- Heavy Metal Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
- Causes of Heavy Metal Poisoning
- Heavy Metal Poisoning Symptoms
- Heavy Metal Poisoning Treatment
- Heavy Metal Poisoning Prevention
- Innovative at-home Health Testing
- Heavy Metal Poisoning: What You Should Know
- Heavy Metal Blood Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
- The Impacts of Heavy Metal Toxicity
- Thorne's Heavy Metals Test provides insights about levels of heavy metals and essential elements in your body
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Symptoms Symptoms
- Diagnosis Diagnosis
- Research Research
- Learn More Learn More
- Heavy Metal Poisoning – NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders)
Heavy Metal Poisoning – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
Accumulating too much of certain metals in the body can lead to dangerous symptoms.
Heavy metal poisoning is caused by the accumulation of certain metals in the body due to exposure through food, water, industrial chemicals, or other sources.
While our bodies need small amounts of some heavy metals — such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron, and manganese — toxic amounts are harmful.
If your body's soft tissues accumulate too much of heavy metals, the resulting poisoning can cause serious damage.
Lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium are the metals most commonly associated with heavy metal poisoning in the United States.
Men and women are equally susceptible to heavy metal poisoning if they're exposed in the same ways.
While children in the United States are still more prone to getting lead poisoning than adults, the number of children with harmful levels of lead in the blood has dropped 85 percent over the past 20 years, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Mercury poisoning is very rare in children.
Causes of Heavy Metal Poisoning
Heavy metal poisoning can be caused by:
- Industrial exposure
- Air or water pollution
- Improperly coated food containers, plates, and cookware
- Ingestion of lead-based paints
Heavy Metal Poisoning Symptoms
Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning depend on the type of metal causing toxicity.
If you have acute heavy metal poisoning — meaning you were exposed to a large amount of metal at once (for example, by swallowing a toy) — your symptoms may include:
- Falling into a coma
Long-term or chronic exposure to heavy metals may cause the following symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Heavy Metal Poisoning Treatment
Your doctor may recommend a urine or blood test to find out if you have heavy metal poisoning.
If the test shows that you do have heavy metal poisoning, the first step of treatment is to eliminate the exposure.
Other forms of treatment may include:
- Chelating agents such as Chemet (succimer), which bind to the metal and are then excreted in your urine
- Suctioning of the stomach to remove some ingested metals
- A diuretic called mannitol (Aridol, Osmitrol), corticosteroid drugs, or intracranial monitoring for swelling of the brain
- Hemodialysis and/or other special treatments if kidney failure occurs
Heavy Metal Poisoning Prevention
The following tips may help you prevent heavy metal poisoning:
- Wear masks and protective clothing if you work around heavy metals
- Since many metals accumulate in dust and dirt, keep these your home as much as possible
- Pay attention to local fish advisories regarding mercury levels
- Be aware of potential sources of lead exposure
- Check for any heavy metals listed on the labels of products you bring into your home
Innovative at-home Health Testing
Arsenic can be found naturally throughout the environment, such as in ground water, air, natural mineral deposits, and soil. It’s also used in industrial processes and in various agricultural products insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, wood preservatives, and dyestuffs.
Because of the role arsenic plays in industry and manufacturing, certain occupations can place workers at a greater risk of exposure to arsenic. These occupations include glass-making, ceramics, vineyard work, smelting, metallic ore refinement, pesticide use and manufacturing, wood preservation, and semiconductor manufacturing.
Diet, however, is usually the main source of arsenic exposure (for most people). Fruits, fruit juices, and grains are the main food-based sources of arsenic. Rice and rice-based products can have especially high levels of arsenic because they often accumulate arsenic at a 10x higher rate than other grains, wheat and barley.
Chronic (long-term) exposure to arsenic may lead to distinct skin diseases, such as arsenical keratinosis, and can increase the risk of skin cancers. Arsenic poisoning can also lead to constriction of blood flow, decreased nerve function, and lung, liver, kidney, bladder, and other cancers.
Mercury is a heavy metal that's naturally found in the environment. It's also quite toxic to humans: long-term exposure can not only heighten the risk of cancer, but it can also damage blood vessels—which can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, and other organs.
