Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition Page: 71
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By A. D. McMahon 1
ALTHOUGH the use of arsenicals as pesticides has declined since the intro-
duction of organic insecticides in World War II, the effectiveness of
arsenic in plant pest control has been one of the significant factors
responsible for the high productivity of American agriculture.
Arsenic trioxide or arsenious oxide (As2Os)
is the most common compound of arsenic and in
commerce is often called white arsenic. In
the United States white arsenic is produced
principally as a byproduct of copper and lead
smelting and in the recovery of other metals,
notably gold and silver. This byproduct pro-
duction reaches the consumer market in surplus
and is unresponsive to demand or price. No
domestic ores are now mined directly for
arsenic. Likewise, no production of elemental
arsenic has been reported in the United States
in recent years.
White arsenic is used principally for manu-
facturing calcium and lead arsenate insecti-
cides. However, the usually unpredictable
changes in insect infestation and the develop-
ment of temporary immunities to insecticides
among pests make the demand for arsenical
insecticides unstable. This irregularity of de-
mand is one of the basic problems of the arsenic
industry. Other important uses of white ar-
senic are in wood preservatives, lead shot, glass,
and weed control.
The use of arsenicals as insecticides has de-
clined sharply since the advent of organic in-
secticides. The once popular lead and calcium
arsenates have been largely replaced by organic
compounds, such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloro-
ethane (DDT), benzene hexachloride (BHC),
toxaphene, and organic phosphate compounds,
which have caused manufacturers of arsenicals
serious economic problems.
The United States is the world's second larg-
est producer and largest consumer of white
arsenic, producing about one-fourth and con-
suming nearly one-half of the world total.
The United States is in a favorable position
to meet its white arsenic requirements. It is
unlikely that any new uses for arsenic or its
compounds will tax the existing resources or
producing capacity of the Nation.
There is no security problem in the supply
of arsenic or its compounds. This commodity
is not classified as critical or strategic.
SIZE, ORGANIZATION, AND GEOGRAPHIC
DISTRIBUTION OF THE INDUSTRY
White arsenic is produced in more than 22
countries, of which only 4 have influenced de-
cisively the volume of output-Sweden, the
United States, Mexico, and France. Since
1926 Sweden has been the leading arsenic-pro-
ducing country, followed by the United States
During recent years only byproduct white
arsenic has been produced domestically at
smelters of three companies-the American
Smelting and Refining Co. at Tacoma, Wash.
(copper); The Anaconda Company at Ana-
conda, Mont. (copper); and United States
Smelting, Refining & Mining Co. at Midvale,
Utah (lead). The Tacoma smelter has an an-
nual capacity of about 18,000 tons of white ar-
senic, the Anaconda smelter of 10,000 tons, and
the Midvale smelter of 2,000 tons.
FORMS, PROPERTIES, SPECIFICATIONS
In its ordinary form arsenic metal is a silver-
gray or tin-white substance with a metallic
luster, but it turns black when exposed to the
air. It is one of the lighter metals, its specific
gravity (5.6 to 5.9) being intermediate between
that of aluminum (2.7) and iron (7.9). Al-
though moderately hard (hardness-3.5 on
Mohs' scale; 147.0, Brinell), it is far too brittle
to be used alone for purposes demanding even
moderate mechanical strength. Its poisonous
character and the fact that it is appreciably
volatile at 100 C. render it further unfit for
most purposes for which the common metals
Three other allotropic forms of arsenic, unlike
the more stable steel-gray metal, are not con-
ductors of electricity. One is a yellow powder
like flowers of sulfur, another brown, and an-
other gray to black. The garliclike odor of
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United States. Bureau of Mines. Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition, report, 1960; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38790/m1/79/: accessed February 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.