In general, hair provides a rough estimate of exposure to Arsenic absorbed from food and water. However, hair can be contaminated externally with Arsenic from air, water, dust, shampoos and soap. Inorganic Arsenic, and some organic Arsenic compounds, can be associated with toxicity. Inorganic Arsenic accumulates in hair, nails, skin, thyroid gland, bone and the gastrointestinal tract. Organic Arsenic, such as that derived from shellfish, is rapidly excreted in the urine.
Arsenic can cause malaise, muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis, and skin cancer. Long-term exposure may affect the peripheral nervous, cardiovascular and hematopoietic systems. Arsenic is a major biological antagonist to selenium. Common sources of Arsenic are insecticides (calcium and lead arsenate), drinking water, smog, shellfish (arsenobetaine), and industrial exposure, particularly in the manufacture of electronic components (gallium arsenide). Arsenic burden can be confirmed by urine elements analysis. Comparison of urine Arsenic levels pre and post provocation (DMPS, DMSA, D-penicillamine) permit differentiation between recent uptake and body stores.
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