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Inorganic arsenic, predominantly the tri- and pentavalent forms, is emitted to the environment primarily through smelting activity, biocide use and glass manufacturing. Monitoring data indicate a concentration of equal to or less than 0.1 microgram/cu m for most locations. Major routes of absorption of inorganic arsenic in the general population are inhalation and ingestion. Inhaled inorganic arsenic deposited in the lungs is eventually absorbed. Most ingested soluble inorganic arsenic is absorbed, whereas insoluble forms pass through the gastrointestinal tract with negligible absorption. Inorganic arsenic metabolism in man is complicated by biotransformation processes which include the methylation and oxidation-reduction interconversion of inorganic arsenic. Long-term accumulation of inorganic arsenic does not generally occur in physiologically active compartments in the body; renal clearance appears to be the major route of excretion of absorbed inorganic arsenic. Acute symptoms of inorganic arsenic poisoning include severe gastrointestinal damage, facial edema, cardiovascular reactions, peripheral nervous system disturbances, and hematopoietic system effects. General population concerns arising from long-term exposures to moderate levels of inorganic arsenic include respiratory tract cancer, skin cancer, non-cancerous skin lesions, peripheral neuropathological effects and cardiovascular effects. There appears to be a nutritional requirement for low levels of inorganic arsenic in certain experimental animals; however, this requirement has not yet been established in man.
Jacobson-Kram, D., P. Mushak, M. Piscator, D. Sivulka, AND M. Chu. Health Assessment Document for Inorganic Arsenic (Final Report 1984). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/8-83/021F (NTIS PB84190891).