Fish consumption is the main source of chronic mercury exposure. (Shark, swordfish, tile fish, and king mackerel are known to have an especially high mercury content.) Mercury naturally makes its way into water from the earth's crust, and it gradually moves through the food chain—first entering algae and bacteria, then fish and shellfish, and then humans.
Cadmium is used widely in industrial activities such as battery production. Long-term exposure to cadmium is associated with an increased risk of cancer, and excess cadmium builds up in organs the liver and kidneys—which can cause these organs to stop working properly.
Inhalation of cigarette smoke is the most common source of exposure to cadmium, but you can also be exposed to cadmium by eating cadmium-rich foods liver, mushrooms, shellfish, mussels, cocoa powder, and dried seaweed.
In the United States, it’s estimated that about 2 every 100 people have elevated cadmium levels. Metal workers and those involved in the manufacturing of batteries, plastics, and solar panels are especially at risk of cadmium exposure.
Bromine has no known beneficial function in the body, and long-term exposure to bromine can lead to headaches, slurred speech, drowsiness, and impaired memory (among other consequences).
Bromine exists as a dark, reddish-brown liquid at room temperature. Found naturally in the earth's crust and in seawater, bromine is also used in chemical products water disinfectants, pesticides, flame retardants, and even certain food preservatives.
Exposure to bromine can occur by drinking food or water contaminated with bromine, coming into direct contact with liquid bromine, and by breathing in the fumes of bromine gas.
Selenium plays an important role in the body's defense against free radical damage. (Free radicals are unstable compounds that can form in the body and “attack” important parts of cells, DNA.) Selenium is also involved in metabolism and immune system function.
However, long-term exposure to high amounts of selenium can result in selenium poisoning—or selenosis. Signs of selenosis can include patchy hair loss, brittle fingernails with white spots on the surface, decreased cognitive function, nausea, fatigue, and a breath that has a garlic- odor.
Your body can’t make selenium, so you get it from the food you eat. Selenium-containing foods include eggs, cheese, beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and some seeds and nuts. Meat is generally a good source of selenium, while fruits and vegetables are usually poor sources of this key nutrient.
Iodine is a mineral that’s essential to your health because your thyroid gland uses it to build important hormones.
Your body can’t make iodine, so instead you get it from the food you eat. Common dietary sources of iodine include cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, seaweed (including kelp, dulse, nori), saltwater fish, and iodized table salt.
If you don’t get enough iodine from your diet, your thyroid gland won’t be able to create enough of its hormones and send them throughout the body—which can result in a condition known as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). But too much iodine can lead to an excessive amount of thyroid hormones, potentially causing hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
Heavy Metal Poisoning: What You Should Know
Heavy metals, arsenic, lead, mercury, and others, are all around us. They’re in the ground we walk on, in the water we drink, and in the products we use every day. But high levels of most heavy metals can make you sick.
True heavy metal poisoning is rare in the United States. And experts say you should be careful about unproven heavy metal tests or “detox” treatments you find online. They may waste your money, and some could be dangerous.
Scientists group these elements their higher density, or atomic weights. Many heavy metals exist, including:
Not all of these metals are bad for you. We need small amounts of some of them, such as copper and iron, to keep our bodies healthy.
This can happen if you eat or drink something tainted with heavy metals or if you breathe in contaminated dust or fumes.
You might get heavy metal poisoning if you:
- Work in a factory that uses heavy metals
- Breathe in old lead paint dust when you fix up your home
- Eat fish caught in an area with high levels of mercury
- Use herbal medicines that have heavy metals in them
The signs can vary depending on the metal and the amount.
Acute poisoning. This happens if you get a high dose at one time, in a chemical accident in a factory or after a child swallows a toy made with lead. Symptoms usually come on quickly and you may:
- Feel confused
- Go numb
- Feel sick and throw up
- Pass out
Acute poisoning is an emergency. Call your doctor or local poison control center right away. The national Poison Help Line is 800-222-1222.
