Despite the fact that the FDA critized Dr.Oz for “being extremely irresponsible,” when he he announced that there were high levels of arsenic in the apple (and grape) juice commonly drunk by children, back in September, the Agency has done an about face following a new study published by Consumer Reports showing thar 10% of the juices tested had arsenic levels exceeding government safety standards. These in turn can put youngsters at greater risk for developing hypertension related cardiovascular disease), cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and even diabetes when taken in large amounts over a period of time. In addition, long term exposure to arsenic has been related to vitamin A deficiency that can also result in night blindenss.
Yet, despite it’s poisonous qualities, arsenic has been used medicinally for centuries, both as part of traditional Chinese medicine, and as a tonic in the west In fact, arsenic was widely used to treat syphilis before the discovery of penicillin. It was eventually replaced as a therapeutic agent by sulfa drugs and then by antobiotics. In addition, arsenic was used by women during the Elizabethan era (including the Queen, herself) in a mixture with vinegar and chalk to whiten their skin and prevent signs of aging. Yet, although it was applied topically to their skin, some inevitably was absorbed into the blood stream.
Today, testing for arsenic posioning is generally done by measuring arsenic in blood, urine, hair, and fingernails. The urine test is the most reliable test for arsenic exposure within the last few days. Urine testing needs to be done within 24–48 hours for an accurate analysis of an acute exposure. Tests on hair and fingernails can measure exposure to high levels of arsenic over the past 6–12 months.
Signs that someone has been stricken with arsenic poisoning generally begin with headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea, and drowsiness. As the poisoning develops, convulsions and changes in fingernail pigmentation called leukonychia can occur. When the poisoning becomes acute, symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and more convulsions. The organs of the body that are usually affected by arsenic poisoning are the lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver. The final result of arsenic poisoning is coma to death.
For more information regarding arsenic (and other poisoning emergencies) readers can call The Connecticut Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Hearing impaired: Call 1-866-218-5372