Heavy Metals

Heavy metals have caused serious health issues in populations across the globe. Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. represents clients across the country who are ill due to heavy metal exposure.


Lead is a soft metal that has known many applications over the years. It has been used widely since 5000 BC for application in metal products, cables and pipelines, but also in paints and pesticides.

Lead is one of four metals (mercury, arsenic, and cadmium are the others) that have the most damaging effects on human health. It can enter the human body through uptake of food (65%), water (20%), and air (15%). Foods such as fruit, vegetables, meats, grains, seafood, soft drinks, and wine may contain significant amounts of lead. Cigarette smoke also contains small amounts of lead.

Lead can enter drinking water through pipe corrosion. This is more likely to happen when the water is slightly acidic. That is why public water treatment systems are now required to carry out pH adjustments of drinking water.

Lead can cause several unwanted effects, such as:

  • Disruption of the biosynthesis of hemoglobin and anemia
  • A rise in blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Miscarriages and subtle abortions
  • Disruption of nervous systems
  • Brain damage
  • Declined fertility of men through sperm damage
  • Diminished learning abilities in children
  • Behavioral disruptions in children, such as aggression, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity.

Lead can enter a fetus through the placenta of the mother. Because of this it can cause serious damage to the nervous systems and the brains of unborn children.


Mercury is toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and skin absorption. Exposure effects include central nervous system and kidney damage. Short-term exposure symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Painful breathing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Pneumonitis

Long- term exposure effects include:

  • Memory disturbance
  • Hypertension
  • Vision problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Personality changes

Because mercury can cross the blood-brain barrier, and because it can affect brain development, its effects are of special concern to pregnant or lactating women and young children. There are three important types of mercury. Each poses a different health hazard:

  • The pure element
    • Elemental mercury is a liquid and gives off mercury vapor at room temperature. This vapor can be inhaled into the lungs and passed into the blood stream. Elemental mercury can also pass through the skin and into the blood stream. If swallowed, however, this form of mercury is not absorbed out of the stomach, and usually passes out of the body without harm.

  • Inorganic compounds (such as mercuric chloride)
    • Inorganic mercury compounds can be inhaled and absorbed through the lungs, and may pass through the skin. But the compounds can also be absorbed through the stomach if swallowed. Many inorganic mercury compounds are irritating or corrosive to the skin, eyes, and mucus membranes as well.

  • Organic mercury compounds (such as phenyl mercuric propionate)
    • Organic mercury compounds can enter the body readily through all three routes-lungs, skin and stomach.