smoking facts

What is Arsenic?
Smoking Facts about the Uses of Arsenic in Tobacco Farming

What is arsenic doing in cigarettes?

The smoking facts reveal one of the harmful effects of tobacco smoking is the build up of arsenic in your system. Since one of the uses of arsenic is as a pesticide there are traces of this element in the tobacco plant and you inhale it with each cigarette.

Facts About the Uses of Arsenic

This element is commonly found in most soils in low concentrations.

It is found in high concentrations with other metals and is a byproduct of ore smelting processes for metals such as such as zinc and copper.

This chemical is used industrially in farming (herbicides and pesticides), metal manufacturing (lead batteries and metal alloys), and glass manufacturing.

Arsenic Poisoning

A large dose of arsenic will be fatal but most arsenic poisoning occurs from repeated small exposures over a long period of time.

What is Arsenic Doing in Cigarettes?

Since this is not a chemistry website but a site about smoking facts, the main question of interest here is what is arsenic doing in cigarettes?

Pesticides and herbicides containing arsenic are used in tobacco farming and contaminate the soil. The tobacco plant takes up this element and then it finds its way into your body through the cigarette smoke.

Arsenic is an element that does not melt when heated but changes directly into a gas which you inhale in the cigarette smoke. It is easily absorbed by inhalation and widely distributed through your body.

Arsenic poisoning is associated with changes in the skin ranging from the appearance of dark skin spots to skin cancer.


smoking facts

Smoking Facts About Arsenic

  • epidemiological studies have established arsenic poisoning as an important cause of lung cancer, cancer of the kidney, and urinary bladder cancer. Coincidentally these are all cancer diseases caused by smoking.

  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists arsenic as a group 1 carcinogen, meaning that the evidence is clear enough to state that this substance is carcinogenic in humans.

  • 0.6 mg/kg/day is estimated to be an acute lethal dose of arsenic. A 70 kg (150 pound) adult would need a single dose of 42 mg or 0.042 grams. A 20 pound child, would need only 6 mg or 0.006 grams.

  • One-tenth of a gram accumulated over a two month period can produce death.

  • in small doses arsenic is carcinogenic.

  • California Air Resources Board and the Department of Health Services estimate that smokers breathe an estimated 0.8 to 2.4 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per pack of cigarettes, with approximately 40 percent of it being deposited in the respiratory tract.

  • California Air Resources Board Staff Report, Proposed Identification of Inorganic Arsenic as a Toxic Air Contaminant (p8)

Q - What is arsenic?

A - It is a gaseous constituent in cigarette smoke that is known to be carcinogenic to humans.

Read about other lethal chemicals in cigarettes.

by Beverly OMalley

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