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metallic grey
General properties
Name, symbol, number arsenic, As, 33
Element category metalloid
Group, period, block 154, p
Standard atomic weight 74.92160(2)g·mol−1
Electron configuration [Ar] 4s2 3d10 4p3
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 5 (Image)
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 5.727 g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 5.22 g·cm−3
Sublimation point 887 K, 615 °C, 1139 °F
Triple point 1090 K (817°C), 3628 [1] kPa
Critical point 1673 K, ? MPa
Heat of fusion (grey) 24.44 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization  ? 34.76 kJ·mol−1
Specific heat capacity (25 °C) 24.64 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P/Pa 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T/K 553 596 646 706 781 874
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 5, 3, 2, 1,[2] -3
(mildly acidic oxide)
Electronegativity 2.18 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
1st: 947.0 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 1798 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 2735 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 119 pm
Covalent radius 119±4 pm
Van der Waals radius 185 pm
Crystal structure rhombohedral
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic[3]
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) 333 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 50.2 W·m−1·K−1
Young's modulus 8 GPa
Bulk modulus 22 GPa
Mohs hardness 3.5
Brinell hardness 1440 MPa
CAS registry number 7440-38-2
Most stable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of arsenic
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
73As syn 80.3 d ε - 73Ge
γ 0.05D, 0.01D, e -
74As syn 17.78 d ε - 74Ge
β+ 0.941 74Ge
γ 0.595, 0.634 -
β 1.35, 0.717 74Se
75As 100% 75As is stable with 42 neutrons

Arsenic (pronounced /ˈɑrsənɪk/, ARS-ə-nik; also /ɑrˈsɛnɪk/, ar-SEN-ik when attributive) is the chemical element that has the symbol As, atomic number 33 and atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.[4] Arsenic is a notoriously poisonous metalloid with many allotropic forms, including a yellow (molecular non-metallic) and several black and grey forms (metalloids). Three metalloidal forms of arsenic, each with a different crystal structure, are found free in nature (the minerals arsenic sensu stricto and the much rarer arsenolamprite and pararsenolamprite). However, it is more commonly found as arsenide and in arsenate compounds, several hundred of which are known. Arsenic and its compounds are used as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and in various alloys.



The word arsenic was borrowed from the Syriac word ܠܐ ܙܐܦܢܝܐ (al) zarniqa [5] and the Persian word زرنيخ Zarnikh, meaning "yellow orpiment", into Greek as arsenikon (Αρσενικόν). It is also related to the similar Greek word arsenikos (Αρσενικός), meaning "masculine" or "potent". The word was adopted in Latin arsenicum and Old French arsenic, from which the English word arsenic is derived. [6] Arsenic sulfides (orpiment, realgar) and oxides have been known and used since ancient times.[7] Zosimos (circa 300 AD) describes roasting sandarach (realgar) to obtain cloud of arsenic (arsenious oxide) which he then reduces to metallic arsenic.[8] As the symptoms of arsenic poisoning were somewhat ill-defined, it was frequently used for murder until the advent of the Marsh test, a sensitive chemical test for its presence. (Another less sensitive but more general test is the Reinsch test.) Owing to its use by the ruling class to murder one another and its potency and discreetness, arsenic has been called the Poison of Kings and the King of Poisons.[9]

During the Bronze Age, arsenic was often included in bronze, which made the alloy harder (so-called "arsenical bronze"). Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great, 1193–1280) is believed to have been the first to isolate the element in 1250 by heating soap together with arsenic trisulfide.[4] In 1649, Johann Schröder published two ways of preparing arsenic.

Alchemical symbol for arsenic

Cadet's fuming liquid (impure cacodyl), the first organometallic compound, was synthesized in 1760 by Louis Claude Cadet de Gassicourt by the reaction of potassium acetate with arsenic trioxide.[10]

In the Victorian era, "arsenic" (colourless, crystalline, soluble "white arsenic" trioxide) was mixed with vinegar and chalk and eaten by women to improve the complexion of their faces, making their skin paler to show they did not work in the fields. Arsenic was also rubbed into the faces and arms of women to "improve their complexion". The accidental use of arsenic in the adulteration of foodstuffs led to the Bradford sweet poisoning in 1858, which resulted in approximately 20 deaths and 200 people taken ill with arsenic poisoning.[11]



Naturally occurring arsenic is composed of one stable isotope, 75As.[12] As of 2003, at least 33 radioisotopes have also been synthesized, ranging in atomic mass from 60 to 92. The most stable of these is 73As with a half-life of 80.3 days. Isotopes that are lighter than the stable 75As tend to decay by β+ decay, and those that are heavier tend to decay by β- decay, with some exceptions.

At least 10 nuclear isomers have been described, ranging in atomic mass from 66 to 84. The most stable of arsenic's isomers is 68mAs with a half-life of 111 seconds.[12]


Structure of yellow arsenic As4 and white phosphorus P4

Like phosphorus, arsenic is an excellent example of an element that exhibits allotropy, as its various allotropes have strikingly different properties. The three most common allotropes are metallic grey, yellow and black arsenic.[13]

The most common allotrope of arsenic is grey arsenic. It has a similar structure to black phosphorus (β-metallic phosphorus) and has a layered crystal structure somewhat resembling that of graphite. It consists of many six-membered rings which are interlinked. Each atom is bound to three other atoms in the layer and is coordinated by each 3 arsenic atoms in the upper and lower layer. This relatively close packing leads to a high density of 5.73 g/cm3.[14]

Yellow arsenic (As4) is soft and waxy, not unlike P4. Both have four atoms arranged in a tetrahedral structure in which each atom is bound to the other three atoms by a single bond, resulting in very high ring strain and instability. This form of arsenic is the least stable, most reactive, most volatile, least dense, and most toxic of all the allotropes. Yellow arsenic is produced by rapid cooling of arsenic vapour with liquid nitrogen. It is rapidly transformed into the grey arsenic by light. The yellow form has a density of 1.97 g/cm3.[14]

Black arsenic is similar in structure to red phosphorus.[14]


The most common oxidation states for arsenic are −3 (arsenides: usually alloy-like intermetallic compounds), +3 (arsenates(III) or arsenites, and most organoarsenic compounds), and +5 (arsenates: the most stable inorganic arsenic oxycompounds). Arsenic also bonds readily to itself, forming square As3−4 ions in the arsenide skutterudite. In the +3 oxidation state, the stereochemistry of arsenic is affected by the presence of a lone pair of electrons.

Arsenic is very similar chemically to its predecessor in the Periodic Table, phosphorus. Like phosphorus, it forms colourless, odourless, crystalline oxides As2O3 and As2O5 which are hygroscopic and readily soluble in water to form acidic solutions. Arsenic(V) acid is a weak acid. Like phosphorus, arsenic forms an unstable, gaseous hydride: arsine (AsH3). The similarity is so great that arsenic will partly substitute for phosphorus in biochemical reactions and is thus poisonous. However, in subtoxic doses, soluble arsenic compounds act as stimulants, and were once popular in small doses as medicine by people in the mid 18th century.[14]

When heated in air, arsenic oxidizes to arsenic trioxide; the fumes from this reaction have an odour resembling garlic. This odour can be detected on striking arsenide minerals such as arsenopyrite with a hammer. Arsenic (and some arsenic compounds) sublimes upon heating at atmospheric pressure, converting directly to a gaseous form without an intervening liquid state. The liquid state appears at 20 atmospheres and above, which explains why the melting point is higher than the boiling point.[14]


Arsenic compounds resemble in many respects those of phosphorus as both arsenic and phosphorus occur in the same group (column) of the periodic table.