Chronic poisoning. You get this after contact with a low dose over a long time. As the metal builds up in your body, you can get sick. Symptoms come on slowly and can include:
- Weakness and tiredness
- Achy joints and muscles
Different tests can check for different types of heavy metals. Some might test your blood or pee. Others might require an X-ray. Your doctor will also ask you about your job, hobbies, diet, and anything else that could have put you in contact with dangerous substances.
Tests for heavy metals aren’t routine. Your doctor would test you only if you show symptoms and there is a history of exposure or a good reason to suspect they are related to heavy metals.
The main step is to stay away from whatever made you sick so you don’t make the problem worse. Your doctor can help you figure out how to protect yourself.
Sometimes you might need to have your stomach pumped to get the metals out.
If your poisoning is serious, one treatment option is chelation. You get drugs, usually through an IV needle, that go into your blood and “stick” to the heavy metals in your body. They then get flushed out with your pee.
Chelation can be an important part of treatment. But the therapy can be dangerous, and it doesn’t work with all heavy metals. So doctors only use it only if you have high levels of the metal and clear symptoms of poisoning.
Experts say that heavy metal poisoning is rare. But lots of websites claim it’s common and blame it, without proof, for all sorts of health problems. Many businesses sell unreliable tests and expensive or even dangerous treatments.
Hair analysis or chelation challenge tests (“provoked urine” tests). They’re inaccurate. They can’t tell you if you’re sick or need treatment.
Over-the-counter chelation treatments. These are not approved by the FDA, may not be safe, and there’s no evidence that they work.
If you think you have heavy metal poisoning, don’t try to diagnose it or treat it on your own. See your doctor instead.
If you’re worried about heavy metal poisoning, your doctor can give you personalized advice. General tips include:
- If you work with heavy metals, always wear masks or other safety equipment.
- Check local fish advisories to make sure the fish you eat is safe.
- If you live in a home built before 1978, hire an expert to test it for lead paint, and if found, to do lead abatement.
- Check labels on products for heavy metals.
Oregon Public Health, Division Environmental Public Health: “Heavy metals and your
health: Frequently asked questions about testing, treatment and prevention.”
Consumer Reports: “Be Wary of Bogus Supplements for Lead Poisoning.”
FDA: “Questions and Answers on Unapproved Chelation Products.”
Medscape: “Heavy Metal Toxicity.”
National Organization for Rare Disorders: “Heavy Metal Poisoning.”
UpToDate: “Lead Poisoning (The Basics).”
Poison Control, National Capital Poison Center: “Chelation: Therapy or ‘Therapy’?”
Environmental Protection Agency: “Protect Your Family from Exposures to Lead.”
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Heavy Metal Blood Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/heavy-metal-blood-test/
A heavy metal blood test is a group of tests that measure the levels of potentially harmful metals in the blood.
The most common metals tested for are lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Metals that are less commonly tested for include copper, zinc, aluminum, and thallium.
Heavy metals are found naturally in the environment, certain foods, medicines, and even in water.
Heavy metals can get in your system in different ways. You might breathe them in, eat them, or absorb them through your skin. If too much metal gets into your body, it can cause heavy metal poisoning.
Heavy metal poisoning can lead to serious health problems. These include organ damage, behavioral changes, and difficulties with thinking and memory.
The specific symptoms and how it will affect you, depend on the type of metal and how much of it is in your system.
Other names: heavy metals panel, toxic metals, heavy metal toxicity test
Heavy metal testing is used to find out if you have been exposed to certain metals, and how much of the metal is in your system.
Your health care provider may order a heavy metal blood test if you have symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. The symptoms depend on the type of metal and how much exposure there was.
Your symptoms may include:
Some children under the age of 6 may need to be tested for lead because they have a higher risk for lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a very serious type of heavy metal poisoning.
It is especially dangerous for children because their brains are still developing, so they are more vulnerable to brain damage from lead poisoning. In the past, lead was frequently used in paint and other household products.
It is still used in some products today.
Young children get exposed to lead by touching surfaces with lead, then putting their hands in their mouths.
Children living in older houses and/or living in poorer conditions may be at an even higher risk because their environments often contain more lead. Even low levels of lead can cause permanent brain damage and behavioral disorders.
