Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks, soil, water, air, plants, and animals. Inorganic arsenic is arsenic combined with elements other than carbon. Work-related exposures to inorganic arsenic can occur in copper and lead smelting, wood treating, and in the processing of glass, pigments, textiles, paper, metal adhesives, wood preservatives and ammunition. People who smoke tobacco can also be exposed because tobacco plants take up arsenic naturally present in the soil.
Acute inorganic arsenic poisoning can include vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea followed by numbness and tingling of the extremities, muscle cramps. In extreme cases, poisoning can be fatal. Symptoms of long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic include pigmentation changes in the skin, lesions, and hard patches on the palms and soles of the feet, which may be a precursor to skin cancer.