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Arsenic Toxicity From the Ingestion of Terracotta Pottery

      Abstract

      Background

      Symptomatic arsenic toxicity has not been associated with terracotta pottery despite thousands of years of use in food storage and preparation. We describe a case of chronic arsenic toxicity from undiagnosed pica involving the ingestion of terracotta pots.

      Case Report

      A 49-year-old woman with a history of anemia and abnormal uterine bleeding presented to the Emergency Department complaining of lower extremity pain. She was also noted to have chronic lower extremity paresthesia, constipation, and fatigue. She admitted to ingesting glazed and unglazed terracotta pots for the past 5 years. This unusual craving was thought to be a manifestation of pica in the setting of chronic anemia. The patient was found to have an elevated urinary arsenic concentration of 116 µg/24 h. An abdominal radiograph showed opacifications throughout her bowel, and she received whole bowel irrigation.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?

      Pica is a common behavior in certain populations. Practicing clinicians should be familiar with the complications of pica, including chronic arsenic toxicity and its associated array of nonspecific symptoms.

      Keywords

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