The most important compounds of arsenic are arsenic(III) oxide, As2O3, ("white arsenic"), the yellow sulfide orpiment (As2S3) and red realgar (As4S4), Paris Green, calcium arsenate, and lead hydrogen arsenate. The latter three have been used as agricultural insecticides and poisons.

Whilst arsenic trioxide forms during oxidation of arsenic, arsenic pentoxide is formed by the dehydration of arsenic acid. Both oxides dissolve in strong alkaline solution, with the formation of arsenite AsO3−3 and arsenate AsO3−4 respectively. The protonation steps between the arsenate and arsenic acid are similar to those between phosphate and phosphoric acid. However, arsenite and arsenous acid contain arsenic bonded to three oxygen and not hydrogen atoms, in contrast to phosphite and phosphorous acid (more accurately termed 'phosphonic acid'), which contain non-acidic P-H bonds. Arsenous acid is genuinely tribasic, whereas phosphonic acid is not.

A broad variety of sulfur compounds of arsenic are known, As4S3, As4S4, As2S3 and As4S10. All arsenic(III) halogen compounds (except with astatine) are known and stable. For the arsenic(V) compounds the situation is different: only the arsenic pentafluoride is stable at room temperature. Arsenic pentachloride is only stable at temperatures below −50 °C and the pentabromide and pentaiodide are unknown.[14]

Arsenic is used as group 5 element as part of the III-V semiconducting compounds. Gallium arsenide, indium arsenide and aluminium arsenide are used as semiconductor material when the properties of silicon are not suitable for the application and the higher price of the compounds is acceptable. Other arsenic compounds include:

Arsenic also has a formal oxidation state of +2 in As4S4, realgar. This is achieved by pairing As atoms to produce dimeric cations [As-As]2+, so the total covalency of As is still in fact three.[15]


A large sample of native arsenic.

Arsenopyrite, also unofficially called mispickel,[16] (FeAsS) is the most common arsenic-bearing mineral. In the lithosphere, the minerals of the formula M(II)AsS, with M(II) being mostly Fe, Ni and Co, are the dominant arsenic minerals.


Orpiment and realgar were formerly used as painting pigments, though they have fallen out of use owing to their toxicity and reactivity. Although arsenic is sometimes found native in nature, its main economic source is the mineral arsenopyrite mentioned above; it is also found in arsenides of metals such as silver, cobalt (cobaltite: CoAsS and skutterudite: CoAs3) and nickel, as sulfides, and when oxidised as arsenate minerals such as mimetite, Pb5(AsO4)3Cl and erythrite, Co3(AsO4)2·8H2O, and more rarely arsenites ('arsenite' = arsenate(III), AsO33− as opposed to arsenate (V), AsO43−).

In addition to the inorganic forms mentioned above, arsenic also occurs in various organic forms in the environment.[17]

Other naturally occurring pathways of exposure include volcanic ash, weathering of the arsenic-containing mineral and ores as well as groundwater. It is also found in food, water, soil and air.[18]


Arsenic output in 2006[19]

In 2005, China was the top producer of white arsenic with almost 50% world share, followed by Chile, Peru and Morocco, reports the British Geological Survey and the United States Geological Survey.[19] The arsenic was recovered mostly during mining operations, for example the production from Peru comes mostly from copper mining and the production in China is owing to gold mining. Arsenic is part of the smelter dust from copper, gold, and lead smelters.[20]

On roasting in air of arsenopyrite, arsenic sublimes as arsenic (III) oxide leaving iron oxides[17], while roasting without air results in the production of metallic arsenic. Further purification from sulfur and other chalcogens is achieved by sublimation in vacuum or in a hydrogen atmosphere or by distillation from molten lead-arsenic mixture.[21]


Wood preservation

The toxicity of arsenic to insects, bacteria, and fungi led to its use as a wood preservative. In the 1950s a process of treating wood with chromated copper arsenate (also known as CCA or Tanalith) was invented, and for decades this treatment was the most extensive industrial use of arsenic. Due to improved understanding of arsenic's high level of toxicity, most countries banned the use of CCA in consumer products. The European Union and United States led this ban, beginning in 2004.[22][23]

As of 2002, US-based industries consumed 19,600 metric tons of arsenic. 90% of this was used for treatment of wood with CCA. In 2007, 50% of the 5,280 metric tons of consumption was still used for this purpose.[20][24] In the United States, the use of arsenic in consumer products was discontinued for residential and general consumer construction on December 31, 2003 and alternative chemicals are now used, such as ACQ, borates, copper azole, cyproconazole, and propiconazole.[25]

Although discontinued, this application is also one of the most concern to the general public. The vast majority of older pressure-treated wood was treated with CCA. CCA lumber is still in widespread use in many countries, and was heavily used during the latter half of the 20th century as a structural and outdoor building material. Although the use of CCA lumber was banned in many areas after studies showed that arsenic could leach out of the wood into the surrounding soil (from playground equipment, for instance), a risk is also presented by the burning of older CCA timber. The direct or indirect ingestion of wood ash from burnt CCA lumber has caused fatalities in animals and serious poisonings in humans; the lethal human dose is approximately 20 grams of ash. Scrap CCA lumber from construction and demolition sites may be inadvertently used in commercial and domestic fires. Protocols for safe disposal of CCA lumber do not exist evenly throughout the world; there is also concern in some quarters about the widespread landfill disposal of such timber.[26]


During the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, a number of arsenic compounds have been used as medicines, including arsphenamine (by Paul Ehrlich) and arsenic trioxide (by Thomas Fowler). Arsphenamine as well as Neosalvarsan was indicated for syphilis and trypanosomiasis, but has been superseded by modern antibiotics. Arsenic trioxide has been used in a variety of ways over the past 500 years, but most commonly in the treatment of cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration in 2000 approved this compound for the treatment of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia that is resistant to ATRA.[27] It was also used as Fowler's solution in psoriasis.[28] Recently new research has been done in locating tumours using arsenic-74 (a positron emitter). The advantages of using this isotope instead of the previously used iodine-124 is that the signal in the PET scan is clearer as the iodine tends to transport iodine to the thyroid gland producing a lot of noise.[29]


Copper acetoarsenite was used as a green pigment known under many different names, including 'Paris Green' and 'Emerald Green'. It caused numerous arsenic poisonings. Scheele's Green, a copper arsenate, was used in the 19th century as a colouring agent in sweets.[30]


After World War I the United States built up a stockpile of 20,000 tons of lewisite; a chemical weapon, acting as a vesicant (blister agent) and lung irritant. The stockpile was neutralized with bleach and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico after the 1950s.[31] During the Vietnam War the United States used Agent Blue (a mixture of sodium cacodylate) and dimethyl arsenic acid (cacodylic acid) as one of the rainbow herbicides to deprive the Vietnamese of valuable crops.

