by Dr. Mark Edwards

A novel dual-nano strategy for arsenic poisoning

Algae Industry Magazine is pleased to announce a new Algae 101 series by our popular blogger, Mark Edwards, Professor, Arizona State University. The Algae Solutions to Natural Poisons and Pesticides offers fascinating insights, including how algae offer solutions to:

  • Reduce the ecological load of natural and man-made poisons in our ecosystems.
  • Minimize poisons in and on our foods and the feeds that fatten our animals.
  • Provide higher nutralence – nutrient density and diversity – for human foods and feeds.
  • Anchor or stabilize poisons locally so they do not migrate to air, water and soils.
  • Clean air, water and soils polluted with natural and pesticide poisons.
  • Provide therapeutics to soften and, in some cases terminate, the severe pain and agony caused by natural poisons and pesticides.

Algae Solutions to Natural Poisons and Pesticides focuses not only on novel methods to minimize poison exposure, but also to reverse the epidemics of:

  • Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders among too many of our children and adults.
  • Arsenic poisoning of children, adults and elderly that causes horrific suffering.
  • Pesticide poisoning of our wild animals and pets, as well as people who happen to live close to treated fields.
  • Cancers, heart disease, neurological disorders, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

This series highlights algae’s unique ability to remove poisons such as arsenic from the body stores of children who suffer from poisoning. Algae offer the only natural and most practical solution to:

  • Remove poison stores from developing brains and save our children’s brainpower.
  • Avoid pesticide residuals and prevent losing our children’s brains to autism.
  • Stop pesticide poisoning in the tissues of meat animals and dairy products.

Algae offer more strategies than any other organism or technology to save our children. Let’s implement these strategies now, and leave a great legacy for our children!

Algae Solutions to Arsenic Poison and Pesticides series provides new solutions:

  1. A novel Dual-nano Strategy for Arsenic Poisoning
  2. Algae solutions for Arsenic Poisoning and Children’s Cognitive Loss
  3. Pesticide exposure = Autism with Algae Solutions
  4. Algae Feed Solutions to avoid Pesticides in Our Food
  5. Algae Autism Solutions to avoid Pesticide Exposure
  6. Algae Solutions to avoid Pesticide Exposure, Cancer and Parkinson’s
  7. Algae Feed Solutions to avoid Pesticides in Our Food

Anyone concerned about losing so many of our children to these hazards of modern life are encouraged to take action and help make these algae-based strategies happen.

Part 1 — A novel dual-nano strategy for arsenic poisoning

The stealth killer, arsenic poisoning, operates unseen, underground and under our radar.

The silent killer, arsenic poisoning from drinking water, threatens the lives of over 140 million people today. Exposure to arsenic from groundwater creates major public health challenges in the United States, Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, Mongolia, Argentina, India, Chile, China and Bangladesh.

Arsenic poisoning from drinking water is a stealth disease that quietly accumulates in the body over years, causing first modest and then severe symptoms. By the time symptoms appear, arsenic probably has already severely damaged the victim’s health. Arsenic accumulates and then attacks critical body organs. Arsenic poisoning causes health problems more ugly, painful and quickly fatal than leprosy.

Unless action occurs quickly, the number of people at risk for arsenic poisoning may double within a decade. Until now, arsenic poisoning was an unresolved issue in a few developing countries. Over half the population in Bangladesh, 57 million people are at immediate risk of arsenic poisoning. The World Health Organization labeled Bangladesh arsenic poisoning problem the “largest mass poisoning of a population in history.”

Mono Lake CA and arsenic contamination

Mono Lake CA and arsenic contamination

Arsenic in groundwater occurs largely from minerals dissolving from weathered rocks and soils. Human actions such as fracking and overdrafting aquifers accelerate the migration of arsenic to groundwater. Coal fired power plants, copper and gold mines, fierce storms, and wild fires release arsenic to the atmosphere, and then distribute the poison in thin layers across ecosystems.

Arsenic-laden mine tailings are spread by wind

Arsenic-laden mine tailings are spread by wind

What is arsenic?

