Arsenic is a chemical element notoriously known for its extreme toxicity. The periodic table of elements lists it as neither a metal nor a non-metal. Along with an elite group of elements, arsenic belongs to an ill-defined grouping of elements called the metalloids. They are the elements who are somewhere between metal and non-metal. On the periodic table, arsenic is shown as having atomic number 33, along the same column (Group 15) as nitrogen. When it reacts to other chemicals inside the human body, arsenic produces free radicals that are difficult to eliminate. The liver, in particular, is where these free radicals usually build up, and the liver will have a hard time processing them. Thus, arsenic is highly dangerous to the human body.
Arsenic’s elemental form is rare, but it is quite abundant in mineral or compound forms. China is the biggest provider of the world’s arsenic. It is also mined in Chile, Mexico, the Philippines, and Russia. Arsenic is used in wood preservation, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and cancer detection and treatment. Because it is highly poisonous to the environment and a major health risk, many countries have forbidden over-the-counter sale of arsenic.
One sure way to obtain arsenic is to mine for it directly. That is, if you know where the deposits of pure arsenic are and how to mine for it. Pure arsenic in elemental form does exist in nature and can be mined, but the quantity is too small for mining pure arsenic commercially.
Since it is more abundant in mineral compound form, arsenic can be mined from mineral ore, especially sulfides and sulfosalts. It is especially abundant in arsenic-bearing ores such as orpiment (yellow arsenic trisulfide), arsenopyrite, and realgar. Other sulfosalts that contain arsenic in mineral form are tennantite and lollingite. These minerals are commercially important. To extract arsenic from them, you will need to heat them up to 700°C (1,292°F) in a vacuum. That temperature is about seven times the boiling point of water. When the ores are heated up to that temperature, the arsenic vaporizes. The vaporized arsenic is collected and condensed back into solid arsenic that is pure and unadulterated.
Another way to obtain arsenic is to collect the exhaust dust from the exhaust pipes of copper, nickel, and tin mining or refining plants. Heat the dust to vaporize the arsenic, collect the gas, and condense it back to pure arsenic. You can also extract pure arsenic from arsenolite (As2O3 or “white arsenic”). Heat the arsenolite with charcoal. In the presence of heat, the oxygen atoms in the arsenolite will combine chemically with the carbon atoms in charcoal, producing carbon dioxide as by-product. Alternatively, you can extract arsenic in a similar process using arsenious oxide (As4O6).
An easier way to acquire arsenic in small amounts is to ask for it from someone who works in or has a chemistry lab. Arsenic is one of the standard chemicals stocked in chemistry labs for instructional purposes.
Be careful when working with arsenic, though. It is extremely potent as a poison.