Other uses

Biological role


Inorganic arsenic and its compounds, upon entering the food chain, are progressively metabolised to less toxic forms of arsenic through a process of methylation. For example, the mold Scopulariopsis brevicaulis produce significant amounts of trimethylarsine if inorganic arsenic is present.[37] The organic compound arsenobetaine is found in some marine foods such as fish and algae, and also in mushrooms in larger concentrations. The average person's intake is about 10–50 µg/day. Values about 1000 µg are not unusual following consumption of fish or mushrooms. But there is little danger in eating fish because this arsenic compound is nearly non-toxic.[38]

Some species of bacteria obtain their energy by oxidizing various fuels while reducing arsenate to arsenite. The enzymes involved are known as arsenate reductases (Arr).

In 2008, bacteria were discovered that employ a version of photosynthesis in the absence of oxygen with arsenites as electron donors, producing arsenates (just like ordinary photosynthesis uses water as electron donor, producing molecular oxygen). Researchers conjecture that historically these photosynthesizing organisms produced the arsenates that allowed the arsenate-reducing bacteria to thrive. One strain PHS-1 has been isolated and is related to the γ-Proteobacterium Ectothiorhodospira shaposhnikovii. The mechanism is unknown, but an encoded Arr enzyme may function in reverse to its known homologues.[39]

Arsenic has been linked to epigenetic changes which are heritable changes in gene expression that occur without changes in DNA sequence and include DNA methylation, histone modification and RNA interference. Toxic levels of arsenic cause significant DNA hypermethylation of tumour suppressor genes p16 and p53 thus increasing risk of carcinogenesis. These epigenetic events have been observed in in vitro studies with human kidney cells and in vivo tests with rat liver cells and peripheral blood leukocytes in humans.[40] Inductive coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) is used to detect precise levels of intracellular of arsenic and its other bases involved in epigenetic modification of DNA.[41] Studies investigating arsenic as an epigenetic factor will help in developing precise biomarkers of exposure and susceptibility.


Skull and crossbones.svg

Arsenic and many of its compounds are especially potent poisons. Arsenic disrupts ATP production through several mechanisms. At the level of the citric acid cycle, arsenic inhibits lipoic acid which is a cofactor for pyruvate dehydrogenase; and by competing with phosphate it uncouples oxidative phosphorylation, thus inhibiting energy-linked reduction of NAD+, mitochondrial respiration, and ATP synthesis. Hydrogen peroxide production is also increased, which might form reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress. These metabolic interferences lead to death from multi-system organ failure, probably from necrotic cell death, not apoptosis. A post mortem reveals brick red coloured mucosa, owing to severe haemorrhage. Although arsenic causes toxicity, it can also play a protective role.[42]

Elemental arsenic and arsenic compounds are classified as "toxic" and "dangerous for the environment" in the European Union under directive 67/548/EEC. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recognizes arsenic and arsenic compounds as group 1 carcinogens, and the EU lists arsenic trioxide, arsenic pentoxide and arsenate salts as category 1 carcinogens.

Arsenic is known to cause arsenicosis owing to its manifestation in drinking water, “the most common species being arsenate [HAsO42- ; As(V)] and arsenite [H3AsO3 ; As(III)]”. The ability of arsenic to undergo redox conversion between As(III) and As(V) makes its availability in the environment more abundant. According to Croal, Gralnick, Malasarn, and Newman, “[the] understanding [of] what stimulates As(III) oxidation and/or limits As(V) reduction is relevant for bioremediation of contaminated sites (Croal). The study of chemolithoautotrophic As(III) oxidizers and the heterotrophic As(V) reducers can help the understanding of the oxidation and/or reduction of arsenic.[43]

Treatment of chronic arsenic poisoning is easily accomplished. British anti-lewisite (dimercaprol) is prescribed in dosages of 5 mg/kg up to 300 mg each 4 hours for the first day. Then administer the same dosage each 6 hours for the second day. Then prescribe this dosage each 8 hours for eight additional days.[44]

Arsenic in drinking water

Arsenic contamination of groundwater has led to a massive epidemic of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh[45] and neighbouring countries. Presently 42 major incidents around the world have been reported on groundwater arsenic contamination. It is estimated that approximately 57 million people are drinking groundwater with arsenic concentrations elevated above the World Health Organization's standard of 10 parts per billion. However, a study of cancer rates in Taiwan[46] suggested that significant increases in cancer mortality appear only at levels above 150 parts per billion. The arsenic in the groundwater is of natural origin, and is released from the sediment into the groundwater owing to the anoxic conditions of the subsurface. This groundwater began to be used after local and western NGOs and the Bangladeshi government undertook a massive shallow tube well drinking-water program in the late twentieth century. This program was designed to prevent drinking of bacterially contaminated surface waters, but failed to test for arsenic in the groundwater. Many other countries and districts in South East Asia, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and China have geological environments conducive to generation of high-arsenic groundwaters. Arsenicosis was reported in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand in 1987, and the dissolved arsenic in the Chao Phraya River is suspected of containing high levels of naturally occurring arsenic, but has not been a public health problem owing to the use of bottled water.[47]

In the United States, arsenic is most commonly found in the ground waters of the southwest.[48] Parts of New England, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas are also known to have significant concentrations of arsenic in ground water. Increased levels of skin cancer have been associated with arsenic exposure in Wisconsin, even at levels below the 10 part per billion drinking water standard.[49] According to a recent film funded by the US Superfund, millions of private wells have unknown arsenic levels, and in some areas of the US, over 20% of wells may contain levels that exceed established limits.[50]

Low-level exposure to arsenic at concentrations found commonly in US drinking water compromises the initial immune response to H1N1 or swine flu infection according to NIEHS-supported scientists. The study, conducted in laboratory mice, suggests that people exposed to arsenic in their drinking water may be at increased risk for more serious illness or death in response to infection from the virus.[51]

Epidemiological evidence from Chile shows a dose dependent connection between chronic arsenic exposure and various forms of cancer, particularly when other risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, are present. These effects have been demonstrated to persist below 50 parts per billion.[52]

Analyzing multiple epidemiological studies on inorganic arsenic exposure suggests a small but measurable risk increase for bladder cancer at 10 parts per billion.[53] According to Peter Ravenscroft of the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge,[54] roughly 80 million people worldwide consume between 10 and 50 parts per billion arsenic in their drinking water. If they all consumed exactly 10 parts per billion arsenic in their drinking water, the previously cited multiple epidemiological study analysis would predict an additional 2,000 cases of bladder cancer alone. This represents a clear underestimate of the overall impact, since it does not include lung or skin cancer, and explicitly underestimates the exposure. Those exposed to levels of arsenic above the current WHO standard should weigh the costs and benefits of arsenic remediation.

Early (1973) evaluations of the removal of dissolved arsenic by drinking water treatment processes demonstrated that arsenic is very effectively removed by co-precipitation with either iron or aluminum oxides. The use of iron as a coagulant, in particular, was found to remove arsenic with efficiencies exceeding 90%.[55][56] Several adsorptive media systems have been approved for point-of-service use in a study funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). A team of European and Indian scientists and engineers have set up six arsenic treatment plants in West Bengal based on in-situ remediation method (SAR Technology). This technology does not use any chemicals and arsenic is left as an insoluble form (+5 state) in the subterranean zone by recharging aerated water into the aquifer and thus developing an oxidation zone to support arsenic oxidizing micro-organisms. This process does not produce any waste stream or sludge and is relatively cheap.[57]

Magnetic separations of arsenic at very low magnetic field gradients have been demonstrated in point-of-use water purification with high-surface-area and monodisperse magnetite (Fe3O4) nanocrystals. Using the high specific surface area of Fe3O4 nanocrystals the mass of waste associated with arsenic removal from water has been dramatically reduced.[58]

Epidemiological studies have suggested a correlation between chronic consumption of drinking water contaminated with arsenic and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. However, the literature provides insufficient scientific evidence to show cause and effect between arsenic and the onset of diabetes mellitus type 2.

