Although we come in to contact with various metals all the time in our day-to-day lives, many metals can be toxic to humans and metal poisoning is something that everyone should know how to identify and avoid.
Heavy metal poisoning, is when heavy metals accumulate in the soft tissues of the body. Heavy metals include aluminium, arsenic, barium, lithium, mercury, nickel, silver, tin and many more. The symptoms can vary depending on which metal is present. Below we have outlined some of the most common types of metals associated with heavy metal poisoning, and the symptoms you should look out for.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning can include abdominal pains, nausea and vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes containing blood. For more severe cases, that develop through long time exposure you should watch out for darkening of the skin, thickening skin and numbness as well as the above. The most common cause of arsenic poisoning is contaminated drinking water, which can be caused by mining, agriculture and toxic waste sites. Unsurprisingly, the areas that are most affected by this are those with a lack of safe drinking water such as Bangladesh and West Bengal. Other countries that have high levels of naturally occurring arsenic in their groundwater include Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Lead poisoning is a very real danger for those who work in lead production, and proper precautions should be taken at all times. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, headaches, memory problems and constipation, whilst severe cases can lead to coma and even death. In 2013, lead was attributed to 853,000 deaths and is believed to account for 0.6% of disease in the world.
The effects can vary depending on age and how often one is exposed to lead, and it occurs more commonly in underdeveloped countries. Since concerns were raised about the possible damage caused by exposure to lead in the latter half of the twentieth century, levels of lead found in blood have been declining but low-level lead exposure still occurs.
Mercury is commonly used by dentists and dental hygienists, but it can affect our lungs, brain and skin and should always be handled with care. Concerns have been raised in the past about the level of mercury contained in amalgam fillings but amalgam is still used, although there are other tooth coloured materials that are slowly becoming more popular
Mercury poisoning, can affect memory, cause trouble hearing and result in skin problems and rashes. Symptoms, as with other metals, depend on the level of exposure so you should always be cautious of this.