Arsenicals may be present in many products including food, pharmaceuticals, and nutrient supplements- EPA
Arsenic is a toxic inorganic molecule that causes cancer in humans. While major emphasis has been placed on studying and eliminating arsenic contamination in water, there are other routes for arsenic to enter our bodies.
Arsenicals, a type of arsenic biomolecule, refer to arsenic attached to sugars (arsenosugars) or fats (arsenolipids). Arsenicals are found in plants and animals used for food and can enter human body when contaminated food is consumed. Ingested arsenicals are metabolized into arsenic and other molecules that might be toxic to human. This paper reviews how arsenicals are formed and how they are metabolized after being consumed.
One pathway of formation of arsenicals is through algae or seaweed, which can convert arsenic into arsenosugars and arsenolipids. These are then either ingested directly by humans or by marine animals, such as cod, shrimp, or crab that eventually feed into the human food supply. Once ingested, arsenicals are broken down into arsenic and arsenic derivatives. And several studies have shown that these derivatives can cause many adverse effects, such as bladder cancer, in animals.
Depending on how arsenical contaminated seaweed and algae are processed, arsenicals might remain in many products including food, pharmaceuticals, and nutrient supplements that use algae and seaweeds as sources. However, the occurrence of arsenicals in food has not been well analyzed, and the systemic survey of products for human consumption will be required minimize exposure to arsenic through all sources, including diet. Moreover, more research needs to be carried out to further investigate the role of arsenical derived macromolecules in the human body and to understand the health impact of consuming arsenical contaminated products.
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