arsenic level was from 0.10 mg/l to 1.0 mg/l, even more, in 1743 samples. Arsenic concentration more than 1.0 mg/l was found in 75 samples. Such a high concentration was not found even in the worst affected districts of West Bengal.

According to WHO more than 1.0 mg/l arsenic in water may create a disastrous situation. This concentration is 100 times higher than the WHO recommended value and 20 times higher than the maximum permissible limit.

Not only in the water samples, arsenic at high level was found in 89% of the total 1758 hair samples tested in these districts. The normal amount of arsenic in hair is less than 1 mg/kg. 98% of tested 1760 nail samples were detected having arsenic above the normal value. The normal content arsenic in nail is 0.43-1.08 mg/kg.

High level of arsenic presence was also found in 95% urine samples out of the total 830 samples tested. The normal level of arsenic presence in urine is between 0.01 mg/l and 0.05 mg/l. There is no recommended value of arsenic in skin-scales. But while testing 210 skin-samples, the DCH-SOES survey detected on an average 7.41 mg/kg arsenic.

Out of the 41 districts, where arsenic has been found above 0.05 mg/l, the DCH and SOES so far surveyed 22 districts for arsenic patients. In 21 districts they found people suffering from arsenic induced skin lesions like melanosis, leuco-melanosis, keratosis, hyper-keratosis, dorsum, non-petting oedema, gangrene, skin cancer etc. During the preliminary field survey conducted for last one and half year in 96 groundwater arsenic contaminated villages in 44 thanas of 22 districts they found arsenic patients in 93 villages in 21 districts. They examined at random 5664 people including children and out of them, 33.6% were found to have arsenical skin-lesions.

Chronic arsenic exposure through drinking water has the potential to cause adverse pregnancy outcomes, the weekly meeting of Green Force under the auspices of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA) was told yesterday. Green Force, a BAPA-backed forum of young environment researchers, held the meeting at T.S.C. seminar room. Eight young researchers from home and abroad presented the keynote papers on "Chronic Arsenic Exposure and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes in Bangladesh." The researchers were Abul Hasnat Milton, Bayzidur Rahman, Ziaul Hasan, Umme Kulsum, Azhar Ali Pramanik, M Rakibuddin, Keith Dear and Wayne Smith (NFB ,13 April 03.).

Surface water not always the answer to Bangladesh arsenic pollution problem

The use of the region’s dirty surface water, which was once the primary source of water, is extremely harmful due to waterborne diseases. These diseases include diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis. In the early 1970s almost a quarter of a million children died each year due to these waterborne diseases.

"In a preliminary study of arsenic pollution in Bangladesh drinking water sources, Duke University hydrologists have found evidence that surface waters can also be contaminated with the substance. Thus, say the scientists, abandoning polluted wells in favor of ponds and surface reservoirs, as is advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bangladeshi government, will not always solve the problem. "Our analyses found that surface waters as well as ground waters have arsenic in excess of WHO standards, especially in areas of significant irrigation," said associate professor Stuart Rojstaczer, who led the study. "This finding means that groups advocating surface water over ground water must be very cautious. They should not assume a priori that arsenic levels in the surface waters will be negligible." ( Duke Univ. News 3 Jun 99)

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It was found in various research and studies that children are the worst victims of arsenic pollution in the groundwater. Symptoms of arsenic pollution were found in the bodies of a large number of children in the most affected districts in Bangladesh.

