Arsenic, abbreviated As, is a potentially toxic heavy metal, that when ingested can accumulate in the body. Arsenic may be of an organic or inorganic source. The toxic form of arsenic is the inorganic form.
Organic arsenic is commonly found in foods, and levels will increase dramatically in a urine 24-hour arsenic test after a seafood meal. That’s why it is not a good idea to eat seafood or kelp a whole week before taking this test. The arsenic-containing foods can cause a falsely positive test result in a urine arsenic test.
A urine arsenic test measures arsenic excretion from the body over a 24-hour period, both before and after a “provocation” or “detox” compound is ingested. A provocation compound is one that increases the excretion of a substance. EDTA, DMSA, and DMPS are examples of provocation compounds.
Taking the urine arsenic test before the provocation compound is ingested reveals arsenic in the urine whether or not there are high levels of arsenic in the body. This level may reflect arsenic levels found in food, air, soil, water, and the environment that have accumulated in the body.
When the provocation compound is ingested, arsenic levels increase in the urine.
Normal Ranges for Arsenic in mcg/specimen:
All ages: 0-35 mcg/specimen
>35 mcg/specimen is considered out of the normal range.
Critical Range: >100 mcg/specimen indicates there has been a significant exposure.
There are no health problems that result from a low arsenic level.
High levels of arsenic are associated with the following symptoms:
• lack of energy
• GI problems
• kidney problems
• low blood pressure
• pain in the abdomen
• skin changes
• cardiac arrhythmias
• shallow breathing
• strange sensations felt in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy)
• changes in mental health
The lack of energy seen in patients with high arsenic comes from three different mechanisms where arsenic negatively influences metabolism, detoxification and the production of energy in the body.
Some specific causes of high arsenic might include:
- Consumption of seafood, kelp or rice for 7 days before the test is performed
- Exposure to inorganic arsenic trioxide, arsine gas and pentavalent arsenic compounds on the job or in the environment.
- Exposure to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- Use of wood preservatives, fire salts, and paints/pigments
- Exposure to cattle and sheep dips
- Consumption of contaminated folk remedies that may use herbs or substances sourced in other countries
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