Arsenic is the 20th most abundant component of the Earth’s crust. It is metalloid and can behave as a metal or as a nonmetal, and has the atomic number 33 and symbol As in the periodic table. Arsenic may exist in a metallic state in yellow, green, blue, black, and gray. Arsenic is considered to be a heavy metal and arsenic toxicity shares some features with poisonings by other heavy metals.

Natural activities such as volcanic action, erosion of rocks, and forest fires, can release arsenic into the environment. Industrial products containing arsenic include wood preservatives, paints, dyes, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, and semi-conductors. The man-made sources of arsenic in the environment include mining and smelting operations; agricultural applications; burning of fossil fuels and wastes; pulp and paper production; and cement manufacturing. The EPA lists 380 Superfund sites as contaminated with arsenic.

Arsenic in rock

Arsenic in rock

Arsenic use in industrial products has migrated through waste streams to contaminate soils and water. Arsenic poses problems for many remediation sites. Arsenic contaminated water, soil, and waste materials must have the arsenic removed or immobilize. Effective long-term treatment of arsenic is difficult because arsenic readily changes valence states and reacts to form species with varying toxicity and mobility. In some waste disposal environments, arsenic has leached from arsenic-bearing wastes into groundwater at high concentrations.

Arsenic is a deadly poison to biological systems because the heavy metal inactivates cellular functions. Arsenic reacts with proteins, mainly the thiol portions, and uncouples the process of oxidative phosphorylation. Many thiols have strong odors resembling that of garlic. A strong symptom of arsenic poisoning is garlic breath from oxidized thiols.

Stealth disease

Arsenic is a silent poison that accumulates in primary body organs and causes severe pain. Arsenic contaminated water tastes no different from clean water, unless other chemicals are present, such as in the case of frack ponds. Arsenic poisoning sufferers tend to keep building their body’s store of arsenic from their drinking water while experiencing terribly painful symptoms.

Arsenic symptoms begin with headaches, confusion, diarrhea, loss of night vision and drowsiness. Sufferers experience skin lesions that often develop into cancers of the liver, lung, bladder and major organs. As the poison accumulates, those afflicted may develop convulsions and changes in fingernail pigmentation called leukonychia striata and black foot disease. Maternal arsenic exposure is associated with fetal loss, stunting, infant morbidity and mortality.

Arsenic expressions

Arsenic expressions

As the poisoning becomes acute, symptoms may include cognitive impairment, diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and more convulsions. Critical organs are adversely affected including the brain, heart, lungs, skin, kidneys and liver. Eventually, major organs fail, leading to a coma or death.

People may be unaware of arsenic contaminated water until it is too late. Rural water wells are most often not tested, leaving families and communities vulnerable to unseen and undetected arsenic poisoning.

Fracking releases arsenic

Range Resources from Texas drilled fracking wells near Amwell Township in Pennsylvania. Residential water in some homes developed a noticeable smell of rotten eggs and diarrhea. First, dogs died mysteriously and others aborted misshapen litters. Soon after, other animals began to die, including a horse that the veterinarian believed died of heavy metals poisoning. After experiencing severe symptoms, a local farmer’s son was diagnosed with arsenic poisoning. The fracking company, Range Resources denied responsibility but brought the family a tank full of water. Several lawsuits are pending against Range Resources for heavy metals poisoning.

(Left) Fracking Well, (Right) Frack Pond

(Left) Fracking Well, (Right) Frack Pond

Migration of arsenic from fracking sites to surface or groundwater could come from the frack ponds. These temporary ponds hold the milky grey “flowback,” the chemically treated water used in fracking. Contamination also may come from leaky pipes used to move fracking water on site or from leaky underground well casings.

Possibly the most severe arsenic poisoning threat is time. Water percolation from surface to aquifers often takes years. Current fracking actions may cause arsenic contamination in an aquifer ten years later. Fracking companies will be far removed from the site a decade later when arsenic invades the wellwater.

Methane used in fracking enhances heavy metal transport to water supplies – such as arsenic, selenium and strontium. Heat and pressure from fracking can change redox conditions, creating new chemical reactions that may release arsenic that was previously bound in rock. Some fracking companies actually inject fluid containing additional arsenic. These companies argue that the injection fluid arsenic will not migrate to drinking water but they have not presented convincing proof.

