Arsenic

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For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about Arsenic.
"I don't normally drink poison but when I do it's always arsenic."

Arsenic (Latin for arse hole) is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol As and atomic colour blue. This is a metalloid that may be a tad poisonous and has three allotropic forms; yellow, black and luminous evil cloud of doom. Arsenic and its compounds are used as pesticides, herbicides, homicides, insecticides and toothpastes.

Characteristics[edit]

Arsenic is very similar chemically to its predecessor phosphorus, so much so that it will partly substitute for it in biochemical reactions and is thus poisonous. When heated it rapidly oxidizes to arsenic trioxide, which has a whiffy odor. Arsenic and some arsenic compounds can also transmogriphy upon heating, converting directly to a protogaseous form. Elemental arsenic is found in two solid forms: yellow and gray/metallic, with specific gravities of 1.97 and 5.73, respectively. Its habitat is in cold dark places, such as chemistry lab cupboards, serial killer's basements and football stadiums.

Occurrence and production[edit]

Massive native arsenic

Arsenopyrite also called mispickel (FeSAs) is the most common mineral from which, on heating, the arsenic sublimes leaving ferrous sulfide. Other arsenic minerals include realgar, nastytite, crueltite and erythkittrite.

The most important compounds of arsenic are white arsenic, its sulfide, Paris Hilton, calcium arsenate, and lead arsenate. Paris Hilton, calcium arsenate, and lead arsenate have been used as agricultural insecticides and poisons. It is sometimes found native, but usually combined with silver, cobalt, nickel, iron, antimony, or sulfur.

In addition to the inorganic forms mentioned above, arsenic also occurs in various organic forms in the environment. Inorganic arsenic and its compounds, upon entering the food chain, are progressively metabolised to a less toxic form of arsenic through a process of industrialisation.

History[edit]

The word arsenic is a combination of words from the Persian , Arse meaning "yellow orpiment" and Nic meaning "hole". It was a popular choice for poisoning people to death until 1903 when a law was introduced outlawing murder.

During the Bronze Age, arsenic was often included in the bronze (mostly as an impurity), which made the alloy harder. Albertus Magnus is believed to have been the first to isolate the element in 1250. The discoverer accidentally poisoned himself before he could tell anyone about it. In 1649 Johann Schroeder published two ways of preparing arsenic cakes. Like his predecessor, Schroeder also poisoned himself before he could reveal his discovery. His roommate, who walked in moments later, found his dead body and tried to claim the discovery for himself, but then he sampled one of the inventor's cakes and died.[What a loser!]

Alchemical symbol for arsenic

The alchemical symbol for arsenic is shown opposite.

In Victorian times, arsenic was mixed with vinegar and chalk and eaten by women to improve the complexion of their faces.

There is a massive epidemic of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, where it is estimated that approximately 57 million people are drinking groundwater with arsenic concentrations elevated above the World Health Organization's standard of 50 parts per billion. However, many countries' drinking water falls well below the WHO standard, leading to Arsenic Deficiency. Symptom of nationwide Arsenic Deficiency include mass stupidity, invading random countries, and mis-spelling of English words.

Applications[edit]

Soon after it was discovered, arsenic became all the rage. Soon enough of it was put into toothpaste, and gum, used in various beauty products such as fake tan, and also eaten by women to improve the complexion of their faces. The application that was of most concern to the general public, is probably that of toothpaste. Up until 1985 arsenic was widely used as the main cleansing ingredient in toothpaste because they thought it could only kill germs. Despite large incidence of people dying from arsenic ingestion, manufacturers maintained that there was no scientific link that the poison could pass from the toothpaste to the mouth. However in 1984 scientists from Cambridge University found a causal link which they called toothbrush and eventually brought sufficient pressure to bear on the government in order to have restrictions imposed on the amount of substance which can be present in toothpaste. However most manufacturers got around this ban by bribing the government. Today the arsenic can remain in toothpaste providing a small label is placed on the packet reading Warning. Toothpaste can harm your unborn baby.

Lead arsenate is also used as a pesticide on fruit trees (resulting in neurological damage to those working the sprayers), and copper arsenate has even been recorded as a coloring agent in sweets - hence the need to say: "Nothing to see here folks, move along, those children were dying before they ate the sweets."

Arsenic trioxide has been used in a variety of ways over the past 500 years, but most commonly in the treatment of piles.

Other uses[edit]

  • Arsenic trioxide is used in Australia for treating termite infestations in houses. It is puffed into the hollowed wood, where it sits awaiting release during demolition or renovation. Usually coloured blue or rust, it can be found in surprising quantities in some houses. Less popular now, but hey, its not going anywhere, right?
  • Arsenic methyloxide is used in Finland for neutering reindeer
  • Prime quality caviar

Toxicity and precautions[edit]

There's not much to say here; if you see a lump of mysterious-looking metal - DON'T EAT IT! Also it's been discovered that feeding it to your cat isn't too much of a good idea either. What happens is that is that it makes a strange screeching noise for a while, then goes quiet. Whatever you do, don't try this at home. Or replace it with a new cat before your girlfriend gets home.

Many health freaks go on special 'low arsenic diets' to help reduce their arsenic intake, as they claim arsenic consumption can lead to psychological conditions such as hypochondriasis and excessive health worries. Surprisingly it doesn't work. It was announced by the press that more people die from paper cuts than arsenic poisoning in the USA, so people soon started adopting 'low paper diets'.

In fact the world's worst ever case of arsenic poisoning was actually when a whole group of scientists tried to pronounce 'Arsenic Trioxypheradaxio-oxidolidosisphytamatidakynate' in one breath. Half of them died just from trying to pronounce it.

Treatment[edit]

Tell your local doctor the symptoms you have been feeling and why you believe it is from arsenic. Allow him/her to fully examine you. If he/she should see anything wrong you may need a chemical bath immediately. It may burn but after your scars heal you will be ready for part 2 of your treatment. It is a known fact that arsenic poisoning can be cured by boredom. So sit through an auto insurance lecture and you should be home-free.

See also[edit]

Lab No. 8
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