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Arsenic compounds; Wood-decaying fungi


Approximately 120 years ago in Europe is was learned that certain fungi liberated arsenous gases when they were grown on substrates containing arsenic. This was especially apparent when certain molds grew on paste on wall paper in damp rooms, converting arsenic-containing pigments in the wall paper into a gas with a garlic-like odor. This resulted in numerous cases of arsenic poisoning of people living in these rooms; some of these people died. The identity of the gas was unknown until 1932 when Challenger and his co-workers demonstrated that it was trimethylarsine ( CH3 )a As ( 3). Several species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Scopulariopsis (Fungi imperfecti) and a species of Mucor (Phycomycetes) are capable of methylating arsenical compounds (2).

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