Arsenic is a highly poisonous substance having three different allotropic forms, namely, yellow, black and grey. The most common form is the brittle, crystalline grey. The word arsenic has been derived from the Syriac word ‘zarniqa’ and Persian word ‘zarnikh’, which means “yellow orpiment”. The word is also related to a Greek word ‘arsenikos’, which means “masculine” or “potent”. It is a natural element that behaves like a metal and is released both naturally from the Earth’s crust and from certain human activities. Though the element was discovered by Asians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese in the ancient times, it was only in 1250, that Albertus Magnus, a German Dominican produced arsenic in a free form. Read on further to find more interesting facts about the element, Arsenic.
Interesting Information About Arsenic
- Arsenic is found naturally in a common mineral called Arsenopyrite or Mispickel (FeSAs). It is also found in arsenides of metals such as silver, cobalt and nickel. Apart from these inorganic forms, arsenic is found in food, water and air also.
- The atomic number of arsenic in the Periodic Table is 33 and is represented as ‘As’.
- The atomic mass of arsenic is 74.9216 amu, while the density @ 293 K is 5.72 g/cm3.
- Arsenic is located in the Groups 13,14,15,16 and 17 of the Periodic Table and hence, is classified as a metalloid element. Thus, it has the properties of both metals and non metals.
- The melting point of arsenic is 817.0 °C (1090.15 °K), while the boiling point is 613.0 °C (886.15 °K).
- The most common grey arsenic has a metallic sheen and conducts electricity. Yellow arsenic is metastable, a poor electrical conductor and does not have a metallic sheen. Black arsenic is glassy, brittle and a poor electrical conductor.
- Due to its high level of toxicity, arsenic has been named as the ‘Kings of Poison’. Hence, for the same reason, it is used as a wood preservative against insects, bacteria and fungi. It also finds its use in making insecticides, poison, weed killers, etc.
- Arsenic, in the form of Gallium arsenide, is used in lasers that are employed to convert electricity into coherent light.
- Arsenic is used in ammunition manufacturing, since it helps to create harder and rounder bullets.
- The top producers of arsenic are China, Peru, Chile and Morocco. While the production from Peru comes from copper mining, production in China comes from mining of gold.
- Pure arsenic is less dangerous than arsenic compounds, such as AsH3 and As2O3, which are absorbed easily and are carcinogenic with high toxicity.
- In the 18th, 19th and 20th century, arsenic was used in the form of medicines, two most common being arsphenamine and arsenic trioxide. While the former medication was prescribed for syphilis and trypanosomiasis, the latter one was useful in treating cancer.
- Some of the side effects of arsenic include agitation, constipation, darkening of skin, drowsiness, earache, poor appetite, increased sweating, mouth sores, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, nose bleeding, vomiting, depression, seizures, tremors, dry eyes, allergic reactions, sudden weight gain, wheezing, irregular pulse and increased thirst.