Diagnosis and treatment

Arsenic poisoning can be identified by the symptoms of pain from the stomach, major organs or garlic breath. Confirmation occurs from blood, urine or tests of hair, nail and skin-scale samples. Hair, nails and skin store trace elements from the blood and provide a bioindicator for arsenic exposure. Incorporated elements maintain their position during hair growth and remain sequestered. A 2004 study used preserved hair samples to suggest that Napoleon died of arsenic poisoning in 1821. Intentional arsenic poisoning has been a favored quiet killer for hundreds years and includes Socrates (who intentionally drank hemlock) and Alexander the Great.

Arsenic treatment is problematic. Chemical and synthetic methods such as Dimercaprol and dimercaptosuccinic acid are chelating agents that sequester arsenic away from blood proteins. Unfortunately, these treatments are expensive and impose unpleasant side effects. Major drawbacks include a tendency to redistribute arsenic to the brain and testes, the need for painful intramuscular injection, and an unpleasant garlic odor. The other problem is that the treatments may not work if certain organs are already riddled with arsenic. Supplemental potassium decreases the risk of experiencing a life-threatening heart rhythm problem from arsenic trioxide.

Since no good medicine currently exists for arsenic poisons, scientists and public policy leaders globally should consider arsenic a major challenge and find ways to save the affected populations. The economic and social costs of arsenic poisoning are horrific – and growing.

Dual nano solution

A two-layer solution may address arsenic poisoning using two forms of nanotechnology developed by NanoVoltaics, Inc. in Arizona. The first layer addresses contaminated water with a new, affordable, nonporous detoxification material; and the second uses a very old nanoplant to serve as a natural and healthy chelating agent to pull stored arsenic from major organs in the human body.

The detoxify solution must overcome problems with current arsenic removal methods and provide a cleantech resolution. The process must be low cost, sufficiently simple for uneducated people to operate, avoid dangerous chemicals, allow secure local waste management and offer portability to distributed villages in rural areas. The chelating agent must be sustainable, affordable and benign to the environment, animals and people. It must be easy to produce locally, not require cropland or other fossil resources, and not have unpleasant side effects.

The best solution to arsenic contamination is prevention, which can be accomplished by extracting arsenic from polluted water. Clean water relieves families from the horrors of arsenic poisoning.

Nanozeolite filter

NanoVoltaics has developed a novel nanomaterial called nanozeolite. This new nonporous material can function as a nanofilter to pull extremely dilute arsenic ions out of water. Preliminary tests at the city of Gilbert water treatment facility removed 98% of the arsenic from a variety of wastewater samples. NanoVoltaics has developed low-cost, sustainable and scalable production for nanozeolite.


Nanozeolite, npZTM

The product plan includes a variety of filters designed for single use up to community water sources. Larger systems are planned for wastewater treatment plants. Home sized units are likely to cost about as much as a flashlight and last for several months. The inexpensive units are designed to be safe for local disposal.

A new nano chelator

The nano chelator idea comes from a 2006 report that shows promise for an algae chelator solution tested in Bangladesh. Forty-one chronic arsenic poisoning patients were randomly treated orally by placebo (17 patients) or spirulina extract (250 mg) plus zinc (2 mg) (24 patients) twice daily for 16 weeks. Each patient was supplied with arsenic-safe drinking water by installing a locally made water filter at household level. Effectiveness of spirulina extract plus zinc was evaluated by comparing changes in skin manifestations, (clinical scores), arsenic contents in urine and hair, between the placebo-and spirulina extract and zinc-treated groups.

High arsenic intake results in increased excretion of arsenic in the urine. There was a sharp increase in urinary excretion of arsenic at 4 weeks following spirulina plus zinc administration and the effect was continued for another 2 weeks.

Spirulina extract plus zinc removed 47% of the arsenic from scalp hair. Spirulina extract had no noticeable side effects that required a physician’s attention. The clinical scores for melanosis before and after treatment with placebo was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). In spirulina extract plus zinc-treated group, clinical scores were statistically significant (p < 0.01). Results showed that spirulina plus zinc offers a natural treatment of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Note: seeks partners to commercialize the dual nano solution for arsenic.