Arsenic Poisoning – Beyond Medieval Political Assassinations

I began getting Google News Alerts using the keyword “poisoning” about five months ago.  I am amazed at all the news articles that share stories of intentional poisoning, from a neighbor adding antifreeze to a pet’s water in “in revenge”, to the woman who mixed up a special margarita cocktail to poison her boyfriend.  And then there is the case of the arsenic-tainted coffee at a university.  The list goes on.  Couple these local news events with the inquiries we receive in the laboratory and you might be baffled at the prevalence of poisoning suspicion.

One of the most common “poisons of choice” is arsenic.  Arsenic has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes to political assassinations.  There is an interesting, fact-filled article on the use of arsenic throughout history.  However, arsenic is not fun – it is dangerous.  This heavy metal is now most commonly seen in certain occupations that include but are not limited to:

  • Smelting
  • Wood preservation
  • Glass production
  • Electronic semiconductor manufacturing
  • Working with pesticides

Certain areas of the world, including the United States, have water sources that are known to naturally have high concentrations of arsenic.  And then there are the incidences of attempted murder – spouse poisoning spouse; boyfriend tainting the food or drink of a girlfriend; child poisoning a parent; an act of revenge.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning?  You may at first think you have the flu or a virus, but then the symptoms don’t go away and get worse over time.  Watch for:

  • Violent stomach pains
  • Clammy sweats
  • Garlic smell on your breath or sweat
  • Sweat may have an orange tint
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Dryness and tightness in the throat
  • Thirst
  • Hoarseness and/or difficult with speech
  • Convulsions

If you suspect you are being poisoned, you can contact your local Poison Control Center, such as our friends at the Southeast Texas Poison Control Center.  You will also want to visit your doctor and share your concerns and symptoms with him or her.  If all else fails, call us – we can test both biological specimens as well as liquids, food (including pet food), or items with residue for a particular poison or through an unknown poisons and toxins analysis.  Tests can be conducted using blood, urine or even hair when suspected exposure is more long-term.

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4 Responses to “Arsenic Poisoning – Beyond Medieval Political Assassinations”


  1. 1 john vega June 6, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Im suspecting that my stepfather is piosoning my mother.My mother is retired and her husband drives a taxi on weak ends.He is five years younger than my mom and since there marriage he has never wore his wedding band.lately Ive notice at times my mother seems to forget surtain words.She at time mentions to me that she is getting old and that her memory is not the same in which alzheimer’s disease dont run in are family, besides that piont are family have longevity lives.My mother is active all day doing house chores and reads on her free time.He in turn stays in bed all day watching TV or just sleeping, my mom loves him.He never shows care he dresses slopy when going out to meet are family even though his wife my mom dresses nicely but when he goes out on weakends to work on taxis he dresses in syle nicley colonged and not cheap colonge.I some times will be invited to there home to eat a home meal in which he prepares and wont wait for me and my mom to set down and enjoy the dinner with him.My mom has now mentioned to me that she has been getting these eradic pulsations in here viens in different parts of here body the funny thing is that i started getting these these same simptoms about the same time she has, which is for about one year and a half.I suspect foul play.Im ready to take a hair follicle test for my mom and I.

  2. 3 Linda Lancaster September 29, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I have been searching the web for two years now for symptoms of arsenic poisoning re: myself. July 4th, 2008, while seperated from a cheating husband of 25 years, I was enticed to come and eat hamburgers for the 4th. I had my own agenda as I had been placing tape recorders out when i was away from home. I always caught him talking to women about me and making fun of me,etc. This particular day was a Godsend in one way and a curse in another. I placed the tape recorder and asked him to take something to the car for me and hid it amd turned it on. I then went outside so as not to run the battery down too fast. We talked awhile and around 6 p. m. I left. I had drank about 3 or 4 beer during the afternoon and he insisted I have some watermelon before I left. Just ate a fouth of it, thank God. I went to a girl friends for an hour and a half or so and drank another beer from her son. She was concerned about roadblocks and he had tried to get me to stay the night anyway, so I traveled down the road a ways and something told me to call him and tell him I was coming back to stay the night, if he promised not to touch me. He agreed that I should. I was not drunk but did not want to take a chance on a ticket on my records. About 9 o’clock I began to cramp seriously and this went on for 45 min or so and I finally started the worst diahreah ever. It lasted until three thirty a.m.. I slept till 10 and got up and went home. Well, I asked him to take something else to the car and got the recorder as the battery was dead. Late that night I began to listen to it and he said he had put something in my watermelon. I paid no attention when he cut it under the carport as I was out under a shade tree waiting for it. He has a hypodermic needle for vacinating his cattle with and I wondered if that was how he did it. A month or so later I was talking to a preacher whose son is a homeopathic Dr.. When I told him all of what happened to me, he said that was arsenic and don’t ever take imoodium again as you need to get it out of your system asap. I later had two Drs. to do all kind of blood work looking for signs of that or antifreeze or anything and they could not find anything. They took me serious and cautioned me. Well, I kept searching the web until I found a site that said you cannot detect it with blood test, but it stays in your urine for 60 hours after administered. Well, I’ve had brain surgery in 1991 and was only left with short term memory loss. My recall is not spontaneous. On March 30, 2010 he did it again. He put something in my diet Dr. Pepper while I was still out of the car smoking. This I know because he never opened a drink for me unless I asked him to and that would bother him. My bottle was open when I got in. This was during a 2 hr. drive to my Neurologist for a check up and when we started back about an hr. later, I began to have the worst restless legs syndrom ever. I suffer all over my body wt it if I take something that I know triggers it. Well it got worse and worse on the intestate and I was in bad pain. He never made comment, just like on the 4th of July,2008. Then my stomache began to cramp and I thought oh hell he’s done it again. When we got home it was about an hour and a half more before the upset stomache started and I was running to the bathroom. This time I observed what it looke like and new it to be odd. Something was lining the bowl and I thought if that’s parasites, that’s worms and it would likely be moving. So I went out to my car and got my magnyfing glass and observed even more. Then a bell rang off in my head and I went to my fireproof box and unlocked it and got the papers out and re-read them. It described it to a T. It will look like rice water with a hint of red like blood in the water and that is exactly what it was. He then did something to me that Sat. that caused every muscle from my neck to my feet hurt so bad I could not stand to touch my body and barely got around. About 9 a.m. was when it began..Again he made no comments. I was unable to go to church the next a.m. and at 5:15 p.m. Sunday it stopped as fast as it started. I still haven’t figured out what that could have been, but the papers said later on it would begin to affect your muscles. I’m assuming that it to was arsenic in my water bottle from the fridge. What I’d like to know is how can you have the root of your hair checked as I’ve read that it will show it and how long it has been going on with you. Is there any easy way short of a crime lab to have this done. I look back at all the pain pills I had to take and the severe RLS that I’ve suffered with and I don’t want him to get away with this. I am attempting to divorce him for the second time and I want him to pay for all that he has done to me. People should not be allowed to get away with these crimes just because they have money and the law does not want to get involved. What kind of suggestions do you have for me. I have been gone since May 22, 2010. Please respond to this lengthy letter and advise me of what I can do or what you can do. Thank You so much for this web site. Devine intervention, happens to me all the time, praise God.

    • 4 corky July 3, 2011 at 1:45 am

      Get your hair tested immediately via a forensics or toxicology lab…if it was arsenic, or another heavy metal, it can be detected in your hair.


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