Metals are all around us, and we are often exposed to them through the air, water, and even food. However, exposure to certain heavy metals can have serious health consequences.
So today we are going to talk about some of the most dangerous heavy metals and what should we be looking for to protect ourselves.
What are heavy metals?
Heavy metals have:
- relative high density
- high atomic weight
- high atomic numbers
We can divide them according to their influence on our organism into the following groups:
- necessary for proper body function such as iron and zinc
- harmless in small doses like silver
- highly toxic such as mercury, lead, and cadmium
Although heavy metals are present in the Earth’s crust, they are often used to make things that we handle every day. The danger is that frequent exposure to some metals can lead to the accumulation of these metals in our body.
Mercury causes birth defects
Mercury is one of the most toxic heavy metals, and no living organism needs it to survive. Depending on the dose, it can cause a variety of neurological symptoms such as trouble speaking, hearing or seeing, memory loss, muscle weakness, poor coordination, etc.
In pregnant women, exposure to mercury can lead to miscarriage or giving birth to a child with severe birth defects. In young children, mercury might lead to neurological problems and impede development.
While some of the damage caused by mercury can be fixed, chronic mercury exposure or a high dose can cause irreparable damage to the human body.
Even though mercury is toxic, we usually come into contact with it without realizing. Common sources of mercury are:
- fish ( King Mackerel, shark, swordfish )
- dental fillings
There are also natural sources of mercury such as volcanoes, fossil fuels, and ore. Companies that mine mercury also are responsible for the contamination of the water, soil, and air with this heavy metal.
Lead is poisonous
Another one common heavy metal that we encounter in your everyday life is lead. It has wide application in industry, and we often come in contact with it through contaminated water, food, and air.
Lead poisoning is difficult to diagnose because people with high levels of lead in the blood might not have any noticeable symptoms. However, when lead accumulates in great amounts it can cause:
- high blood pressure
- memory issues
- mood swings
- muscle pain
It’s especially dangerous for pregnant women. Just like mercury, it causes miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. And children are especially at risk of impeded development.
Cadmium causes cancer
Cadmium is one of those heavy metals that are toxic even in extremely small doses. What’s more, once cadmium is absorbed in the human body, it can stay for years before the body gets rid of it. Most often exposure to cadmium leads to:
- kidney disease
- obstructive lung disease
- bone defects
- irreversible loss of smell ( when exposed chronically to cadmium fumes)
Cadmium is a known carcinogenic factor, and it’s present in high concentration in the cigarette smoke. Cadmium is also found in:
- some batteries
- metal plating
- farm fertilizers
- industrial paints
Exposure to any one of these three heavy metals can have dangerous and deadly consequences for your health. Even in small doses. That’s why you should be extra careful when you come in contact with them.