3 Types of Heavy Metals That Could Cause Poisoning in the Body

Heavy metals are elements that are found naturally in different concentration in our ecosystem. There are several types of heavy metals present in environment. Our body needs certain metals in small amount for better functioning, for example iron, copper, zinc, manganese etc. But too much accumulation of some heavy metals in our body can create several health problems. Excess buildup of heavy metals can lead to metal poisoning. Heavy metals and their compounds are present in almost everything that we are exposed to. They are present in water, food, and even polluted air.

When they build up in soft tissue and organs to toxic level, they produce metal poisoning symptoms. The most common heavy metals producing poisoning are lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and bismuth.

Symptoms and Causes of Heavy Metal Poisoning:

The symptoms of heavy metal poisoning can vary according to the type of metal. The symptoms may also be different in acute and chronic heavy metal poisoning.

Arsenic Metal: Arsenic metal poisoning symptoms can develop from both organic and inorganic arsenic salts that may be absorbed after oral ingestion. Often chronic arsenic poisoning occurs due to drinking contaminated underground water.

Acute arsenic poisoning symptoms: The symptoms of acute poisoning may be evident within minutes or hours after exposure to large amount of arsenic. Symptoms are:

  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea just like rice water.
  • Blood in stool
  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Drowsiness and vertigo
  • Convulsion
  • Garlic like odour of breath is characteristic feature that may help in diagnosis of arsenic poisoning.
  • Permanent neurological damage is common.

Chronic arsenic poisoning symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Painful muscles
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Excessive salivation and watering from eyes.
  • Severe itching
  • Raindrop like pigmentation on skin.
  • Palms and sole become thick and sometimes with presence of nodes.
  • Loss of hair
  • Neuralgia in lower leg and forehand.
  • Peculiar white bands on nail.
  • Anemia
  • Liver and kidney damage.

Cause and Symptoms of lead poisoning:

Lead is present in organic and inorganic form. It is also present in elemental form e.g.: bullets. The common source of exposure includes paints as well as lead contaminated soil. Other source of exposure is certain industries that are involved in battery making, smelting, ship building and glass manufacturing. Many toys contain lead which if accidentally ingested can cause lead accumulation in body. This may occur among children. Chronic sniffing of petrol can cause lead poisoning. Ceramic ware for storage of food, lead soldered cans, etc can also cause build up of lead in the body.

Symptoms of lead accumulation:

  • Abdominal colic
  • Constipation
  • Anemia and fatigue
  • Renal failure
  • Tingling numbness in legs and hands
  • Vomiting is common in children
  • Short stature, underweight in children
  • Black lines on gum
  • Renal failure

Mercury causes and symptoms:

Source of exposure: Batteries, paints, polyvinyl chloride, scientific instruments (e.g. blood pressure instrument), mining and refining, electrical industry. Agriculture fungicide, industrial waste in river and ponds, seafood (toxic amount of mercury is found in some fishes living in some lakes and acidic water.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning:

Acute poisoning of mercury symptoms include; blood in sputum, rapid heart rate, blue discoloration of skin, lips, and tongue.

Chronic mercury accumulation leads to; skin itching, loose teeth, swollen gums, excess of saliva, ulcers in mouth, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, memory loss, and increased irritability. Developmental delay, small head, mental retardation in children may occur if mother is exposed to mercury during pregnancy.

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