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Arsenic PDF Print E-mail
Its use as an animal poison is now restricted to the treatment of termite infestations by trained and licensed operators.  Arsenic is also added to lead (0.5 to 2 per cent) in making shot to aid the production of spherical pellets.

Health effects
Arsenic was formerly widely used in medicines and tonics, but its deleterious effects were recognised about 60 years ago and this practice has ceased. The blood of a healthy person contains about 1 ppm (1 mg/l) of arsenic, but individuals vary greatly in their sensitivity to greater amounts. A lethal dose for a human can be as low as 70 mg taken at one time, but the effect of this may be delayed for some days. Chronic exposure may sometimes cause skin cancer. Anyone working with CCA-treated timber should wear respirators fitted with appropriate dust filters and goggles to avoid contact with dust particles (see Protective clothing .)


The greatest source of arsenic for humans is food. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority's (ANZFA) new Food Standard Code (to take effect from January 2003) sets limits for arsenic of 1 mg/kg for cereals, molluscs and seaweed and 2 mg/kg for crustaceans and fish, these being the primary sources of arsenic in food. ANZFA's regular diet surveys have shown that dietary exposures are within acceptable health standards.

Environmental effects
Arsenic is very common in soil, minerals and plants. Gaseous arsenic compounds are emitted into the air by fungi and moulds. Burning vegetation also puts arsenic into the air, but the biggest contribution comes from copper and lead smelting and from coal burning. Copper-chrome-arsenate treated (green-coloured) timber (see Wood preservatives ) presents a risk when it is burned because the smoke will contain toxic chromium and arsenic fumes, so do NOT burn it. The local council or state environment protection authority should be consulted about disposal. Use boron-treated timber for structural uses and steel or concrete footings to avoid ground contact.

 
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