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ACUTE EXPOSURE INFORMATION
- Potassium arsenite is an odorless white powder solid, water-soluble, trivalent arsenic compound. Its toxicity is similar to that of other arsenicals and it can be absorbed by ingestion, inhalation, and through the skin. It is a skin irritant and contact allergen, as well as a known human carcinogen. Potassium arsenite has caused mutations in human leukocytes and sister chromatid exchanges in Vicia faba.
- Prolonged medicinal use of potassium arsenite (Fowler's solution) has been associated with portal cirrhosis with esophageal varices; this condition is nearly always associated with arsenical dermatoses.
- Acute arsenic ingestion generally produces symptoms within 30 to 60 minutes, but onset may be delayed for several hours if ingested with food. A metallic or garlic taste, vomiting, abdominal pain, dysphagia, and profuse watery (rice-water-like) and sometimes bloody diarrhea may occur. Dehydration, intense thirst, and fluid-electrolyte disturbances are common. Hypovolemia from capillary leaking ("third spacing" of fluids) is a common early event.
- Systemic arsenic poisoning from occupational exposure is uncommon. Arsenic workers have developed a hoarse voice, nasal irritation and possibly perforation of the nasal septum, irritation of eyes, skin, and mucous membranes, and rarely, cirrhosis of the liver. Nausea and vomiting are infrequent. Painful ulceration of the wrist and scrotal skin, lips, and nostrils may develop with dust exposure.
- The primary target organs initially are the gastrointestinal tract, heart, brain, and kidneys. Eventually, the skin, bone marrow, and peripheral nervous system may be significantly damaged. The peripheral neuropathy appears similar regardless of the route of exposure.
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