Occupational exposures

Industries that use inorganic arsenic and its compounds include wood preservation, glass production, nonferrous metal alloys, and electronic semiconductor manufacturing. Inorganic arsenic is also found in coke oven emissions associated with the smelter industry.[59] Occupational exposure and poisoning may occur in persons working in these industries.

See also


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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Medical warning!
This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.

ARSENIC (symbol As, atomic weight 75.0), a chemical element, known to the ancients in the form of its sulphides. Aristotle gave them the name crav&apace, and Theophrastus mentions them under the name ap6Evucov. The oxide known as white arsenic is mentioned by the Greek alchemist Olympiodorus, who obtained it by roasting arsenic sulphide. These substances were all known to the later alchemists, who used minerals containing arsenic in order to give a white colour to copper. Albertus Magnus was the first to state that arsenic contained a metal-like substance, although later writers considered it to be a bastard or semi-metal, and frequently called it arsenicum rex. In 1733 G. Brandt showed that white arsenic was the calx of this element, and after the downfall of the phlogiston theory the views concerning the composition of white arsenic were identical with those which are now held, namely that it is an oxide of the element.

Arsenic is found in the uncombined condition in various localities, but more generally in combination with other metals and sulphur, in the form of more or less complex sulphides. Native arsenic is usually found as granular or curvilaminar masses, with a reniform or botryoidal surface. These masses are of a dull grey colour, owing to surface tarnish; only on fresh fractures is the colour tin-white with metallic lustre. The hardness is 3.5 and the specific gravity 5'63-5'73. Crystals of arsenic belong to the rhombohedral system, and have a perfect cleavage parallel to the basal plane; natural crystals are, however, of rare occurrence, and are usually acicular in habit. Native arsenic occurs usually in metalliferous veins in association with ores of antimony, silver, &c.; the silver mines of Freiberg in Saxony, St Andreasberg in the Harz, and Chanarcillo in Chile being well-known localities. Attractive globular aggregates of well-developed radiating crystals have been found at Akatani, a village in the province Echizen, in Japan.

Arsenic is a constituent of the minerals arsenical iron, arsenical pyrites or mispickel, tin-white cobalt or smaltite, arsenical nickel, realgar, orpiment, pharmacolite and cobalt bloom, whilst it is also met with in small quantities in nearly all specimens of iron pyrites. The ordinary commercial arsenic is either the naturally occurring form, which is, however, more or less contaminated with other metals, or is the product obtained by heating arsenical pyrites, out of contact with air, in earthenware retorts which are fitted with a roll of sheet iron at the mouth, and an earthenware receiver. By this method of distillation the arsenic sublimes into the receiver, leaving a residue of iron sulphide in the retort. For further purification, it may be sublimed, after having been previously mixed with a little powdered charcoal, or it may be mixed with a small quantity of iodine and heated. It can also be obtained by the reduction of white arsenic (arsenious oxide) with carbon. An electro-metallurgical process for the extraction of arsenic from its sulphides has also been proposed (German Patent, 67,973). These compounds are brought into solution by means of polysulphides of the alkali metals and the resultant liquor run into the cathode compartment of a bath, which is divided by diaphragms into a series of anode and cathode chambers; the anode divisions being closed and gas-tight, and containing carbon or platinum electrodes. The arsenic solution is decomposed at the cathode, and the element precipitated there.

Arsenic possesses a steel-grey colour, and a decided metallic lustre; it crystallizes on sublimation and slow condensation in rhombohedra, isomorphous with those of antimony and tellurium. It is very brittle. Its specific gravity is given variously from 5.395 to 5'959; its specific heat is 0.083, and its coefficient of linear expansion 0.0000-0559 (at 40° C.). It is volatile at temperatures above 1oo° C. and rapidly vaporizes at a dull red heat. It liquefies when heated under pressure, and its melting point lies between 446° C. and 457° C. The vapour of arsenic is of a golden yellow colour, and has a garlic odour. The vapour density is 10.6 (air =1) at 564° C., corresponding to a tetratomic molecule As; at a white heat the vapour density shows a considerable lowering in value, due to the dissociation of the complex molecule.

By condensing arsenic vapour in a glass tube, in a current of an indifferent gas, such as hydrogen, amorphous arsenic is obtained, the deposit on the portion of the tube nearest to the source of heat being crystalline, that farther along (at a temperature of about C.) being a black amorphous solid, while still farther along the tube a grey deposit is formed. These two latter forms possess a specific gravity of 4.710 (14° C.) [A. Bettendorff, Annalen, 1867, 144, p. rro], and by heating at about 358°-360° C. pass over into the crystalline variety. Arsenic burns on heating in a current of oxygen, with a pale lavender-coloured flame, forming the trioxide. It is easily oxidized by heating with concentrated nitric acid to arsenic acid, and with concentrated sulphuric acid to arsenic trioxide; dilute nitric acid only oxidizes it to arsenious acid. It burns in an atmosphere of chlorine forming the trichloride; it also combines directly with bromine and sulphur on heating, while on fusion with alkalis it forms arsenites.

Arsenic and most of its soluble compounds are very poisonous, and consequently the methods used for the detection of arsenic are very important. For full accounts of methods used in detecting minute traces of arsenic in foods, &c., see "Report to Commission to Manchester Brewers' Central Association," the Analyst, 1900, 26, p. 8; "Report of Conjoint Committee of Society of Chemical Industry and Society of Public Analysts," the Analyst, 1902, 27, p. 48; T. E. Thorpe, Journal of the Chemical Society, 1903, 8 3, p. 774; O. Hehner and others, Journal of Society of Chemical Industry, 1902, 21, p. 94; also Adulteration.

Arsenic and arsenical compounds generally can be detected by (a) Reinsch's test: A piece of clean copper is dipped in a solution of an arsenious compound which has been previously acidified with pure hydrochloric acid. A grey film is produced on the surface of the copper, probably due to the formation of a copper arsenide. The reaction proceeds better on heating the solution. On removing, washing and gently drying the metal and heating it in a glass tube, a white crystalline sublimate is formed on the cool part of the tube; under the same conditions antimony does not produce a crystalline sublimate.

(b) Fleitmann's test and Marsh's test depend on the fact that arsenic and its compounds, when present in a solution in which hydrogen is being generated, are converted into arseniuretted hydrogen, which can be readily detected either by its action on silver nitrate solution or by its decomposition on heating. In Fleitmann's test, the solution containing the arsenious compound is mixed with pure potassium hydroxide solution and a piece of pure zinc or aluminium foil dropped in and the whole then heated. A piece of bibulous paper, moistened with silver nitrate, is held over the mouth of the tube, and if arsenic be present, a grey or black deposit is seen on the paper, due to the silver nitrate being reduced by the arseniuretted hydrogen. Antimony gives no reaction under these conditions, so that the method can be used to detect arsenic in the presence of antimony, but the test is not so delicate as either Reinsch's or Marsh's method.