An international team of volunteer scientists from Canada, the U.S., and France has prepared detailed maps of the levels of arsenic and 29 other metals in the drinking water of Bangladesh. Their study suggests that the wide-scale arsenic poisoning that has been devastating much of Bangladesh for the past decade may be exacerbated by the presence of metals besides arsenic in well water used for drinking( American Chemical Society, October 21, 2002 Volume 80, Number 42:

arsenic patientIt is very important to realize that the 0.01 mg/L WHO drinking water guideline for As is based on a 6x10-4 excess skin cancer risk for human males in Taiwan, which is 60 times higher than the 1x10-5 factor that is typically used to protect public health (WHO, 1996). WHO states that the health-based drinking water guideline for As should be 0.00017 mg/L. However, the detection limit for most laboratories is 0.01 mg/L, which is why the less protective guideline was adopted (WHO, 1993; WHO, 1998a). There is sufficient evidence from human epidemiological studies linking increased mortality from liver, colon, kidney, bladder, and lung cancers to drinking arsenic-contaminated water; however, this relatively new discovery is not used to calculate the drinking water standard for As due to a lack of dose response data (USEPA, 2002; Tchounwou, Wilson, and Ishaque, 1999). In our study, the As concentration ranged from <0.0007 to 0.64 mg/L. Arsenic was measured at or above its 0.0007 mg/L detection limit in 84% of the samples. Arsenic exceeded the 0.01 mg/L WHO drinking water guideline in 48% of the samples.

  • The most important finding of our national-scale study is that approximately 50% of Bangladesh’s area may contain groundwater with Mn concentrations greater than the WHO health-based drinking water guideline. Our study also indicates that Pb (3% of Bangladesh’s area), Ni (<1% of Bangladesh’s area), and Cr (<1% of Bangladesh’s area) concentrations exceed WHO health-based guidelines. These results are supported by the BGS/DPHE’s national-scale study of between 20 to 3,530 samples (BGS, and DPHE, 2001). This BGS/DPHE study suggests that 35%, <1%, 0%, and 0% of Bangladesh’s tubewells exceed the WHO health-based drinking water guidelines for Mn, Pb, Ni, and Cr, respectively. In addition, the BGS/DPHE study suggests that 5.3%, 0.3%, and an unspecified percent of Bangladesh’s tubewells exceed the WHO health-based drinking water guidelines for B, Ba, and Mo, respectively. Moreover, the BGS/DPHE study suggests that 12% to 50% of Bangladesh’s tubewells exceed the WHO health-based drinking water guideline for uranium.

  • In our study, Mn exceeded the 0.5 mg/L WHO drinking water guideline in 37% of the samples. The maximum concentration of Mn was 2.0 mg/L. Despite the relatively poor -0.13 correlation coefficient between As and Mn, 35% of the samples that exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for As also exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Mn. The areas where the WHO drinking water guidelines were exceeded for both As and Mn can be estimated by superimposing Figures 1 and 2. Similarly, 2% of the samples that exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for As also exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Pb (r = 0.01). Likewise, 2% of the samples that exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for As also exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Ni (r = -0.02). Correspondingly, 2% of the samples that exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for As also exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Cr (r = 0.09). If a sample exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Ni, then the sample also exceeded the WHO drinking water guideline for Cr (r = 0.92).


    It depends on certain things when the symptoms will be visible on the body. These are the level of nutrition in the food taken by any individual, the amount of arsenic taken through water and the immunization power of the body.

    Usually it is found that the affects of arsenic pollution become visible on the skin after 8-14 years of taking arsenic contaminated water regularly. This is why symptoms of arsenic poisoning are not found in the bodies of children below the age of 10 years.

    But there are some exceptional cases of below-10 years' children because of abnormally high level of arsenic in water. This was found in the study jointly conducted by Dhaka Community Hospital (DCH) and School of Environmental Studies (SOES) of Jadavpur University, Calcutta.

    Symptomatology of arsenical toxicity may develop insidiously after 6 months to 2 years or more, depending on the amount of water intake and the arsenic concentration in the water sample. The higher the concentration of arsenic in water and the higher the amount of daily water intake, the earlier one of clinical features may appear

