Arsenic: Poison of Kings or King of Poisons

Topics: Chemical element, Oxygen, Arsenic Pages: 4 (1036 words) Published: November 6, 2010
Whether being used during the Middle Ages for curing illnesses or as a murder weapon among the nobles, arsenic has lead nothing less that a remarkable existence for centuries. There is a thin line between good and evil, and this highly toxic element enjoys dancing on both sides of this border. Coming from the nitrogen family, it is a metalloid with very interesting characteristics, a unique history, and varied uses.

Arsenic, a silver-gray metal-like element, can be found throughout the earth’s crust. It is assigned atomic number 33 in the periodic table, and has a relative atomic mass of 74.92.(1) Being found throughout the earth crust, it is the twentieth most abundant element and is found in our air, water, and soil. Arsenic is usually combined with other elements, forming compounds with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur; and it is in both organic and inorganic forms. Organic arsenic is combined with carbon and hydrogen, where inorganic binds with elements such as oxygen, chlorine and sulfur. Common inorganic compounds of arsenic are trivalent arsenic and pentavalent arsenic; and two reocurring organic compounds are monomethyl arsonic acid and roxarsone.

Arsenic is released into the air by volcanoes, erosion of minerals and metals, and through industrial processes. Weathering of rocks containing sulfides causes dissolution of arsenic into rain, rivers, and groundwater.(2) According to “Arsenic Round the World,” a journal article from the Science Direct database, today thousands and thousands of people are suffering from the effects of arsenic exposure all over the world due to tainted groundwater, industrial effluent, and drainage issues.(3)

Arscenic is a powerful element that can not only benefit mankind but also destroy it, causing chaos when placed in the wrong hands. A quote from the 1944 award-winning movie, Arsenic and Old Lace, is “Insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops.” This famous line depicts this element’s interesting and...
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