In the Marsh test the solution containing the arsenious compounds is mixed with pure hydrochloric acid and placed in an apparatus in which hydrogen is generated from pure zinc and pure sulphuric acid. The arseniuretted hydrogen produced is passed through a tube containing lead acetate paper and soda-lime, and finally through a narrow glass tube, constricted at various points, and heated by a very small flame. As the arseniuretted hydrogen passes over the heated portion it is decomposed and a black deposit formed. Instead of heating the tube, the gas may be ignited at the mouth of the tube and a cold surface of porcelain or platinum placed in the flame, when a black deposit is formed on the surface. This may be distinguished from the similar antimony deposit by its ready solubility in a solution of sodium hypochlorite. A blank experiment should always be carried out in testing for small quantities of arsenic, to ensure that the materials used are quite free from traces of arsenic. It is to be noted that the presence of nitric acid interferes with the Marsh test; and also that if the arsenic is present as an arsenic compound it must be reduced to the arsenious condition by the action of sulphurous acid. Arsenic compounds can be detected in the dry way by heating in a tube with a mixture of sodium carbonate and charcoal when a deposit of black amorphous arsenic is produced on the cool part of the tube, or by conversion of the compound into the trioxide and heating with dry sodium acetate when the offensive odour of the extremely poisonous cacodyl oxide is produced. In the wet way, arsenious oxide and arsenites, acidified with hydrochloric acid, give a yellow precipitate of arsenic trisulphide on the addition of sulphuretted hydrogen; this precipitate is soluble in solutions of the alkaline hydroxides, ammonium carbonate and yellow ammonium sulphide. Under like conditions arsenates only give a precipitate on long-continued boiling.

Arsenic is usually estimated either in the form of magnesium pyroarsenate or as arsenic sulphide. For the pyroarsenate method it is necessary that the arsenic should be in the arsenic condition, if necessary this can be effected by heating with nitric acid; the acid solution is then mixed with "magnesia mixture" and made strongly alkaline by the addition of ammonia. It is then allowed to stand twenty-four hours, filtered, washed with dilute ammonia, dried, ignited to constant weight and weighed, the filter paper being incinerated separately after moistening with nitric acid. From the weight of magnesium pyroarsenate obtained the weight of arsenic can be calculated.

In the sulphide method, the arsenic should be in the arsenious form. Sulphuretted hydrogen is passed through the liquid until it is thoroughly saturated, the excess of sulphuretted hydrogen is expelled from the solution by a brisk stream of carbon dioxide, and the precipitate is filtered on a Gooch crucible and washed with water containing a little sulphuretted hydrogen and dried at 100° C.; it is then well washed with small quantities of pure carbon disulphide to remove any free sulphur, again dried and weighed. Arsenic can also be estimated by volumetric methods; for this purpose it must be in the arsenious condition, and the method of estimation consists in converting it into the arsenic condition by means of a standard solution of iodine, in the presence of a cold saturated solution of sodium bicarbonate.

The atomic weight of arsenic has been determined by many different chemists. J. Berzelius, in 1818, by heating arsenious oxide with excess of sulphur obtained the value 74.3; J. Pelouze (Comptes rendus, 1845, 20, p. 1047) titrated arsenic chloride with silver solution and obtained 75 o; and F. Kessler (Pogg. Ann. 1861, 113, p. 134) by converting arsenic trisulphide in hydrochloric acid solution into arsenic pentasulphide also obtained 75.0.


Arsenic forms two hydrides: - The dihydride, As2H2, is a brown velvety powder formed when sodium or potassium arsenide is decomposed by water. It is a somewhat unstable substance, decomposing on being heated, with liberation of hydrogen. Arsenic trihydride (arsine or arseniuretted hydrogen), AsH3, is formed by decomposing zinc arsenide with dilute sulphuric acid; by the action of nascent hydrogen on arsenious compounds, and by the electrolysis of solutions of arsenious and arsenic acids; it is also a product of the action of organic matter on many arsenic compounds. It is a colourless gas of unpleasant smell, excessively poisonous, very slightly soluble in water. It easily burns, forming arsenious oxide if the combustion proceeds in an excess of air, or arsenic if the supply of air is limited; it is also decomposed into its constituent elements when heated. It liquefies at -40° C. and becomes solid at -118.9° C. (K. Olszewski). Metals such as tin, potassium and sodium, when heated in the gas, form arsenides, with liberation of hydrogen; and solutions of gold and silver salts are reduced by the gas with precipitation of metallic gold and silver. Chlorine, bromine and iodine decompose arsine readily, the action being most violent in the case of chlorine.

Arsenic tribromide, AsBr3, is formed by the direct union of arsenic and bromine, and subsequent distillation from the excess of arsenic; it forms colourless deliquescent prisms which melt at 20 0 -25° C., and boil at 220° C. Water decomposes it, a small quantity of water leading to the formation of the oxybromide, AsOBr, whilst a large excess of water gives arsenious oxide, As4O6.

Arsenic certainly forms two, or possibly three iodides. The di-iodide, As2I4 or AsI2 which is prepared by heating one part of arsenic with two parts of iodine, in a sealed tube to 230° C., forms dark cherry red prisms, which are easily oxidized, and are readily decomposed by water. The tri-iodide, AsI3 prepared by subliming arsenic and iodine together in a retort, by leading arsine into an alcoholic iodine solution, or by boiling powdered arsenic and iodine with water, filtering and evaporating, forms brick-red hexagonal tables, of specific gravity 4.39, soluble in alcohol, ether and benzene, and in a large excess of water; in the presence of a small quantity of water, it is decomposed with formation of hydriodic acid and an insoluble basic salt of the composition 4AsOI. 3As406.24H2O. It combines with alkaline iodides to form very unstable compounds. The pentaiodide, AsI5, appears to be formed when a mixture of one part of arsenic and seven parts of iodine is heated to 190° C., but on dissolving the resulting product in carbon bisulphide and crystallizing from this solvent, only the tri-iodide is obtained.

Arsenic trichloride, AsCl3, is prepared by distilling white arsenic with concentrated sulphuric acid and common salt, or by the direct union of arsenic with chlorine, or from the action of phosphorus pentachloride on white arsenic. It is a colourless oily heavy liquid of specific gravity 2.205 (o° C.), which, when pure and free from chlorine, solidifies at - 18°C., and boils at 132 °C. It is very poisonous and decomposes in moist air with evolution of white fumes. With a little water it forms arsenic oxychloride, AsOCl, and with excess of water it is completely decomposed into hydrochloric acid and white arsenic. It combines directly with ammonia to form a solid compound variously given as AsCl3.3NH3 or 2AsCl3.7NH3, or AsCl3.4NH3 Arsenic trifluoride, AsF3, is prepared by distilling white arsenic with fluorspar and sulphuric acid, or by heating arsenic tribromide with ammonium fluoride; it is a colourless liquid of specific gravity 2.73, boiling at 63° C; it fumes in air, and in contact with the skin produces painful wounds. It is decomposed by water into arsenious and hydrofluoric acids, and absorbs ammonia forming the compound 2AsF3.5NH3 By the action of gaseous ammonia on arsenious halides at -30° C. to -40° C., arsenamide, As(NH2) is formed. Water decomposes it into arsenious oxide and ammonia, and when heated to 60° it loses ammonia and forms arsenimide, As2(NH)3 (C. Hugot, Compt. rend. 1904, 1 39, p. 54). For AsF5, see Ber., 1906, 39, p. 67.