  • Darkening of skin (diffuse melanosis) in the whole body or on the palm of the hand is the earliest symptom. People suffering from arsenic toxicity do not necessarily show symptoms of diffuse melanosis.
  • Spotted pigmentation (spotted melanosis) is an early symptom that is common and is usually seen on the chest, back, or limbs.
  • Leucomelanosis (white and black spots side by side) is also seen on many patients. Leucomelanosis is common in persons who have stopped drinking arsenic-contaminated water but who previously had spotted melanosis.
  • Buccal mucus membrane melanosis (diffuse, patchy, or spotted mela-nosis) on the tongue, gums, lips, etc. may also be manifestations of arsenic toxicity.
  • Keratosis is a late feature of arsenical dermatosis. Diffuse or nodular keratosis on the palm of the hand and the sole of the foot is a sign of moderately severe toxicity. Rough dry skin, often with palpable nodules (spotted keratosis), in dorsum of hands, feet, and legs are symptoms seen in severe cases.
  • Other symptoms of arsenic toxicity that are sometimes found are conjunctival congestion and nonpitting swelling (solid edema) of the feet. Complications such as liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), spleen enlargement (spleno-megaly), and fluid in the abdomen (ascitis) are seen in severe cases,
  • Squamous cell carcinoma; basal cell carcinoma; Bowen disease; and carcinoma affecting the lung, uterus, bladder, genitourinary tract, or other sites are often seen in patients with advanced cases that have suffered for many years.

    The DCH and SOES conducted a study in 14 districts of Bangladesh in 1996. Some 273 children of below 10 years were included in the study. Of them arsenic pollution was found in the bodies of 71 children (26%). All 18 children examined in Chuadanga district were found affected with arsenicosis. High concentration of arsenic was found in the water of most of the tube- wells of Benagari village of Alamdanga thana of the district. Fifty five percent children of this thana were found affected with arsenic problem. The rate is higher than that of the most affected areas of West Bengal. In this state, only 2-3 percent children are affected.

    The study also found that the children affected with arsenic are from poor families and deprived of nutritious food. The symptoms found in their bodies included spotted melanosis, spotted keratosis and defuse melanosis on palm, feet and other parts of the body.

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    6. Homeopathy - a cure for arsenic poisoning

    Homeopathy - a cure for arsenic poisoning

    Researchers from University of Kalyani, West Bengal, have discovered that a homeopathic remedy, effectively cured mice afflicted by arsenic poisoning. Research, published this week in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine , suggests that Arsenicum Album could reduce the liver damage caused by arsenic poisoning in humans. It was also inexpensive, easy to administer, effective in low doses as well as non-toxic.

    Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a major Health problem for people from India , Bangladesh and at least fifteen other countries. Drinking arsenic contaminated well-water has caused the rapid spread of skin diseases and liver damage. Although chemical treatment can remove arsenic contamination, such efforts to provide safe drinking water have not been widely implemented

    The researchers write: "As supplying arsenic-free drinking water cannot totally rule out the chances of arsenic contamination from other sources, the problem of eradicating arsenic related diseases cannot be addressed through such effort alone. The potentised homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album, not only has the ability to help remove arsenic from the body, but these drugs in microdoses appear to have the ability to detoxify the ill-effects produced by arsenic in mice". (May 30, 2004).

    Homoeopathy in a new light

    MALDA, April 16. 1974: Prof AR Khuda Bukhsh from the University of Kalyani has claimed that homoeopathic medicine, based on arsenic oxide, has shown promising results when tested on mice poisoned with arsenic. Addressing a scientific seminar on “homoeopathy in the light of science” in Malda, organised by Homoeopathic Doctors’ Welfare Association, Prof. Khuda Bukhsh said it reduced the liver toxicity induced by arsenic in mice but distilled water did nothing and alcohol exacerbated the affects.

    Addressing a scientific seminar on “homoeopathy in the light of science” in Malda, organised by Homoeopathic Doctors’ Welfare Association, Prof. Khuda Bukhsh said it reduced the liver toxicity induced by arsenic in mice but distilled water did nothing and alcohol exacerbated the affects. “Arsenicum Album might provide a safe and this is easily available remedy for thousands of people in West Bengal who are at risk in the arsenic affected areas”, he added. Speaking to this correspondent, Prof. Khuda Bukush, a scientist in Zoology, said that a drop of homoeopathy dose could save the people of Bengla who are regularly taking a daily dose of poison through ground water contaminated with arsenic. Patients suffering from arsenicosis feel better and patients find better results if they drink safe water during treatment.

