I had just finished high school and was grateful for a summer job as a janitor at the Vancouver Sun newspaper. A major part of that job was shoveling up printers’ lead and putting it into an open melting vat, all the while breathing in the exhalation from a hundred chain-smokers. Several decades later, I found out the hard way, through a couple of health crises, the consequence of being exposed to too much environmental arsenic.
Of the 92 naturally occurring elements in the periodic table, arsenic is one of 22 that rank as “vital poisons.” These are substances that, if present in the human body in too low or too high levels, will lead to serious health consequences. For several decades scientists have known just how little difference exists between too little and too much arsenic in the body. But today we can see the consequences of ignoring how human activity impacts that carefully fixed amount.
The good side of arsenic is that it supports the metabolism of methionine (an essential amino acid), helps control gene expression, plays a crucial role in regulating digestion, and also seems to support reproductive health. The human body needs one part in ten million (by body weight) for optimal health. Adverse effects become noticeable when the body’s arsenic level falls below one part in 100 million. However, when exposure to inorganic arsenic rises to one part in three million, chronic health problems result.
NOTE: On the periodic table, Arsenic (As) falls right below phosphorus (P). Thus, arsenic can often substitute for phosphorus in animal biochemistry––with devastating health consequences.
Scientists have recently discovered that large segments of the world’s population are exposed to inorganic arsenic levels as high as or higher than the dangerous level I encountered at the Vancouver Sun. Mining and burning of coal, mining of gold, lead, zinc, cobalt, nickel and other metals, manufacture of microelectronics, use of wood preservatives, pesticides, and fungicides, and expansive exploitation of oil deposits all contribute to this increase.1
People living in parts of China, Taiwan, Slovakia, India, and Bangladesh seem to be the most affected. They experience much higher than the global average incidence of cardiovascular disease, anemia, non-melanoma skin cancers, liver cancer, neuropathy, depression, and lung dysfunction.2 However, the rest of the world’s population has not escaped impact. Studies reveal a link, for example, between arsenic exposure and Type 2 diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions.3 Although humans are hit hardest, all large-bodied, long-lifespan mammals suffer. Some researchers suggest that perhaps even the worldwide decline in honeybee populations may be caused (at least in part) by the rise in inorganic arsenic levels in the atmosphere and water.
We stand to learn much from this discovery:
• Humans have a responsibility to restore Earth’s arsenic (and all 22 vital poisons) to the level that existed at the time of Adam and Eve.
• Only by a Creator’s careful orchestration would our planet be endowed with its unique and health-supporting abundances of the 22 vital poisons.4
• The Creator apparently introduced justright life-forms in just-right abundance and diversity throughout 3.8 billion years to transform the inorganic forms of Earth’s vital poisons into the safe, beneficial forms essential for life.5
• God charged humanity with management of Earth’s delicately balanced resources for the benefit of all life (Genesis 1:28–20) and gave specific instructions (Job 37–39) on how to manage.
At this season of Thanksgiving, humans have reason to acknowledge and thank God for His exquisite design of the “poisons” that contribute to long, healthy life.