Your child's pediatrician may recommend lead testing for your child, your living environment and your child's symptoms.
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Some fish and shellfish contain high levels of mercury, so you should avoid eating seafood for 48 hours before being tested.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may experience slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
If your heavy metal blood test shows a high level of metal, you will need to completely avoid exposure to that metal. If that doesn't reduce enough metal in your blood, your health care provider may recommend chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a treatment where you take a pill or get an injection that works to remove excess metals from your body.
If your levels of heavy metal are low, but you still have symptoms of exposure, your health care provider will ly order more tests. Some heavy metals don't stay in the bloodstream very long. These metals may stay longer in urine, hair, or other body tissues. So you may need to take a urine test or provide a sample of your hair, fingernail, or other tissue for analysis.
The Impacts of Heavy Metal Toxicity
If you have any of the following symptoms, then heavy metal toxicity could be affecting your health:
- Mental “fogginess”
- Anxiety and depression
- Deteriorating eye health
- Memory problems
- Poor kidney function
- Digestive problems
- Tingling sensations in the hands, feet, and/or around the mouth
- Poor immune function (recurrent infections, an autoimmune disease)
Multiple heavy metals exist in the earth’s crust, and the myriad undertakings of human activities results in practically everyone being exposed to these elements in the air, water, and food supply. Thorne's Heavy Metals Test provides insights about levels of heavy metals and essential elements in your body.
As long ago as 2007, the World Health Organization stated that heavy metals accumulated in the environment, “. . . are associated to different degrees with a wide range of conditions, including kidney and bone damage, developmental and neuro-behavioral disorders, elevated blood pressure, and potentially even lung cancer.”
The heavy metals in the environment that are most commonly found to be linked to adverse health problems include:
Mercury is a silvery, metallic, very malleable, liquid element (think Robert Patrick’s T-1000 character from the Terminator 2 movie) that is very toxic, even in extremely small amounts.
Mercury is ubiquitous in the environment, partly due to the 50 tons of it being released into the atmosphere annually in the United States (yes, that’s 100,000 POUNDS every year) from burning coal in coal-fired power plants.
The mercury vapor in the air can be inhaled, but it also falls to the earth with precipitation, contaminating streams, rivers, lakes, and ultimately the oceans. Bacteria in these bodies of water change what is called “inorganic” mercury into “organic” methylmercury. The cascading problem that results is that methylmercury is far more readily absorbed into the body than is inorganic mercury.
So, when we eat fish, shellfish, and other species from bodies of water containing methylmercury, we can become toxic.
Mercury is also found in dental amalgams – “silver fillings” – that dentists have used for over a century to repair cavities. Dental amalgams are usually one-half mercury, with the remainder consisting of silver and tin. When we chew or drink hot beverages, a small amount of mercury vapor from a filling can be released, which we then inhale and absorb.
Mercury has been used in vaccines as a preservative, such as in the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine, although this is a practice that has largely been eliminated by the pharmaceutical companies. The brain and nervous system are especially sensitive to long-term mercury exposure, and babies are the most sensitive to mercury’s negative health effects.
Lead is less ubiquitous in the environment than mercury is, mostly because lead is no longer being used as an additive in gasoline. Lead is also no longer being used as a paint additive. But homes built prior to the 1978 ban can still contain some lead-based paint.
Removing lead-containing paint without using the proper personal protective equipment can result in lead toxicity (this author, although embarrassed to admit it, did just that many years ago). Lead is still being used in the manufacture of car batteries. And individuals can also come in contact with lead from old lead water pipes or the lead solder used to weld copper water pipes.
The soil and water in areas where mining activities have taken place can become very contaminated with lead. Children growing up in these areas are the most vulnerable to lead’s harmful effects, which can result in serious developmental delays, nervous system damage, and even death.
Used in battery manufacturing and other industries, cadmium exposure can damage the kidneys, lungs, and liver. mercury, lead, and the mineral zinc, cadmium occurs in the earth’s crust and occurs naturally in ores with lead and zinc.
