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Harmful effects of arsenic compounds (in pesticides, chemotherapy drugs, paints, etc.), most often from insecticide exposure. Susceptibility varies. Arsenic is believed to combine with certain enzymes, interfering with cellular metabolism. Symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include nausea and abdominal pain followed by circulatory collapse. Acute exposure to the gas arsine causes destruction of red blood cells and kidney damage; chronic exposure causes weakness, skin disorders, anemia, and nervous-system disorders. Arsenic in urine and hair or nails is the key to diagnosis. Treatment involves washing out the stomach and promptly administering the antidote dimercaprol.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on arsenic poisoning, visit Britannica.com.
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