Arsenic is released into the atmosphere from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Most man-made emissions are released from metal smelters and the combustion of fuels. Pesticides used to be an important source of As, but restrictions in various countries have reduced its role. Tobacco smoke may contain As, making it a source of As exposure in ambient air. Arsenic in the air is usually a mixture of atomic As and arsenate (AsO4 3- a compound that combines arsenic and oxygen), with organic As compounds. These organic varieties are usually of negligible importance except in areas where there is substantial application of methylated As pesticides (EEA, 2013).
The non-cancerous effects of inhaling air with high As levels include increased mortality from cardiovascular diseases, neuropathy, and gangrene of the extremities. There is evidence that inorganic As compounds cause cancer of the skin and lungs in humans. Lung cancer is the critical effect following exposure by inhalation (EEA, 2013).
Arsenic is highly toxic to aquatic life and also very toxic to animals in general. Plant growth and crop yields may be reduced where soil As content is high. Organic As compounds are very persistent in the environment (they are not broken down over time by environmental processes) and bioaccumulate in the food chain (EEA, 2013) (EEA 2014).
Estimated cost in Euros of Arsenic pollution from electricity generation across the EU22