Atomic Number: 33
Atomic Symbol: As
Atomic Category: metalloids
Atomic Mass: 74.92
Boiling Point: 603 degrees Celsius
Appearance: Metallic grey
Arsenic was first isolated by Geber (721 – 815), an Arabian alchemist. It is believed that Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great, 1193 – 1280) was the first European to isolate the element, doing so in 1250. In 1649 Johann Schroder extended the knowledge of arsenic by publishing two ways in which it could be prepared.
As early as 8th century A.D., arsenic has been used as a poison, specifically by those of higher rank. Throughout time it has been used to accelerate a family member’s ascension to the throne, take out enemies of war, and to do away with adulterous spouses without bringing about the ruin of a family name. One of the most notable figures in history, Napoleon Bonaparte, is through to have died from arsenic poisoning during his imprisonment at Saint Helena. Because of its use with nobility, it has been dubbed the “poison of Kings.”
Arsenopyrite, unofficially known as mispickel (FeAsS), is the most common arsenic-bearing mineral and can be found in various areas around the globe. On roasting in the air, the arsenic sublimes as arsenic (III) oxide learning the iron oxides. Three forms of arsenic oxide have been used extensively in agricultural insecticides and poisons, leading to contamination of ground water and resulting in legislative actions. Other arsenic containing metals such as silver, cobalt, and nickel, contain such a low dose that they are safe to use in various methods.
One of the most noted forms of arsenic poisoning is through drinking water that contains high amounts of the metalloid. Despite beliefs, it is both organic and inorganic arsenic that contributes to this. The arsenic in the water comes from various sources including natural mineral and ore erosion, industrial effluents, combustion of fossil fuels through atmospheric deposition, and pesticides that leach into the groundwater. (By using the map building system at http://nationalatlas.gov/natlas/Natlasstart.asp it is easy to grasp an idea of the contamination of water in your area. Please be aware that the only way to make sure that your drinking water is safe is to have it checked by a certified professional. )
Current uses of different forms of arsenic include:
* Animal feed (specifically in the U.S. as a method of disease prevention and growth stimulation)
* Building material (pressure treated wood)