Tobacco smoking will expose a smoker to cadmium, because the tobacco plant will concentrate cadmium in the environment, such as from soil. Rice also tends to accumulate cadmium as well, especially if the rice is grown in areas that formerly grew tobacco, as in some areas in the southeastern United States.
Arsenic is present in the environment from agricultural runoff, cigarette smoke, and its former use in pressure-treated wood. Chronic exposure to arsenic can initiate cancers, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes, and heart and lung damage.
What Do We Do About Heavy Metal Toxicity?
Before starting any sort of treatment for heavy metal toxicity, it is imperative that you first talk to your health-care practitioner and have some testing done to determine, if indeed, you do have heavy metal toxicity AND the extent of that toxicity.
After making the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent further exposure, and undergoing the treatment you and your health-care practitioner agree on, make sure you do follow-up testing after a sufficient interval recommended by your practitioner so you can determine how well the treatment is working.
How is Heavy Metal Toxicity Treated?
Some health-care practitioners recommend the use of pharmaceutical methods, including substances that bind to – or chelate – the heavy metal and hasten its removal from the body. These include substances such as DMSA, DMPS, and EDTA. These chelating agents can be effective, but they must be used in conjunction with a practitioner’s consultation to make sure they don’t cause side effects.
Other practitioners utilize nutrient cofactors or botanical extracts that can either bolster the body’s normal and natural ability to eliminate these toxins, or to bind to the heavy metals to facilitate their elimination. These cofactors and nutrients can include substances that have minimal research, cilantro and chlorella, as well as other substances that are commonly contaminated with heavy metals themselves, zeolites.
Other nutrients found to be helpful in this regard include modified citrus pectin, lipoic acid, and sodium alginate.
Thorne's Heavy Metals Test provides insights about levels of heavy metals and essential elements in your body
Heavy metal poisoning
Chronic heavy metal poisoning; Heavy Metal Toxicity
Signs and symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary depending on the type and amount of metal involved. Fetuses and young children are at the highest risk for severe and long term health consequences from heavy metal exposure. Early symptoms may be missed because they are often nonspecific.
Excessive exposure and damage to several organs can occur even if a person has no symptoms.
Some signs and symptoms of metal poisoning may include:
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (the hallmark symptoms with most cases of acute metal ingestion)
- Heart abnormalities such as cardiomyopathy or abnormal heart beat (dysrhythmia)
- Nervous system symptoms (e.g. numbness, tingling of hands and feet, and weakness)
- Anemia (a classic symptom of chronic metal exposure)
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Lung irritation, or fluid accumulation (edema)
- Brain dysfunction such as memory loss
- Horizontal lines on the nails
- Changes in behavior
- Malformed bones in children, or weakened bones
- Miscarriage or premature labor in pregnant women
Last updated: 4/27/2017
Do you have updated information on this disease? We want to hear from you.
Diagnosing heavy metal poisoning can be difficult, as it relies on having a known exposure and positive results on approved tests. Heavy metal poisoning is often first suspected a patient's history and/or symptoms consistent with excessive exposure.
The following tests may help make the diagnosis of heavy metal toxicity, or help determine how severe the exposure is:
Testing is available in panels (where multiple exposures are tested) or by individual metal. The testing performed depends on the person's symptoms and suspected exposure. Metals more commonly tested for include lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium. Metals less commonly tested for include aluminum, beryllium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, platinum, selenium, silicon, silver, and thallium.
For further information on testing for heavy metal poisoning, visit Lab Tests Online, a website developed by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.
To view a list of conditions with signs symptoms that overlap with those of heavy metal poisoning, visit Medscape's website.
Last updated: 4/27/2017
Research helps us better understand diseases and can lead to advances in diagnosis and treatment. This section provides resources to help you learn about medical research and ways to get involved.
- ClinicalTrials.gov lists trials that are related to Heavy metal poisoning. Click on the link to go to ClinicalTrials.gov to read descriptions of these studies. Please note: Studies listed on the ClinicalTrials.gov website are listed for informational purposes only; being listed does not reflect an endorsement by GARD or the NIH. We strongly recommend that you talk with a trusted healthcare provider before choosing to participate in any clinical study.
