February 1, 1985

Arsenic Exposure

Author Affiliations

Marshfield Clinic Marshfield, Wis

JAMA. 1985;253(5):634. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350290036013

To the Editor.—  Peters et al1 reported on a family exposed to arsenic in their home from burning plywood treated with copper-chromium-arsenate (CCA). The authors deserve to be commended for describing an unusual form of arsenic exposure and for highlighting the potential hazards of burning treated wood in the home environment. For years the lay literature has issued warnings against burning anything but untreated wood, but this episode underscores the apparent need to repeat this message periodically.The family experienced a variety of diverse and nonspecific complaints, and it seems plausible that at least some of them may have been due to the irritant effects of arsenic-containing dust. The authors admit being puzzled by at least one finding (alopecia). We are likewise puzzled, but by the inference that persons with prolonged environmental exposure to arsenic supposedly causing systemic symptoms would not have detectable levels in the urine. The authors