Two oxides of arsenic are definitely known to exist, namely the trioxide (white arsenic), As406, and the pentoxide, As205, while the existence of a suboxide, As20</sub>(?), has also been mooted. Arsenic trioxide has been known from the earliest times, and was called Huettenrauch (furnace-smoke) by Basil Valentine. It occurs naturally in the mineral claudetite, and can be artificially prepared by burning arsenic in air or oxygen. It is obtained commercially by roasting arsenical pyrites in either a Brunton's or Oxland's rotatory calciner, the crude product being collected in suitable condensing chambers, and afterwards refined by resublimation, usually in reverberatory furnaces, the foreign matter being deposited in a long flue leading to the condensing chambers. White arsenic exists in two crystalline forms (octahedral and prismatic) and one amorphous form; the octahedral form is produced by the rapid cooling of arsenic vapour, or by cooling a warm saturated solution in water, or by crystallization from hydrochloric acid, and also by the gradual transition of the amorphous variety, this last phenomenon being attended by the evolution of heat. Its specific gravity is 3.7; it is only slightly soluble in cold water, but is more soluble in hot water, the solution reacting faintly acid. The prismatic variety of the oxide can be obtained by crystallization from a saturated boiling solution in potassium hydroxide, or by the crystallization of a solution of silver arsenite in nitric acid. Its specific gravity is 4.15. In the amorphous condition it can be obtained by condensing the vapour of the oxide at as high a temperature as possible, when a vitreous mass is produced, which melts at 200° C., has a specific gravity of 3.68-3.798, and is more soluble in water than the crystalline variety.

Arsenious oxide is very poisonous. It acts as a reducing agent; it is not convertible into the pentoxide by the direct action of oxygen; and its solution is reduced by many metals (e.g. zinc, tin and cadmium) with precipitation of arsenic and formation of arseniuretted hydrogen. The solution of arsenious oxide in water reacts acid towards litmus and contains tribasic arsenious acid, although on evaporation of the solution the trioxide is obtained and not the free acid. The salts of the acid are, however, very stable, and are known as arsenites. Of these salts several series are known, namely the ortho-arsenites, which are derivatives of the acid H3AsO3, the metaarsenites, derivatives of HAsO2, and the pyro-arsenites, derivatives of H4As2O5. The arsenites of the alkali metals are soluble in water, those of the other metals are insoluble in water, but are readily soluble in acids. A neutral solution of an arsenite gives a yellow precipitate of silver arsenite, Ag3AsO3, with silver nitrate solution, and a yellowish-green precipitate (Scheele's green) of cupric hydrogen arsenite, CuHAsO3, with copper sulphate solution. By the action of oxidizing agents such as nitric acid, iodine solution, &c., arsenious acid is readily converted into arsenic acid, in the latter case the reaction proceeding according to the equation H3AsO3 +I2 + H2O = H3AsO4 + 2HI. Arsenic pentoxide, As2O5, is most easily obtained by oxidation of a solution of arsenious acid with nitric acid; the solution on concentration deposits the compound 2H3AsO4. H2O (below 15° C.), which on being heated to a dark red heat loses its water of crystallization and leaves a white vitreous mass of the pentoxide. This substance dissolves slowly in water, forming arsenic acid; by heating to redness it decomposes into arsenic and oxygen. It deliquesces in moist air, and is easily reduced to arsenic by heating with carbon.

Arsenic acid, H3AsO4, is prepared as shown above, the compound 2H3AsO4.H2O on being heated to 100° C. parting with its water of crystallization and leaving a residue of the acid, which crystallizes in needles. On heating to 180° C. it loses water and yields pyroarsenic acid, H4As2O7, which at 200° C. loses more water and leaves a crystalline mass of meta-arsenic acid, HAsO3 These latter two acids are only stable in the solid state; they dissolve readily in water with evolution of heat and immediate transformation into the ortho-arsenic acid. The salts of arsenic acid, termed arsenates, are isomorphous with the phosphates, and in general character and reactions resemble the phosphates very closely; thus both series of salts give similar precipitates with "magnesia mixture" and with ammonium molybdate solution, but they can be distinguished by their behaviour with silver nitrate solution, arsenates giving a reddish-brown precipitate,whilst phosphates give a yellow precipitate.

There are three known compounds of arsenic and sulphur, namely, realgar As2S2, orpiment As2S3, and arsenic pentasulphide As2S5.

Realgar occurs native in orange prisms of specific gravity 3.5; it is prepared artificially by fusing together arsenic and sulphur, but the resulting products vary somewhat in composition; it is readily fusible and sublimes unchanged, and burns on heating in a current of oxygen, forming arsenic trioxide and sulphur dioxide.

Orpiment (auri pigmentum) occurs native in pale yellow rhombic prisms, and can be obtained in the amorphous form by passing a current of sulphuretted hydrogen gas through a solution of arsenious oxide or an arsenite, previously acidified with dilute hydrochloric acid. It melts easily and volatilizes. It burns on heating in air, and is soluble in solutions of alkaline hydroxides and carbonates, forming thioarsenites, As2S3 + 4KOH = K2HAsO3 + K2HAsS3 + 1H2O. On acidifying the solution so obtained with hydrochloric acid, the whole of the arsenic is reprecipitated as trisulphide, K2HAsO3 + K2HAsS3 + 4HCl = 4KCl + 3H2O + As2S3. Arsenic pentasulphide,As2S5, can be prepared by fusing the trisulphide with the requisite amount of sulphur; it is a yellow easily-fusible solid, which in absence of air can be sublimed unchanged; it is soluble in solutions of the caustic alkalis, forming thioarsenates, which can also be obtained by the action of alkali polysulphides on orpiment. The thioarsenites and thioarsenates of the alkali metals are easily soluble in water, and are readily decomposed by the action of mineral acids. Arsenic compounds containing selenium and sulphur are known, such as arsenic seleno-sulphide, AsSeS2, and arsenic thio-selenide, AsSSe2. Arsenic phosphide, AsP, results when phosphine is passed into arsenic trichloride, being precipitated as a red-brown powder.

Many organic arsenic compounds are known, analogous to those of nitrogen and phosphorus, but apparently the primary and secondary arsines, AsH2CH3 and AsH(CH3)2, do not exist, although the corresponding chlorine derivatives, AsCl2CH3, methyl arsine chloride, and AsCl(CH3)2, dimethyl arsine chloride, are known. The tertiary arsines, such as As(CH3)3, trimethyl arsine, and the quaternary arsonium iodides and hydroxides, (CH3)4AsI and (CH3)4AsOH, tetramethyl arsonium iodide and hydroxide, have been obtained. The arsines and arsine chlorides are liquids of overpowering smell, and in some cases exert an extremely irritating action on the mucous membrane. They do not possess basic properties; the halogen in the chlorine compounds is readily replaced by oxygen, and the oxides produced behave like basic oxides. The chlorides AsCl2CH3 and AsCl(CH3)2 as well as As(CH3)3 are capable of combining with two atoms of chlorine, the arsenic atom apparently changing from the tri- to the penta-valent condition, and the corresponding oxygen compounds can also be oxidized to compounds containing one oxygen atom or two hydroxyl groups more, forming acids or oxides. The compounds of the type AsX5, e.g. AsCl4CH3, AsCl3(CH3)2, on heating break down, with separation of methyl chloride and formation of compounds of the type AsX3 the breaking down taking place more readily the fewer the number of methyl groups in the compound. The dimethyl arsine (or cacodyl) compounds have been most studied. On distillation of equal parts of dry potassium acetate and arsenious oxide, a colourless liquid of unbearable smell passes over, which is spontaneously inflammable and excessively poisonous. It is sometimes called Cadet's fuming liquid, and its composition was determined by R. Bunsen, who gave it the name cacodyl oxide (KaKeans, stinking); its formation may be shown thus: As4O6 + 8CH3CO2K = 2 (CH3)2As2O+4K2CO3)+ 4CO2.