Learn More Learn More
These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.
- The United States Department of Labor provides information on toxic metals. Click on the link above to view the information page.
- Lab Tests Online, a Web site developed by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, provides detailed in formation on heavy metal poisoning. Click on Lab Tests Online to view the information pages.
- The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry offers a Toxic Substances Portal where you can learn more about risk levels and health effects of heavy metals. Click on the link above to view the portal.
- MedlinePlus was designed by the National Library of Medicine to help you research your health questions, and it provides more information about this topic.
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) has a report for patients and families about this condition. NORD is a patient advocacy organization for individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them.
- Medscape Reference provides information on this topic. You may need to register to view the medical textbook, but registration is free.
- The Merck Manual for health care professionals provides information on Heavy metal poisoning.
- The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
- PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Heavy metal poisoning. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
Heavy Metal Poisoning – NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders)
The symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary according to which type of metal overexposure is involved. Some specific examples are:
Arsenic is used in the manufacture of pesticides. The gas from arsenic also has some industrial uses. Overexposure may cause headaches, drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and life-threatening complications.
Neurological symptoms include brain damage (encephalopathy), nerve disease of the extremities (peripheral neuropathy), pericapillary hemorrhages within the white matter, and loss or deficiency of the fatty coverings (myelin) around these nerve fibers (demyelination).
Skin problems include transverse white bands on the fingernails (mees’ lines) and excessive accumulation of fluid in the soft layers of tissue below the skin (edema). Gastrointestinal symptoms include a flu- illness (gastroenteritis) that is characterized by vomiting; abdominal pain; fever; and diarrhea, which, in some cases, may be bloody.
Other symptoms include breakdown of the hemoglobin of red blood cells (hemolysis), a low level of iron in the red blood cells (anemia), and low blood pressure (hypotension). Some individuals may experience a garlic- odor that may be detectable on the breath.
In cases of chronic poisoning, weakness, muscle aches, chills, and fever may develop. The onset of symptoms in chronic arsenic poisoning is about two to eight weeks after exposure.
Skin and nail symptoms include hardened patches of skin (hyperkeratosis) with unusually deep creases on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, unusual darkening of certain areas of the skin (hyperpigmentation), transverse white bands on the fingernails (mees’ lines), and a scale inflammation of the skin (exfoliative dermatitis). Other symptoms include inflammation of sensory and motor nerves (polyneuritis) and the mucose membrane lining the throat.
Inorganic arsenic accumulates in the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. It then passes through these sites but leaves a residue in tissues such as skin, hair, and nails.
Symptoms of acute inorganic arsenic poisoning include severe burning of the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure (hypotension), and muscle spasms.
Individuals with severe inorganic arsenic poisoning may experience heart problems (cardiomyopathy); accumulation of acid in the tubes of the kidneys (renal tubular acidosis); breakdown of the hemoglobin of red blood cells (hemolysis); irregular heart rhythms (ventricular arrhythmias); coma; seizures; bleeding within the intestines (intestinal hemorrhage); and yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
Cadmium is used for many items, including electroplating, storage batteries, vapor lamps and in some solders. The onset of symptoms may be delayed for two to four hours after exposure. Overexposure may cause fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever.
In addition, progressive loss of lung function (emphysema), abnormal buildup of fluid within the lungs (pulmonary edema), and breathlessness (dyspnea) may also be present.
In some cases, affected individuals may exhibit increased salivation; yellowing of the teeth; an unusually rapid heart beat (tachycardia); low levels of iron within the red blood cells (anemia); bluish discoloration (cyanosis) of the skin and mucous membranes due to insufficient oxygen supply to these tissues; and/or an impaired sense of smell (anosmia).
Individuals with cadmium poisoning may also experience improper functioning of the canals with the kidney (renal tubular dysfunction) characterized by excretion of abnormally high levels of protein in the urine (proteinuria), minor changes in liver function, and/or softening of certain bones (osteomalacia).
Chromium is used in the manufacture of cars, glass, pottery and linoleum. Exposure to too much chromium may cause lung and respiratory tract cancer as well as kidney diseases.
