Arsenic is a chemical that can cause injuries or even death if a high level is ingested. There are three major groups of arsenic compounds: inorganic, organic, and arsenic gas. Wallpaper, beer, wine, sweets, wrapping paper, painted toys, sheep dip, insecticides, clothing, dead bodies, stuffed animals, hat ornaments, coal, and candles have all, at some point in time, contained arsenic.
Naturally, low levels of arsenic can be found in groundwater, soil, and the air. Because of this, some food or drinks may contain low levels of arsenic, particularly rice. This will not likely cause any damage to people who consume these foods and drinks because the levels are so low. However, long-time ingestion of lower levels of arsenic and exposure to a substance containing higher levels of arsenic still have the potential to cause mild to serious injuries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount of arsenic that is allowed to be present in drinking water. The EPA is a federal agency that promotes, regulates, monitors, and enforces environmental protection. Both the EPA and corresponding state agencies have the power to monitor and enforce compliance with the rules relating to arsenic in order to ensure that safe drinking water is available to the public.
Arsenic is more harmful in products with higher levels, such as insecticides and pesticides. Drinking contaminated groundwater with higher levels of arsenic is also dangerous and can cause arsenic poisoning.
What Are the Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning?
Depending on the level of arsenic ingested and how long you were exposed to it, symptoms of arsenic poisoning can be short-lived or long-term. If you ingest very low levels of arsenic or arsenic in a less toxic form, you may not experience any symptoms at all.
The range of symptoms and related conditions resulting from arsenic poisoning are wide and can include any of the following:
- The sensation of burning in the throat and mouth
- Pain in the abdomen
- Kidney failure
- Skin, lung and kidney cancers
Pregnant women who experience arsenic poisoning are at high risk for congenital disabilities or infant death while in utero.
Several tests can diagnose arsenic poisoning. Arsenic will be noted in your urine, blood, hair, and fingernail tests. The most reliable test to diagnose immediate poisoning is urinalysis, as long as it is done one to two days after the exposure. Arsenic leaves the body within a few days, so urine testing will not uncover any less recent exposure. Hair and fingernail tests are good indicators of long-term arsenic exposure.
What Are Some Risk Factors for Arsenic Poisoning?
Many companies widely use arsenic. Current and historical uses of arsenic include pharmaceuticals, wood preservatives, agricultural chemicals, and mining, metallurgical, glass-making, and semiconductor applications.
As recently as the 1970s, arsenic was used in medicinal applications. Inorganic arsenic was used to treat leukemia, psoriasis, and chronic bronchial asthma, and organic arsenic was used in antibiotics to treat spirochetal and protozoal diseases.
Today, arsenic and its compounds are used for various industrial purposes. Elemental arsenic is used to manufacture alloys, particularly with lead (e.g., in lead acid batteries) and copper. Arsenic is widely used in the semiconductor and electronics industries. Arsenic is a doping agent to manufacture crystals for computer chips and fiber optics.
Arsenic and arsenic compounds are used to manufacture pigments, sheep dips, leather preservatives, and poisonous baits. They are also used in catalysts, pyrotechnics, antifouling agents in paints, pharmaceutical substances, dyes and soaps, ceramics, alloys (automotive solder and radiators), electrophotography, and insecticides and pesticides.
Working for a company that uses arsenic greatly increases your chance of exposure. Work a job where you might be exposed to arsenic and experience any of the symptoms or conditions listed above. You should seek medical attention to get the appropriate testing done to determine if you are experiencing arsenic poisoning.
As mentioned, arsenic leaves the human body in just a few days. Be sure to get tested during this period to verify that you are suffering from recent arsenic poisoning. Hair and fingernails can be tested for as long as a year in both living bodies and corpses.
Can I File a Lawsuit After Experiencing Arsenic Poisoning?
An individual who suffers harm due to toxic arsenic exposure can sue the party responsible for exposing them to arsenic. The average defendant does not intentionally expose the average plaintiff to arsenic or other poisons, so the legal theory for the lawsuit is negligence. If you have been exposed to arsenic while on the job, the target defendant would be your employer.
To succeed in a negligence lawsuit, the party bringing the suit (the plaintiff) must prove that the defendant) was negligent (did not meet the standard of care) in their business operations, and caused injury to the plaintiff.
These are the elements which the plaintiff must prove in order to establish negligence:
- Duty: The party accused of negligence must have had a duty to the other party. In this case, an employer indisputably owes a duty to both employees and the general public to protect them from arsenic exposure.
- Breach of Duty: If the employer failed to meet this duty, they are considered to have “breached” it.
- Causation: It must be shown that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff’s injury. This is normally demonstrated by establishing that the damages or injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions or inaction.
- Damages: Once it has been shown that a defendant did have a duty to the plaintiff, that they breached this duty, and that this caused the injuries, the plaintiff must show that they sustained physical injuries and/or property loss. In a poisoning case, damages include medical expenses, time lost from a job, emotional distress, and more.
Another potential lawsuit could be based on product liability. This type of lawsuit would be proper if a manufacturer sold products (most likely a food or drink item) with unsafe levels of arsenic that caused consumers some type of harm.
In a product liability case, the argument will be that products were unsafe for consumption and should not have been approved for sale and that the manufacturer failed to warn consumers of the dangerous arsenic levels present in the product and about the risk of injury after someone consumes the product.
Do I Need to Contact an Attorney About Arsenic Poisoning?
Arsenic poisoning is an incredibly dangerous risk that no one should face, and if they do, they should be adequately compensated. If you have suffered from arsenic poisoning, you should contact a personal injury attorney to understand how to proceed with a lawsuit against anyone who may have put you at risk for exposure to the arsenic that ultimately led to your injuries or illness.
An attorney can also help you determine if you have a case and decide who should be named as defendants in the lawsuit. After the case is filed, an attorney can try to negotiate a settlement that compensates you for the injuries you suffered. If the case does not settle, an attorney can represent your interests at trial.