ATSDR / Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine (DTEM)
ToxFAQs: CABSTM/Chemical Agent Briefing Sheet
What is arsenic?
Arsenic is an element that is widely distributed in the earth's crust. Elemental arsenic is a steel
grey metal-like material. Arsenic is usually found in the environment combined with other
elements, such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. It is released into the air by volcanoes, through
weathering of arsenic-containing minerals and ores, especially near geothermal activity, and by
commercial or industrial processes. In industry, arsenic is a by-product of the smelting process for
many metal ores, including lead, gold, zinc, cobalt, and nickel.
What are the forms of arsenic?
Arsenic is found in two forms:
Inorganic: Combined with elements such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur
• Organic: Combined with carbon and hydrogen
The inorganic forms of arsenic are more toxic than the organic ones. The table below lists
examples of the different forms of arsenic.
such as arsenites
such as arsenates
Common valence states
such as arsine gas
(CH3)2AsO(OH) cacodylic acid (dimethylarsinic acid)
CH3AsO(ONa)2 disodium methylarsenate (DSMA)
Examples of organic
Examples of inorganic
ToxFAQs Chemical Agent Briefing Sheet (CABS): Arsenic
What are common products and uses of arsenic?
The table below list common products and uses of arsenic.
cattle and sheep dips
fire salts (multicolored flame)
herbicides (weed killers and defoliants)
paints and pigments
• wood preservatives
clarifying glass and ceramics
electronics manufacturing (microwave de