    Prof. Khuda Bukhsh had experimented a lot on the people in arsenic affected areas in West Bengal and his papers on it has been published in different science magazine across the World. He also explained efficacy of Homoeopathy drugs, how can it protect DNA damages, chain of reaction, repairing of chromosome, how more dilution is more effective in the human body and nervous systems. Ayush , an organisation under the ministry of health and family welfare , has sanctioned funds for research work on ‘ artificially induced hepatocarcino genesis,” he said (The Statesman, 1974).

    Arsenicum Album homeopathic remedy

    Stanescu MO, Anca Z, Olinic A, Simionescu D.Institute of Public Health, University of Medicine, Cluj Napoca, Romania, 1999 describes the benefit action of the Arsenicum Album homeopathic remedy on the oxidative processes developed at the brain level and the myocard, by the chronic intoxication with sodium arsenate4(SA) in the experimental animals. SA administered daily in a quantity of 10 ppm on a 5 weeks period, has increased significantly the level of plasmatic lypoperoxides, myocardial and cerebral mass in the myocard. The administration of Arsenicurn Album 7 CH, in 4 weekly doses, reduced the level of lypoperoxides in the cerebella and in basal nucleus with 25% (less than 0.001) and moderately reduced the plasmatic and myocardial level (no-significantly).

    The histology exam evidenced the disappearance of the necrotic processes in the brain, diminishing of the vascular pathological processes in the brain and myocard. The clinic exam proved an evident improvement of the nervous symptoms and partial improvement in the cardiac symptoms. It seems that the reduction of the oxidative processes, mainly in the brain, determined a limitation of the morpho-functional degradation and of the organ pains, implicitly.

    Ameliorating effect of microdoses of a potentized homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album, on arsenic-induced toxicity in mice

    Arsenic in groundwater and its accumulation in plants and animals have assumed a menacing proportion in a large part of West Bengal, India and adjoining areas of Bangladesh. Because of the tremendous magnitude of the problem, there seems to be no way to tackle the problem overnight. Efforts to provide arsenic free water to the millions of people living in these dreaded zones are being made, but are awfully inadequate.

    In our quest for finding out an easy, safe and affordable means to combat this problem, a homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album-30, appears to yield promising results in mice. The relative efficacies of two micro doses of this drug, namely, Arsenicum Album-30 and Arsenicum Album-200, in combating arsenic toxicity have been determined in the present study on the basis of some accepted biochemical protocols.

    Mice were divided into different sets of control (both positive and negative) and treated series (As-intoxicated, As-intoxicated plus drug-fed). Alanine amino transferase (ALT) and aspartate amino transferase (AST) activities and reduced glutathione (GSH) level in liver and blood were analyzed in the different series of mice at six different fixation intervals.

    Both Arsenicum Album-30 and Arsenicum Album-200 ameliorated arsenic-induced toxicity to a considerable extent as compared to various controls.

    The results lend further support to our earlier views that microdoses of potentized Arsenicum Album are capable of combating arsenic intoxication in mice, and thus are strong candidates for possible use in human subjects in arsenic contaminated areas under medical supervision.

    Arsenicum Album homeopathic remedy (FULL TEXT)

    Large scale cases of poisoning associated with exposure to inorganic arsenic (Huton, 1987)

    Exposure via medications : Sodium arsenite (Fowelr's solution).
  • Previously used in treatment of psoriasis and leukaemia,
    resulting in severe effects in hundreds of patients.

    Homeopathic medicine in the Indian subcontinent is commonly believed to be relatively harmless and hence has a wide use due to its easy availability and low cost. Homeopathic treatment, however, may often be quite dangerous as evidenced in the three cases presented below in which arsenic toxicity developed following homeopathic medicine ingestion.

