This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poisons of the Day - Part Ib

When I started the “Poisons of the Day” series last year, I was hoping to update it a bit more regularly, but one post a year (plus an addendum) is pretty pathetic. I’ve had several partially written entries since last year, but general laziness has prevented me from finishing them up. Perhaps they’ll see the light of day in June. In the meantime, here is an addendum to the addendum to the original post concerning arsenic. Besides its well-established toxicity, it appears arsenic also makes us more susceptible to the flu.

It is already known that arsenic disrupts a large number of hormone pathways in the body, which may link it with a variety of hormonal related diseases. The link with cancer has already been established. Now, Joshua Hamilton and Courtney Kozul have demonstrated that, after five weeks of drinking water containing 100 ppb of arsenic, mice exposed to the H1N1 influenza virus are only able to generate a rather poor immune response (compared with non-arsenated mice). Several days are required to reach appropriate response levels and that delay can be costly. According to Hamilton, “One thing that did strike us, when we heard about the recent H1N1 outbreak, is Mexico has large areas of very high arsenic in their well water, including the areas where the flu first cropped up. We don't know that the Mexicans who got the flu were drinking high levels of arsenic, but it's an intriguing notion that this may have contributed,”

Perhaps. So it may be worth noting that arsenic concentrations of 100 ppb and higher can also be found in well water in many areas of the United States.

Fortunately, unlike heavy metals such as lead and mercury, arsenic does not accumulate in the body. “Arsenic goes right through us like table salt,” Hamilton says. “We believe for arsenic to have health consequences, it requires exposure day after day, year after year, such as through drinking water.”

If it weren't for BPA, I'd be drinking bottled water all the time.


markmier said...

What makes you think bottled water is any better than tap? (depending on where you live, that is)?

Chemist Ken said...

I don't. I was fortunate enough to be in a car rental office when one of the office workers discovered a ring of green fungus floating inside the half empty bottle of water she was drinking. Don't remember if she lost her lunch or not.

I will admit, though, that having access to bottled water in places like Malta can be a lifesaver.

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