The liquid is spontaneously inflammable owing to the presence of free cacodyl, As2(CH3)4, which is also obtained by heating the oxide with zinc clippings in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide; it is a liquid of overpowering odour, and boils at 170° C. Cacodyl oxide boils at 150° C., and on exposure to air takes up oxygen and water and passes over into the crystalline cacodylic acid, thus: [(CH3)2As]2O + H2O + O2 = 2(CH3)2AsOOH.

==Pharmacology== Of arsenic and its compounds, arsenious acid (dose 6 ,-, 1 v1 1 5 - gr.) and its preparation liquor arsenicalis, Fowler's solution (dose -8 111.), are in very common use. The iodide of arsenic (dose k gr.) is one of the ingredients of Donovan's solution (see Mercury); and iron arsenate (dose -3gr. in a pill), a mixture of ferrous and ferric arsenates with some iron oxide, is of great use in certain cases. Sodium arsenate (-10--yl-a gr.) is somewhat less commonly prescribed, though all the compounds of this metal have great value in experienced hands.

Externally, arsenious acid is a powerful caustic when applied to raw surfaces, though it has no action on the unbroken skin. Internally, unless the dose be extremely small, all preparations are severe gastro-intestinal irritants. This effect is the same however the drug be administered, as, even after subcutaneous injection, the arsenic is excreted into the stomach after absorption, and thus sets up gastritis in its passage through the mucous membrane. In minute doses it is a gastric stimulant, promoting the flow of gastric juice. It is quickly absorbed into the blood, where its presence can be demonstrated especially in the white blood corpuscles. In certain forms of anaemia it increases the number of the red corpuscles and also their haemoglobin content. None of these known effects of arsenic is sufficient to account for the profound change that a course of the drug will often produce in the condition of a patient. It has some power of affecting the general metabolism, but no wholly satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. According to Binz and Schultz its power is due to the fact that it is an oxygen-carrier, arsenious acid withdrawing oxygen from the protoplasm to form arsenic acid, which subsequently yields up its oxygen again. It is thus vaguely called an alterative, since the patient recovers under its use. It is eliminated chiefly by the urine, and to a less extent by the alimentary canal, sweat, saliva, bile, milk, tears, hair, &c., but it is also stored up in the body mainly in the liver and kidneys.

==Therapeutics== Externally arsenious acid has been much used by quack doctors to destroy morbid growths, &c., a paste or solution being applied, strong enough to kill the mass of tissue and make it slough out quickly. But many accidents have resulted from the arsenic being absorbed, and the patient thereby poisoned. Internally it is useful in certain forms of dyspepsia, but as some patients are quite unable to tolerate the drug, it must always be administered in very small doses at first, the quantity being slowly increased as tolerance is shown. Children as a rule bear it better than adults. It should never be given on an empty stomach, but always after a full meal. Certain cases of anaemia which do not yield to iron are often much improved by arsenic, though in other apparently similar ones it appears to be valueless. It is the routine treatment for pernicious anaemia and Hodgkin's disease, though here again the drug may be of no avail. For the neuralgia and anaemia following malaria, for rheumatoid arthritis, for chorea and also asthma and hay fever, it is constantly prescribed with excellent results. Certain skin diseases, as psoriasis, pemphigus and occasionally chronic eczema, are much benefited by its use, though occasionally a too prolonged course will produce the very lesion for which under other circumstances it is a cure. A recent method of using the drug is in the form of sodium cacodylate by subcutaneous injection, and this preparation is said to be free from the cumulative effects sometimes arising after the prolonged use of the other forms. Other organic derivatives employed are sodium metharsenite and sodium anilarsenate or atoxyl; hypodermic injections of the latter have been used in the treatment of sleeping sickness. Occasionally, as among the Styrians, individuals acquire the habit of arsenic-eating, which is said to increase their weight, strength and appetite, and clears their complexion. The probable explanation is that an antitoxin is developed within them.

==Toxicology and Forensic Medicine== The commonest source of arsenical poisoning is the arsenious acid or white arsenic, which in one form is white and opaque, like flour, for which it has been mistaken with fatal results. Also, as it has little taste and no colour it is easily mixed with food for homicidal purposes. When combined with potash or soda it is used to saturate flypapers, and strong solutions can be obtained by soaking these in water; this fact has also been used with criminal intent. Copper arsenite (or Scheele's green) used to be much employed as a pigment for wall-papers and fabrics, and toxic effects have resulted from their use. Metallic arsenic is probably not poisonous, but as it usually becomes oxidized in the alimentary canal, the usual symptoms of arsenical poisoning follow its use.

In acute poisoning the interval between the reception of the poison and the onset of symptoms ranges from ten minutes, or even less, if a strong solution be taken on an empty stomach, to twelve or more hours if the drug be taken in solid form and the stomach be full of food. The usual period, however, is from half an hour to an hour. In a typical case a sensation of heat developing into a burning pain is felt in the throat and stomach. This is soon followed by uncontrollable vomiting, and a little later by severe purging, the stools being first of all faecal but later assuming a rice water appearance and often containing blood. The patient suffers from intense thirst, which cannot be relieved, as drinking is immediately followed by rejection of the swallowed fluid. There is profound collapse, the features are sunken, the skin moist and cyanosed. The pulse is feeble and irregular, and respiration is difficult. The pain in the stomach is persistent, and cramps in the calves of the legs add to the torture. Death may be preceded by coma, but consciousness is often maintained to the end. The similarity of the symptoms to those of cholera is very marked, but if the suspicion arises it can soon be cleared up by examining any of the secretions for arsenic. More rarely the poison seems to centre itself on the nerve centres, and gastro-intestinal symptoms may be almost or quite absent. In such cases the acute collapse occurs in company with both superficial and deep anaesthesia of the limbs, and is soon followed by coma terminating in death. In criminal poisoning repeated doses are usually given, so that such cases may not be typical, but will present some of the aspects of acute and some of chronic arsenical poisoning. As regards treatment, the stomach must be washed out with warm water by means of a soft rubber tube, an emetic being also administered. Then, if available, freshly precipitated ferric hydrate must be given, which can be prepared by adding a solution of ammonia to one of iron perchloride. The precipitate is strained off, and the patient can swallow it suspended in water. While this is being obtained, magnesia, castor oil or olive oil can be given; or failing all these, copious draughts of water. The collapse must be treated with hot blankets and bottles, and subcutaneous injections of brandy, ether or strychnine. The pain can be lessened by injections of morphia.