  • Case Reports: Case No. 1 is a 42 year old diabetic female presenting with melanosis and keratosis as dermatologic manifestations of arsenic toxicity following a seven day ingestion of Arsenic Bromide 1-X followed by consumption of other arsenic containing homeopathic preparations for a longer time.
  • Case No. 2 is a 44 year old male who developed melanotic arsenical skin lesions after taking Arsenicum Sulfuratum Flavum- 1-X (Arsenic S.F. 1-X) for a year in an effort to treat his white skin patches.
  • Case No. 3 is a 39 year old male who consumed Arsenic Bromide 1-X for six days in an effort to treat his diabetes and developed an acute gastrointestinal illness followed by leukopenia, thrombocytopenia and diffuse dermal melanosis with patchy desquamation. Within approximately two weeks, he developed quadriparesis due toxic polyneuropathy.

    Conclusion: Arsenic concentrations in all 3 cases were significantly elevated in integument tissue samples due to the arsenic content in the homeopathic preparations. The so-called "harmless" nature of traditional homeopathic medicine has, in fact, not been the case as evidenced by the cases presented. Arsenic Toxicity from Homeopathic Treatment. Dipankar Chakraborti, Subhash Chadra Mukherjee, Khitish Chandra Saha, Uttam Kumar Chowdhury, Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman, Mrinal Kumar Sengupta. Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology, 2003, 41(7),963-967).

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    Homeopathic medicine is commonly believed to be relatively harmless. However, treatment with improperly used homeopathic preparations may be dangerous. Case Reports.
  • Case 1 presented with melanosis and keratosis following short-term use of Arsenic Bromide 1-X followed by long-term use of other arsenic-containing homeopathic preparations.
  • Case 2 developed melanotic arsenical skin lesions after taking Arsenicum Sulfuratum Flavum-1-X (Arsenic S.F. 1-X) in an effort to treat his white skin patches.
  • Case 3 consumed Arsenic Bromide 1-X for 6 days in an effort to treat his diabetes and developed an acute gastrointestinal illness followed by leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and diffuse dermal melanosis with patchy desquamation.
    Within 2 weeks, he developed a toxic polyneuropathy resulting in quadriparesis. Arsenic concentrations in all three patients were significantly elevated in integument tissue samples. In all three cases, arsenic concentrations in drinking water were normal but arsenic concentrations in samples of the homeopathic medications were elevated. Conclusion. Arsenic used therapeutically in homeopathic medicines can cause clinical toxicity if the medications are improperly used (by Chakraborti et al. in Journal of Toxicology-Clinical Toxicology, Vol. 41, No. 7, pp. 963-967, 2003).

    Toxic Effects of Oral Arsenite, Arsenate, Monomethylarsonic Acid, and Dimethylarsinic Acid in v-Ha-ras Transgenic (Tg.AC) Mice

    Previous research demonstrated that 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) treatment increased the number of skin papillomas in v-Ha-ras transgenic (Tg.AC) mice that had received sodium arsenite [(As(III)] in drinking water, indicating that this model is useful for studying the toxic effects of arsenic in vivo. Because the liver is a known target of arsenic, we examined the pathophysiologic and molecular effects of inorganic and organic arsenical exposure on Tg.AC mouse liver in this study. Tg.AC mice were provided drinking water containing As(III), sodium arsenate [As(V)], monomethylarsonic acid [(MMA(V)], and 1,000 ppm dimethylarsinic acid [DMA(V)] at dosages of 150, 200, 1,500, or 1,000 ppm as arsenic, respectively, for 17 weeks.

    Control mice received unaltered water. Four weeks after initiation of arsenic treatment, TPA at a dose of 1.25 µg/200 µL acetone was applied twice a week for 2 weeks to the shaved dorsal skin of all mice, including the controls not receiving arsenic. In some cases arsenic exposure reduced body weight gain and caused mortality (including moribundity). Arsenical exposure resulted in a dose-dependent accumulation of arsenic in the liver that was unexpectedly independent of chemical species and produced hepatic global DNA hypomethylation. cDNA microarray and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that all arsenicals altered the expression of numerous genes associated with toxicity and cancer. However, organic arsenicals [MMA(V) and DMA(V)] induced a pattern of gene expression dissimilar to that of inorganic arsenicals.