In addition, overexposure to chromium may also cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, often with blood.
Symptoms may lead to severe water-electrolyte disorders, increased mild acidity of blood and body tissues (acidosis), and/or inadequate blood flow to its tissues resulting in shock. Lesions on the kidneys, liver, and muscular layer of the heart (myocardium) may also develop.
Cobalt, used in making jet engines, may cause nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite (anorexia), ear ringing (tinnitus), nerve damage, respiratory diseases, an unusually large thyroid gland (goiter), and/or heart and/or kidney damage.
Lead production workers, battery plant workers, welders and solders may be overexposed to lead if proper precautions are not taken. Lead is stored in the bone but may affect any organ system. The effects of lead poisoning varies depending on the age of the individual and the amount of exposure.
In children, symptoms vary depending upon the degree of exposure to lead. Some affected individuals may not have any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms usually develop over a three to six week time period. Lead overexposure may cause children to be less playful, clumsier, irritable, and sluggish (lethargic).
In some cases, symptoms include headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, lack of appetite (anorexia), constipation, slurred speech (dysarthria), changes in kidney function, unusually high amounts of protein in the blood (hyperproteinemia), and unusually pale skin (pallor) resulting from a low level of iron in the red blood cells (anemia).
Neurological symptoms associated with lead overexposure include an impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (ataxia), brain damage (encephalopathy), seizures, convulsions, swelling of the optic nerve (papilledema), and/or impaired consciousness.
Some affected children experience learning or behavioral problems such as mental retardation and selective deficits in language, cognitive function, balance, behavior, and school performance. In some cases, symptoms may be life-threatening.
In adults, overexposure to lead may cause high blood pressure and damage to the reproductive organs.
Additional symptoms may include fever, headaches, fatigue, sluggishness (letheragy), vomiting, loss of appetite (anorexia), abdominal pain, constipation, joint pain, loss of recently acquired skills, incoordination, listlessness, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), irritability, altered consciousness, hallucinations, and/or seizures. In addition, affected individuals may experience low levels of iron in the red blood cells (anemia), peripheral neuropathy, and, in some cases, brain damage (encephalopathy). Some affected individuals experience decreased muscle strength and endurance; kidney disease; wrist drop; and behavioral changes such as hostility, depression, and/or anxiety. In some cases, symptoms may be life-threatening.
Lead is excreted in urine and feces. However, it may also appear in hair, nails, sweat, saliva, and breast milk.
Manganese is used as a purifying agent in the production of several metals. Symptoms associated with overexposure to manganese may include damage to the central nervous system and pneumonia.
Additional symptoms and physical findings include weakness, fatigue, confusion, hallucinations, odd or awkward manner of walking (gait), muscle spasms (dystonia), rigidity of the trunk, stiffness, awkwardness of the limbs, tremors of the hands, and psychiatric abnormalities.
Mercury is used by dental assistants and hygienists, and chemical workers. Mercury can affect the lungs, kidneys, brain, and/or skin. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include fatigue, depression, sluggishness (letheragy), irritability, and headaches.
Respiratory symptoms associated with inhalation to mercury vapors include coughing, breathlessness (dyspnea), tightness or burning pain in the chest, and/or respiratory distress. Some affected individuals may experience abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema); pneumonia; and/or abnormal formation of fibrous tissue (fibrosis).
There may be behavioral and neurological changes associated with overexposure to mercury poisoning, such as excitability and quick-tempered behavior, lack of concentration, and loss of memory. Shock and permanent brain damage may also be result from mercury poisoning.
Some affected individuals experience mental confusion. A progressive cerebellar syndrome with impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (ataxia) of the arms may also be present.
Abnormal involuntary movements of the body such as uncontrolled jerky movements combined with slow, writhing movements (choreoathetosis) are common.
Additional symptoms include non-inflammatory degenerative disease of the nerves (polyneuropathy); impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (cerebellar ataxia); tremors of the legs and arms and, in some cases, of the tongue and lips; seizures; and/or slurred speech (dysarthria). Changes in mood, behavior, and consciousness may also occur.
