This month our example is Arsine, the
most toxic form of arsenic, which has a chemical formula
of AsH3. Arsine is a very toxic colorless gas
with a disagreeable garlic odor. It is an immediate
health hazard because of its toxicity and it is
extremely flammable forming mixtures with air that are
flammable or explosive. Arsine may react vigorously with
other oxidizing agents. Arsine is used organic chemical
synthesis, as a military poison, as a doping agent for
solid-state electronic components, in the manufacture of
crystals for fiberoptics and computer chips. It is used
infrequently in galvanizing, soldering, etching,
burnishing, and lead plating. Numerous industrial
processes can lead to the accidental formation and
liberation of arsine fumes, including the smelting and
refining of metals (zinc), plating, galvanizing,
soldering, electrolytic processing of hydrogen,
preparation of acetylene from calcium carbide. On
exposure to light, moist arsine decomposes quickly
depositing shiny black arsenic. It is normally shipped
as a liquefied compressed gas.
Arsine has a melting point of -179°F
and a boiling point of -81°F. Its molecular weight is
77.95, and has a relative vapor density is 2.7 (compared
to air), so it will seek low areas. It has a vapor
pressure of 11,000 mm of Hg (14.9 atmosphere) at a
standard temperature of 70°F. The lower Explosive Limit
(LEL) is 5.1%; the Upper Explosive Limit (UEL) is 78%.
When heated to decomposition, it emits highly toxic
The established IDLH is 3 ppm, with a
TWA: 0.002 mg/m3 as Arsenic, 15-minute ceiling. The U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE) Emergency Management Advisory
Committee’s Subcommittee on Consequence Assessment and
Protective Action (SCAPA) has developed a TEEL-(1,2,3)
(Temporary Emergency Exposure Limit) as a
temporary substitute for the ERPGs (Emergency
Response Planning Guidelines established by the AIHA
[American Industrial Hygiene Association]) through a
formulaic derivation. The TEELs listing from DOE is
updated every year and the current values in the PEAC
database for Arsine are:
1.5 mg/m3, and
TEEL-3 = 5
mg/m3 (these are for Arsenic).
The DOE SCAPA just published the 2003
values in January, which will be released in the new
version of PEAC database this spring, which are:
0.5 mg/m3, and
1.5 mg/m3 (these are for Arsenic).
The important thing to remember when
dealing with Arsine is that it is both a very flammable
substance and its vapors are very toxic. Therefore if
the material is released from its container, every
effort should be made to eliminate ignition sources and
appropriate PPE must be worn to protect from exposure or
- Prolonged exposure of the cylinders to heat may
result in the cylinders violent rupturing and rocketing.
Store in areas clear of food or food products and
- All chemicals should be considered hazardous.
Avoid direct physical contact. Use appropriate, approved
safety equipment. Untrained individuals should not
handle this chemical or its container. Handling should
occur in a chemical fume hood.
- Wear appropriate protective gloves, clothing and
goggles -- as recommended by the manufacturer. Always
wear thermal protective clothing when handling
- Wear positive pressure self-contained breathing
spills or leaks - Keep sparks, flames, and other
sources of ignition away. Keep material out of water
sources and sewers. Attempt to stop leak if without
undue personnel hazard. Use water spray to knock-down
Incompatibilities - May react
vigorously with strong oxidizers, chlorine, and nitric
Decomposition - When heated to decomposition, emits
highly toxic fumes.
hazards - The gas is heavier than air and may travel
along the ground; distant ignition possible.
Abnormally low blood pressure
may occur. Headache is often an early sign of poisoning.
- Nausea, vomiting, anorexia, and abdominal pain
often develop in arsine poisoning.
- The onset of symptoms is related to the inhaled
concentration of arsine. Initial clinical manifestations
generally occur 30 to 60 minutes after exposure, but may
be delayed up to 2-24 hours. Symptoms include headache,
nausea, vomiting, thirst, abdominal pain, shivering,
hemoglobinuria. A garlicky odor of the breath may be
- Abnormal pigmentation may be observed. A peculiar
bronze tint been described as characteristic of arsine
- Red staining of the the mucous membrane that lines
the inner surface of the eyelid and the exposed surface
of the eyeball and a garlicky odor of the breath may be
early signs in an arsine poisoning. Frostbite on contact
- Arsine is present as a gas at room temperature, so
ingestion is unlikely.
- Move patient to fresh air. Monitor for respiratory
distress. If cough or difficulty breathing develops,
evaluate for respiratory tract irritation, bronchitis,
or pneumonitis. Administer oxygen and assist ventilation
as required. If massive exposure is suspected or if the
patient is hypotensive, ensure adequate hydration by
infusing intravenous saline or lactated Ringer’s
solution. For adults, bolus 1,000 mL/hour if blood
pressure is under 80 mm Hg; if systolic pressure is over
90 mm Hg, an infusion rate of 150 to 200 mL/hour is
sufficient. For children with compromised perfusion
administer a 20 mL/kg bolus of normal saline over 10 to
20 minutes, then infuse at 2 to3 mL/kg/hour. Monitor
fluid balance and avoid fluid overload if renal failure
supervenes; monitor plasma electrolytes to detect
disturbances (particularly hyperkalemia) as early as
possible. Monitor hematocrit. Because of possible severe
hemolysis ensure adequate oxygenation by arterial blood
gas measurement or pulse oxygenation monitoring. The use
of diuretics such as furosimide to maintain urinary flow
is an important consideration and should be performed
under medical base control.
- Remove contaminated clothing and wash exposed area
thoroughly with soap and water. A physician should
examine the area if irritation or pain persists.
- Irrigate exposed eyes with copious amounts of
tepid water for at least 15 minutes. If irritation,
pain, swelling, lacrimation, or photophobia persist, the
patient should be seen in a health care facility.
In using the PEAC application we
access information for the chemical by first locating
Arsine in the database. The following figures show the
screens displayed for chemical properties, Figure 2 for
the PEAC-WMD for Windows application and Figure
3-6 for the PEAC‑WMD for the Pocket PC