Arsenic may be gradually obsorbed into the system in very small quantities over a prolonged period, the symptoms of chronic poisoning resulting. The commonest sources used to be wall-papers, fabrics, artificial flowers and toys: also certain trades, as in the manufacture of arsenical sheep-dipping. But at the present time cases arising from these causes occur very rarely. In 1900 an outbreak of "peripheral neuritis" with various skin affections occurred in Lancashire, which was traced to beer made from glucose and invert sugar, in the preparation of which sulphuric acid contaminated with arsenic was said to have been used. But the nature of the disease in this case was decidedly obscure. The symptoms so closely resembled those of beri-beri that it has also been suggested that the illness was the same, and was caused by the manufacture of the glucose from mouldy rice (see Beri-Beri), though no proof of this was possible. The earliest symptoms are slight gastric disorders, loss of appetite and general malaise, followed later by colicky pains, irritation of eyelids and skin eruptions. But sooner or later peripheral neuritis develops, usually beginning with sensory disturbances, tingling, numbness, formication and occasionally cutaneous anaesthesia. Later the affected muscles become exquisitely tender, and then atrophy, while the knee-jerk or other reflex is lost. Pigmentation of the skin may occur in the later stages. Recovery is very slow, and in fatal cases death usually results from heart failure.

After acute poisoning, the stomach at a post-mortem presents signs of intense inflammation, parts or the whole of its mucous membrane being of a colour varying from dark red to bright vermilion and of ten corrugated. Submucous haemorrhages are usually present, but perforation is rare. The rest of the alimentary canal exhibits inflammatory changes in a somewhat lesser degree. After chronic poisoning a widely spread fatty degeneration is present. Arsenic is found in almost every part of the body, but is retained in largest amount by the liver, secondly by the kidneys. After death from chronic poisoning it is found present even in the brain and spongy bone. The detection of arsenic in criminal cases is effected either by Reinsch's test or by Marsh's test, the urine being the secretion analysed when available. But Reinsch's test cannot be used satisfactorily for a quantitative determination, nor can it be used in the presence of chlorates or nitrates. And Marsh's test is very unmanageable with organic liquids on account of the uncontrollable frothing that takes place. But in such cases the organic matter can be first destroyed by one of the various methods, usually the moist method devised by Fresenius being chosen.

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Simple English

Gray arsenic

Arsenic is chemical element 33 on the periodic table. Its symbol is As. Its atomic number is 33 and its atomic mass is 74.02. It is in the pnictogen group on the periodic table.



Physical properties

Arsenic is found in three allotropes. Gray arsenic is the most common. It is a brittle, somewhat soft metalloid that is a little shiny. It has a density of 5.73g/cm3. It is a semiconductor. Yellow arsenic is unstable and rare. It is the most toxic allotrope. It is a soft and waxy nonmetal, similar to white phosphorus. It turns into gray arsenic in light. Its density is 1.97g/cm3, much lighter than gray arsenic. It is made when arsenic vapor (made by heating arsenic very hot) is cooled very fast by something like liquid nitrogen. Black arsenic is similar to red phosphorus. It is a brittle, black, and shiny nonmetal. It does not conduct electricity. Since gray arsenic is the most common, it is usually referred to as arsenic.

Arsenic is found as one stable (nonradioactive) isotope, 75As. There are about 33 radioactive isotopes found. The longest lasting one is 73As, which has a half life of about 80 days.

Chemical properties

Arsenic is a moderately unreactive element, similar to copper in reactivity. It burns in air to make garlic-smelling arsenic trioxide. Arsenic, as well as some of its compounds, do not have a liquid state; they sublime. Arsenic reacts with fluorine to make arsenic pentafluoride. It reacts with the rest of the halogens to make the arsenic trihalides. Arsenic does not dissolve in hydrochloric acid. It dissolves in concentrated nitric acid to make arsenic acid and in dilute nitric acid to make arsenious acid. It reacts with concentrated sulfuric acid to make arsenic trioxide. Arsenic burns with a pale lavender flame.

Chemical compounds

Arsenic trioxide

Arsenic forms chemical compounds in three oxidation states: -3, +3, and +5. -3 compounds are reducing agents. They are the main form of arsenic in the ground (as arsenides). Arsine is a colorless, highly toxic gas with a garlic odor. The +3 state is the most common. They are weak oxidizing agents. Arsenic trioxide is a white solid. It dissolves in water to make a solution of arsenious acid. The arsenic trichlorides are low melting covalent solids. The +5 state is common, too. They are strong oxidizing agents. Arsenic pentafluoride, a colorless and highly reactive gas, is the only stable arsenic pentahalide. Arsenic pentoxide dissolves in water to make arsenic acid, which can make arsenate salts.


Arsenic is found sometimes as an element in the ground, but is normally found in minerals. Some arsenic minerals have a metal and sulfur along with arsenic. Arsenopyrite is iron arsenic sulfide. It is the same as pyrite with arsenic added. Other arsenic minerals have a metal and arsenic. Erythrite, a cobalt arsenide mineral, is an example. Other arsenic minerals are simple. Realgar and orpiment (arsenic sulfides), simple arsenic minerals, are ores of arsenic.

Arsenic is found as a less toxic variety in fish and mushrooms. Some people think that humans need very small amounts of arsenic to be healthy. Some bacteria can use arsenic instead of phosphorus for some things; they are called arsenic bacteria.


Most arsenic is made from the waste products after other metals are processed. Only China actually mines arsenic.

Arsenic is made from arsenopyrite by heating it. This makes arsenic trioxide which sublimes (along with sulfur dioxide), while the iron oxide stays behind. The arsenic trioxide is condensed, while the sulfur dioxide does not condense. The arsenic trioxide can be reduced with carbon. Another way is to heat the arsenopyrite without air. Then gray arsenic is made. Realgar can be heated to make arsenic trioxide as well.


Arsenic was known since antiquity. It was alloyed with bronze to make the bronze harder. Some people used arsenic as make-up, although it was toxic. Arsenic was well known as a poison. Since people used it to kill royalty and it was hard to detect, it was called the "Poison of Kings" and the "King of Poisons". An arsenic compound could have been the first organometallic compound (a metal bonded to an organic compound).


Arsenic compounds were used as a preservative for wood. Once people saw how toxic arsenic was, they stopped using it to preserve wood. Some feed for animals had arsenic in it to prevent disease. Lead arsenate was used as an insecticide in orchards but damaged the brains of those who put the insecticide on the trees.

Arsenic was used in medicines in the 1700's, 1800's, and 1900's. Arsenic trioxide was used to treat cancer. Very tiny doses of arsenic compounds can act as stimulants. Some arsenic compounds are used as poison gases.

Arsenic as an element is used in alloys. The lead in lead acid batteries has some arsenic in it to make it stronger. Some semiconductors have arsenic in them.

Copper arsenate was used as a coloring for sweets. Paris green, a green pigment having arsenic in it, made many people sick. Some bullets have arsenic in them. Arsenic is sometimes added to brass to prevent the zinc from coming out. Arsenic was used in optical glass but was taken out because it was toxic.


Arsenic and its compounds are highly toxic. They are carcinogens. Water near arsenic mines is normally contaminated with arsenic. Wood that was preserved with arsenic compounds can leach arsenic into the soil. Emissions from coke ovens have arsenic in them.


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