What are Heavy Metals?
Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight and a density at least 5 times greater than that of water.
Their multiple industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and technological applications have led to their wide distribution in the environment; raising concerns over their potential effects on human health and the environment.
Their toxicity depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, and chemical species, as well as the age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of exposed individuals.
Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance.
These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure.
They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
There are 35 metals that are of concern for us because of residential or occupational exposure, out of which 23 are heavy metals: antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, cerium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tellurium, thallium, tin, uranium, vanadium, and zinc (Mosby et al. 1996).
These heavy metals are commonly found in the environment and diet. In small amounts they are required for maintaining good health but in larger amounts they can become toxic or dangerous.
Heavy metal toxicity can lower energy levels and damage the functioning of the brain, lungs, kidney, liver, blood composition and other important organs. Long-term exposure can lead to gradually progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that imitate diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and muscular dystrophy.
Repeated long-term exposure of some metals and their compounds may even cause cancer (Jarup, 2003). The toxicity level of a few heavy metals can be just above the background concentrations that are being present naturally in the environment. Hence thorough knowledge of heavy metals is rather important for allowing to provide proper defensive measures against their excessive contact (Ferner, 2001).
Source: Pubmed - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4427717/
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