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Where does arsenic come from?

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Quick Answer

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and is often found within the Earth's crust, extending its presence into soil, water and rock. Arsenic is also forced into the air during certain chemical processes, causing environmental contamination. Arsenic is a poisonous substance, classified as a metalloid.

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Because of the location of arsenic in geological formations, the contamination of ground water and drinking water is often a concern. This is especially common in non-urban areas that contain wells for drinking. Arsenic is poisonous to any multi-cellular organism, including humans.

Because of its damaging properties, it is often used in pesticides and poisons to exterminate unwanted pests. Arsenic has other uses, such as being an ingredient in car batteries and the strengthening of copper alloys.

Arsenic is the 53rd most abundant material found within the Earth's crust, and common soil contains roughly 1 to 10 parts per million of arsenic. This metalloid is commercially produced in some countries, such as China, Chile and Morocco. The mass production of arsenic in standardized cultures, such as the United States and Europe, has primarily ceased because of the poisonous effects of the toxin.

Many mystery novels pay an homage to arsenic, as it was widely used as a murder weapon before science was able to detect its traces in a cadaver.

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