The name of arsenic in Russian comes from the word "mouse", in connection with the use of its compounds for the extermination of mice and rats. Arsenic (Latin Arsenicum - male; denoted by the symbol As) was included in the periodic table in 1789, but has been known since ancient times.
Arsenic is a scattered element, its content in the earth's crust is only 1.7 × 10−4%, and in seawater 0.003%. About 200 arsenic-containing minerals are known.
Arsenic and all its compounds are poisonous, 60 mg is a lethal dose. In acute arsenic poisoning, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and depression of the central nervous system are observed. The similarity of the symptoms of arsenic poisoning with the symptoms of cholera in the Middle Ages made it possible to mask the use of arsenic compounds (most often, arsenic trioxide, the so-called "white arsenic") as a deadly poison. In France, it was even called hereditary powder. There is an assumption that Napoleon was poisoned with arsenic compounds on St. Helena.
In Russia, the law prohibiting the sale of "vitriol and amber oil, strong vodka, arsenic and tsilibukha" to private individuals was issued in January 1733. The law was extremely strict and read: "Whoever will continue to trade in arsenic and other materials mentioned above and are caught with that, or to whom it will be reported, will be severely punished and sent into exile without any mercy, the same will be done to those who who will buy past pharmacies and town halls from whom they will buy. And if someone who buys such poisonous materials will repair damage to people, those on the search will not only be tortured, but will also be executed by death, depending on the importance of the case. "
In Western countries, arsenic was known primarily as a powerful poison, while in traditional Chinese medicine it has been used for almost two thousand years to treat syphilis and psoriasis.
In 1906, the drug 606 or salvarsan was invented on the basis of arsenic, which marked the beginning of a new era in the treatment of infectious diseases with drugs. The drug for syphilis, created by chemist Paul Ehrlich, had such a serial number, because the previous 605 were unsuccessful.
To date, doctors have proven that arsenic has a positive effect in the fight against leukemia. Chinese scientists have discovered that arsenic attacks proteins that are responsible for the growth of cancer cells.
With prolonged consumption of small doses of arsenic, the body develops immunity: This fact has been established for both humans and animals. There are cases when habitual arsenic consumers immediately took doses several times higher than the lethal dose and remained healthy.
Arsenic is used for alloying lead alloys used for the preparation of shot, since when the shot is cast by the tower method, the drops of the alloy of arsenic with lead acquire a strictly spherical shape, and in addition, the strength and hardness of lead increase significantly.
Arsenic oxides are used in glass making as glass clarifiers. Even the ancient glassblowers knew that white arsenic contributes to the opacity of glass. However, small additions of it, on the contrary, brighten the glass. Arsenic is still included in the recipe for the manufacture of some glasses, for example, "Viennese" glass used to create thermometers.
Arsenic sulphide compounds - orpiment and realgar - are used in painting as paints and in the leather industry as a means of removing hair from the skin.
Arsenic anhydride is still used in medicine for the preparation of pills and in dental practice for painless tooth denervation under local anesthesia.