    In summary, subchronic exposure of Tg.AC mice to inorganic or organic arsenicals resulted in toxic manifestations, hepatic arsenic accumulation, global DNA hypomethylation, and numerous gene expression changes. These effects may play a role in arsenic-induced hepatotoxicity and carcinogenesis and may be of particular toxicologic relevance. Key words: arsenicals (arsenic forms), gene expression, mouse liver, subchronic toxicity, toxicokinetics. Environ Health Perspect 112:1255-1263 (2004).

    8. Free Radicals Mediate Arsenic's Harmful Effects

    Researchers at Dartmouth College have discovered that arsenic may trigger endocrine disruption. The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, may offer important information on how arsenic causes a variety of the diseases to which it has been linked. 'This is unlikely to be the only mechanism underlying diseases associated with low-level arsenic exposure, but we expect it will be an important contributor,' said Joshua Hamilton, lead author of the study. ( Heavy Metal: Arsenic Is An Endocrine Disruptor, Environmental News Network 2001). .

    Arsenic's cancer-causing properties may stem from the production of DNA-damaging particles called free radicals, researchers report. The finding supports the use of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, which mop up free radicals, in cancer prevention. 'Having a better understanding of how arsenic causes gene mutations and cancers provides a means to design interventions both in the treatment as well as in the prevention (of cancer),' Dr. Tom Hei from Columbia University in New York told Reuters Health. Hei and associates studied the effects of arsenic on cells grown in the laboratory. They report their results in the February 13th issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Arsenic Triggers Flood Of Free Radicals - Reuters Health, 23 Feb 2001).

    'This piece of research provides the first clear-cut evidence that an environmental carcinogen acts predominantly through a free-radical pathway,' says Hei ... professor of radiation oncology and public health at the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons.... The study, which also involved P&S dermatology researchers and researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Colorado State University, showed that cells cultured in the laboratory sharply increased their free radical production within five minutes of being exposed to an arsenic compound. The compound, sodium arsenite -- the main toxic form of arsenic in the environment -- also boosted the rate of mutations among the cells. Mutations are a key step in cancer development. The mutation rate shot up still higher when researchers added a chemical that reduced the cells' production of natural antioxidants. This was consistent with previous research suggesting that antioxidants can protect cells from arsenic-induced genetic damage (Columbia News 15 Feb 2001).

    Treatment of arsenicosis sufferers

    Selenium and lung cancer: a quantitative analysis of heterogeneity in the current epidemiological literature

    While numerous laboratory investigations have shown that selenium may have anticarcinogenic activity, the epidemiological data have been inconsistent. In this report, meta-analysis was used to quantitatively summarize the existing epidemiological evidence on selenium and lung cancer and identify sources of heterogeneity among studies

    When all studies were combined, the summary relative risk (RR) for subjects with higher selenium exposures was 0.74 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57-0.97]. In subgroup analyses based on the average selenium level in the study population, the summary RR for areas where selenium levels were low was 0.72 (95% CI 0.45-1.16), while the RR for areas where selenium levels were higher was 0.86 (95% CI 0.61-1.22).

    In both studies in high selenium areas where RRs were markedly below 1.0, protective effects were only found when subjects in the lowest category of selenium exposure were used as referents. No clear protective effects were seen when highly exposed subjects were compared with those in the middle exposure categories

    The summary RR was lower in studies assessing selenium exposure using toenails (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.24-0.87) than in studies using serum selenium (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.58-1.10) or studies assessing dietary intake (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.77-1.30). Overall, these results suggest that selenium may have some protective effect against lung cancer in populations where average selenium levels are low. The evidence for these findings is greater in studies of toenail selenium than in studies involving other measures of exposure(Zhuo H, Smith AH and Steinmaus CM. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2004 13:771-8).

    (Last Modified:July 14, 2006)

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