As You Like It

I’ve been doing some water testing for a creek that runs through a local park. You can read about it here. One reason for doing the testing is to determine if the water is safe for people to wade and fish in.

This month, I decided it was time for an arsenic test since arsenic is common in Iowa soil and water. Arsenic occurs naturally and has been known about as far back as the ancient Egyptian and Ming dynasties. It usually occurs in nature as salts and not as a free metal. The first recorded reaction yielding metallic arsenic was done by alchemist Albertus Magnes. Not even a chemist, an alchemist. Let that sink in.

Historical uses include using salts of arsenic as a green pigment and as an insecticide,

Today arsenic is primarily used as a wood preservative, although it’s found in semiconductors and the metal itself is a semiconductor. (Arsenic treated wood will take on a blue or green tint because the preservative is mixed with copper.)

Most arsenic used today is produced by China, Chile, and Kazakhstan.

Why is it toxic? Arsenic, abbreviated As, is the same column as nitrogen on the periodic table and can get involved with biological reactions involving nitrogen in a bad way. We all know it can act as a poison. It can kill slowly as well, causing bladder, skin cancer and other cancers. It can increase cholesterol and mess up your thyroid. High levels in the soil can cause birth defects.

Arsenic in Iowa hasn’t been thoroughly studied but it is concentrated in northern Iowa.

Arsenic as found in food and water has no taste or smell. Testing for arsenic poisoning was tricky until 1836.

Today, testing instruments are used. I’ve put a video of me explaining a similar technique at the bottom of this post. However, this time I didn’t do the testing myself. I sent a water sample off to a lab. It was much cheaper than paying me to run the test.

The results came back this week.  The news is good! No arsenic detected!

This is most certainly As you like it!

This technique is similar to the one used to detect arsenic, but a little simpler.

One thought on “As You Like It

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