Copper and its compounds are widely used in various industries: textile, engineering, aviation and electrical engineering. In everyday life, this metal is also used, more often in the form of copper sulfate and Bordeaux liquids, which are indispensable in agriculture and garden areas.
Copper is the most important component of the enzyme system of the human body, thanks to which all biochemical processes and hematopoiesis are carried out. The intake of excess amounts leads to copper poisoning. We will try to understand how this manifests itself and what needs to be done in an emergency situation.
Causes of copper poisoning
For normal vital activity, the body needs about 3 mg of copper per day. Stocks are replenished by eating foods rich in this trace element: potatoes, spinach, buckwheat, oats, offal (kidneys, liver). It is impossible to get poisoned in this case.
Toxic concentrations of copper can penetrate the human body in three ways:
- with food, if copper utensils are used for the preparation, a solution or copper dust accidentally fell;
- Inhalation: inhalation of dust in violation of safety procedures during processing and grinding of metal surfaces containing copper;
- through the skin when using compresses with solutions of copper salt, for example, in the treatment of extensive burns.
How copper compounds work on the body
Depending on the way the poison enters the body, irritation of the mucous membrane of the respiratory, digestive or skin organs occurs. Absorbed into the blood, copper acts primarily on red blood cells. The membrane of the red blood cells is damaged, and they are destroyed. The blood receives a significant amount of hemoglobin, which manifests itself in the yellow color of the skin. This process is called hemolysis.
With intoxication with copper, liver cells suffer. The nervous system and the lungs are damaged. Renal failure is developing.
Symptoms of copper poisoning
With copper poisoning, the first symptoms appear 4 hours after the poison has penetrated the body. Sometimes the incubation period lasts two days.
The main complaints when a toxic substance is ingested:
- on the part of the digestive system: pain in the abdomen, taste of metal in the mouth, burning sensation, nausea, vomiting, often bloody or blue, drooling and diarrhea;
- general symptoms of intoxication: headaches, dizziness, general weakness;
- influence on the cardiovascular system: tachycardia, a sharp drop in pressure;
- jaundice as a result of hemolysis and the development of liver failure;
- acute renal insufficiency;
- other symptoms: cramps and breathing disorders.
When the poison is ingested by inhalation, the signs listed below are added to the listed symptoms: "copper fever":
- irritation of the eyes, sneezing, lacrimation;
- chills as a result of temperature increase to 38-39 ° C;
- heavy sweat, severe weakness and pain in the muscles;
- dry cough and shortness of breath;
- possibly, the appearance of an allergic rash.
Poisoning by copper through the skin is rare, since compresses with a solution of copper salts are not widely used. The dry substance does not have a harmful effect, and the accidentally ingested solution can be quickly removed with ordinary water.
Poisoning with copper sulfate
Particular mention should be made of copper sulfate poisoning. This is an aqueous solution of a copper salt of sulfuric acid. Used as an antiseptic, antifungal and fertilizer on household plots, as well as in agriculture. It is widely used for the manufacture of paints, woodworking and plastered surfaces as a fungicide.
The lethal dose when ingested is 8-30 grams. Everything depends on the individual characteristics of the person: weight, age, concomitant diseases, hypersensitivity. Signs of poisoning with copper sulfate are observed when using 0.5 grams of substance.
Copper vitriol is the main constituent of the Bordeaux liquid. It is used to combat mold fungus. Used often. Careless handling can lead to unpleasant consequences.
For poisoning with copper sulfate all symptoms are typical, which are observed when toxic effects of copper-containing compounds.
The first aid for poisoning with copper depends on the way the poisonous substance enters the body.
Help, if the toxic substance was taken orally, is in the following actions.
- Vomit and rinse the stomach until clean water.
- Take activated charcoal: a tablespoon in a glass of water.
- It is mandatory to use salt laxative for rapid cleansing of the digestive tract: Glauber's salt or magnesium sulfate.
- Drink plenty of liquid, excluding fat-containing drinks: milk and oil solutions. This is due to the fact that copper dissolves well in fats. In the water you can add egg white. Do not use sour drink, which is even more irritating to the damaged mucous membrane of the digestive tract.
- With pain in the abdomen to reduce spasm, you can put a warm water bottle.
If the poison has got through the respiratory tract, then when there are signs of "copper fever":
- take plenty of fluids;
- use antipyretic drugs and diuretics.
When copper salts fall on the skin, the affected area should be thoroughly rinsed with water.
In all cases, you need to call an ambulance!
Treatment of copper poisoning
After providing emergency care, further treatment of copper poisoning is carried out by medical personnel: first by an ambulance doctor, then - in a hospital.
The main treatment includes:
- the introduction of a universal antidote - Unithiol (Dimercaprol) every three hours as intramuscular injections;
- antiemetic - Aminazine intravenously;
- as an anesthetic, Morphine or Atropine is administered;
- when hemolysis is used, sodium bicarbonate is dripped intravenously;
- if there are symptoms of a "copper fever", then an intravenous solution of Euphyllin, antitussive or expectorant drugs is needed;
- To remove toxins from the body, hemodialysis is performed;
- vitamin therapy;
- antibacterial preparations if necessary;
- treatment of complications: acute renal, respiratory and heart failure.
All these measures are carried out in the treatment of poisoning with copper sulfate.
In order to avoid the adverse effects of copper, you should know some rules.
- Correct use of copper dishes: do not cook foods containing acid and vinegar; when cooking milk or fats, immediately drain the product after the end of cooking, without waiting for cooling.
- When working with copper sulfate in garden areas, use protective equipment: mask and gloves.
- Do not store toxic substances in containers without identification labels to avoid accidental use, especially by children.
- Observe the safety regulations when handling copper surfaces: wear glasses, gloves and a respirator. Do not work in rooms where food is stored. After work, the shavings and dust should be carefully cleaned with a vacuum cleaner and a damp cleaning done.
- When working with copper joints, do not touch the face with your hands and wipe them against clothing.
In life, every person can face the need to use copper and its compounds. Knowledge of the rules of handling such objects and substances, symptoms of copper poisoning, ways of providing emergency care, can, someone very useful.