In some cases of chronic exposure to inorganic mercury a personality disorder known as erethism or mad hatter syndrome may occur. Symptoms associated with mad hatter syndrome include memory loss, excessive shyness, abnormal excitability, and/or insomnia. This syndrome was described in workers with occupational exposure to mercury in the felt-hat industry.
Many affected individual experience sensory impairments such as visual problems (e.g. constriction of visual fields, tunnel vision, and blindness) as well as hearing loss.
Some individuals may experience skin changes such as painful swelling and pink coloration of the fingers and toes (acrodynia); persistent redness or inflammation of the skin (erythema); extreme sensitivity (hyperesthesia) of the affected areas; and tingling and sensory disturbances.
In some cases, other affected individuals may experience stomach and intestinal disturbances; kidney damage; dehydration; acute renal failure; inflammation of the gums (gingivitis); severe local irritation of the mouth and pharynx, accompanied by vomiting; and/or abdominal cramps with bloody diarrhea.
Mercury is mainly excreted through the urine and feces.
Symptoms associated with phosphorus poisoning include weakness, headaches, vomiting, sweating, abdominal cramps, salivation, wheezing secondary to bronchial spasm, drooping of the upper eyelids (ptosis), contraction of the pupil (miosis), and/or muscular weakness and twitching. In addition, non-inflammatory degenerative disease of the sensorimotor nerves (sensorimotor polyneuropathy) may advance to progressive deterioration (atrophy). In some cases, respiratory paralysis may also occur.
Symptoms associated with thallium poisoning include extreme drowsiness (somnolence), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody vomiting (hematemesis).
Some affected individuals may experience the loss of most or all of their scalp hair (alopecia); rapidly progressive and painful sensory polyneuropathy; motor neuropathy; cranial nerve palsies; seizures; impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (cerebellar ataxia); and/or mental retardation. Some individuals may experience eye symptoms including wasting away (atrophy) of the optic nerve (optic atrophy), inflammation of the optic nerve (retrobulbar neuritis), and impaired functioning of the muscles of the eyes (ophthalmoplegia). In some cases, thallium poisoning may progress to include renal and cardiac failure, confusion, psychosis, organic brain syndrome, and/or coma.
ADDITIONAL METAL POISONINGS
Additional metals that may cause poisoning include antimony, aluminum, barium, bismuth, copper, gold, iron, lithium, platinum, silver, tin, and zinc. Common symptoms of poisoning from these metals may include gastrointestinal, renal, and neurological symptoms, such as headaches, irritability, psychosis, stupor, coma, and convulsions.
Antimony is used for hardening lead, and in the manufacture of batteries and cables. It may possibly cause lung disease and skin cancer, especially in those who smoke.
Copper is used in the manufacture of electrical wires. It may cause a flu- reaction called metal fume disease and disturbances in the blood.
Lithium is used to make glasses and pharmaceuticals. Lithium may cause diseases of the stomach, intestinal tract, central nervous system, and kidneys.
Overexposure to silver may cause a gray discoloration of the skin, hair and internal organs. Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Zinc overexposure may cause the flu- symptoms of metal fume fever; stomach and intestinal disturbances; and/or liver dysfunction.
Overexposure to bismuth may cause extreme drowsiness (somnolence) and neurologic disturbances such as confusion, difficulty in concentration, hallucinations, delusions, myoclonic jerks, tremors, seizures, an impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (ataxia), and/or inability to stand or walk.
Overexposure to gold (as in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) may cause skin rashes; bone marrow depression; stomach and intestinal bleeding; headaches; vomiting; focal or generalized continuous fine vibrating muscle movements (myokymia); and yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
Some cases of overexposure to nickel have been associated an increased risk of lung cancer.
Overexposure to selenium may cause irritation of the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and eyes; inflammation of the liver; loss of hair (alopecia); loss of skin color (depigmentation); and peripheral nerve damage.
Overexposure to tin may damage the nervous system and cause psychomotor disturbances including tremor, convulsions, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior.
Aluminum containers used in the manufacture and processing of some foods, cosmetics and medicines, and also for water purification. Overexposure to aluminum may cause brain damage (encephalopathy).