Exposure to heavy metals is preponderantly environmental
Most cases of heavy metal exposure are the result of the inhalation or ingestion of these dangerous agents from the environment. It is worthy of note that heavy metals accumulate in the body over the years, being able to lead to serious diseases such as kidney cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and liver cancer.
Surprisingly, up to 90% of the mercury in the human body is the result of eating contaminated fish and shellfish. The health consequences of prolonged exposure to heavy metals include behavioral disruptions, hallucinations, and personality changes. Heavy metals can also take a heavy toll on the circulatory, digestive, reproductive, and nervous systems.
Furthermore, occupational exposure to mercury poses a tremendous threat to the health of employees. Over 15 million gold miners are currently working with mercury worldwide. The following is a complete list of heavy metals, their sources, and the health effects of exposure to them:
- Aluminum: The main sources of aluminum exposure are food, beverages, and medications that contain it. However, exposure may also occur when one inhales aluminum dust in the workplace, when a person lives in close proximity to places where aluminum is mined or processed and when one lives nearby hazardous waste sites.
- Antimony: This is deemed as one of the most toxic heavy metals. It can be found in metal alloys, paints, ceramics, and fireworks.
- Arsenic: Up to 70% of the world's production of arsenic is used in timber treatment, 22% in agricultural chemicals, and the remaining in glass, pharmaceuticals, and metallic alloys. Some of the sources of exposure to arsenic are mining, metal smelting, and burning of fossil fuels, all of which industrial processes that release great amounts of arsenic into the environment. However, arsenic can also be present in groundwater, fish, and shellfish.
- Barium: As a very abundant, naturally occurring heavy metal, barium is used for a wide range of industrial purposes. Barium compounds, such as barium-nickel alloys, are used for spark-plug electrodes and in vacuum tubes as a drying and oxygen-removing agent, barium sulfide is employed in fluorescent lamps, barium sulfate is used in diagnostic medicine, while barium nitrate and chlorate give fireworks a green color. Barium compounds are also employed in drilling muds, paint, bricks, ceramics, glass, and rubber.
- Bismuth: This heavy metal is the main ingredient in numerous alloys and products.
- Cadmium: This is a very toxic heavy metal. All soils and rocks, including coal and mineral fertilizers, contain a certain amount of cadmium. Cadmium has many uses, such as batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics.
- Chromium: Commonly found in rocks, animals, plants, and soil, chromium can be liquid, solid, or gas. The compounds of this heavy metal bind to soil and rarely travel to groundwater, but they are very persistent in sediments in the water. Chromium is used in metal alloys such as stainless steel, protective coatings on metal and magnetic tapes, as well as in pigments for paints, cement, paper, rubber, and composition floor covering.
- Cobalt: This heavy metal is mostly used to manufacture jet engines. It can also be found in tobacco smoke, as tobacco leaves absorb and accumulate cobalt from the environment.
- Copper: Copper is largely used to make electrical wires.
- Gold: As a precious metal, gold is mainly used for the manufacturing of jewelry. However, it can also be found in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Iron: Iron is a vital component that is found in our bodies. Nevertheless, when we have more iron than we would normally have, we may experience health problems.
- Lead: As a consequence of human activities such as fossil fuel burning, mining, and manufacturing, lead and lead compounds can be found in all parts of the environment. Lead is employed in numerous different ways. It is used to produce batteries, ammunition, metal products such as solder and pipes, as well as X-ray shielding devices. It is a highly toxic metal and, as a result of related health concerns, the use of lead in several products, including gasoline, paints, and pipe solder, has been greatly reduced over recent years.
- Lithium: This heavy metal is used to manufacture glasses and pharmaceuticals.
- Manganese: Manganese is present in a wide variety of foods, such as whole grains, clams, oysters, mussels, nuts, soybeans and other legumes, rice, leafy vegetables, coffee, tea, and numerous spices, such as black pepper. Nonetheless, overexposure to it can result in poisoning.
- Mercury: This heavy metal combines with other elements to create organic and inorganic mercury compounds. Metallic mercury is employed to manufacture chlorine gas and caustic soda and is also used in thermometers, dental fillings, switches, light bulbs, and batteries. Power plants that burn coal are the largest source of mercury emissions in the air in the United States.
- Nickel: The main source of nickel is plants. Plants growing in soil contaminated with nickel may contain large amounts of this heavy metal. Overexposure to nickel can result in lung cancer.
- Phosphorous: The primary sources of phosphorous are agriculture, stormwater, wastewater, and fossil fuels.
- Platinum: Platinum is found in its pure native form or in platiniridium, a natural alloy of platinum and iridium.
- Selenium: This heavy metal is a trace mineral that can be found in the majority of rocks and soils. Processed selenium is used by the electronics industry, as a nutritional supplement, by the glass industry, in plastics, paints, enamels, inks, and rubber, in the preparation of pharmaceuticals, as a nutritional feed additive for poultry and livestock, in pesticide formulations, in rubber production and as a constituent of fungicides. Furthermore, radioactive selenium is employed in diagnostic medicine.
- Silver: This common heavy metal typically combines with other elements such as sulfide, chloride, and nitrate. Silver is used to make jewelry, silverware, electronic equipment, and dental fillings. Silver metal is also employed in electrical contacts and conductors, in brazing alloys and solders, and in mirrors. Additionally, silver compounds are used in photographic film. Dilute solutions of silver nitrate and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants.
- Thallium: Thallium is mostly present in the sulfide ores of zinc, copper, and lead, as well as in coal. The majority of anthropogenic sources of thallium are emissions and solid wastes from coal combustion and ferrous and nonferrous smelting.
- Tin: Cassiterite is the only mineral of commercial importance as a source of tin. However, small amounts of tin can be found in complex sulfides such as stannite, cylindrite, franckeite, canfieldite, and teallite. The majority of tin is used as a protective coating or as alloys with other heavy metals such as lead or zinc.
- Zinc: Most zinc is found during industrial activities such as mining, coal and waste combustion, and steel processing. Numerous foods contain a certain amount of zinc. Zinc is also present in drinking water, in which higher levels of this heavy metal can be found when it is stored in metal tanks. Zinc poisoning causes the person to experience flu-like symptoms, stomach, and intestinal disturbances, and liver dysfunction.
In 2019, the National Poisoning Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Center reported 8,039 cases of single exposures to heavy metals, out of which 2,497 occurred in children younger than 6 and 3,534 affected patients older than 19. In the United States, lead is the most frequently encountered heavy metal. In children, exposure was found to be the consequence of living in houses that contained lead paint. According to estimates, approximately 4 million households throughout the country have children that are exposed to lead on a regular basis. Overexposure to lead has neurodevelopmental outcomes in children younger than 5 years.
If you or your community was exposed to dangerous amounts of heavy metals, either through drinking water, contaminated food, or polluted air, and developed serious diseases, you are entitled to financial compensation from the liable party. Specializing in toxic exposure, our legal team is here to help you recover the money you deserve for your suffering. We will file a lawsuit or a class-action lawsuit, depending on the number of plaintiffs, which is bound to result in the most favorable outcome for you or your community, as we have been pursuing compensation for victims of toxic exposure since 1990. It is important to know that working with our law firm is free of charge unless we recover compensation on your behalf, as we work on a contingency fee basis.