Poisoning with heavy metal salts
In nature, there are about forty chemical elements called heavy metals. They surround us everywhere: contained in the soil, water, air, are used in everyday life. Some of them in the form of trace elements are present in living organisms and plants, are involved in all metabolic processes.
In small quantities and with proper use, heavy metals are beneficial. But with excessive accumulation in the tissues, when foreign elements enter the body, symptoms of heavy metal poisoning appear. Therefore, let's get acquainted with the most dangerous of them, with the effect that heavy metal salts have on humans, learn how to recognize poisoning and provide first aid, what kind of treatment is being performed.
What metals are dangerous
The most toxic metals are:
Most often, poisoning occurs in industrial plants in emergency situations. The cause of intoxication can also serve as funds aimed at the destruction of rodents, insects, weeds. Heavy metals contained:
- in medicinal preparations;
- tobacco smoke;
- exhaust gases;
- petroleum products;
- in some types of dishes and containers (cans);
- food may become infected.
Poisoning by salts of heavy metals occurs when the toxin enters the digestive system, inhalation of vapors, through the mucous membranes and the skin. It affects the nervous system, kidneys, intestines, liver, endocrine organs, heart and blood vessels. In addition to toxic effects, heavy metals have a local cauterizing and irritating effect. Toxins can accumulate in the kidneys, liver, and lead in bones. Therefore, they circulate in the body for a long time, gradually being released into the blood from their depots, leading to a chronic process.
Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning
Acute poisoning with heavy metal salts has similar symptoms when any of these elements enter the body. Most often, the poison penetrates the organs of digestion. In this case, the following complaints:
- taste of metal in the mouth;
- hyperemia of the mucous membrane of the mouth and throat;
- pain when swallowing;
- pain along the esophagus;
- stomach ache;
- constipation (with lead poisoning) or loose stools;
- bleeding, the source of which can serve: the esophagus, stomach and intestines;
- ulcers and erosion of the mucous membrane of the mouth, esophagus, stomach.
In cases of lead and mercury poisoning, a dark-colored fringe appears on the gums, teeth become loose, pain in the oral cavity, gingival bleeding, excessive production of saliva, and submandibular lymph nodes increase.
Vomitus with a bluish tint appear if there is copper in the body.
When poisoning with heavy metals also appear symptoms of damage to other organs and systems.
- The cardiovascular system responds by fluctuating blood pressure: the rise is replaced by a sharp drop. Dyspnea, cyanosis or hyperemia of the face with the accompanying pallor of other parts of the body appears. When lead poisoning develops bradycardia.
- Impairment of the consciousness indicates a lesion of the nervous system: euphoria with psychomotor agitation, disorientation, stunning, stupor and coma. Appear: convulsions, paralysis, including the respiratory center, hallucinations, insomnia, gait imbalance, impaired coordination of movement.
- With kidney damage, nephropathy develops, which may be complicated by acute renal failure. At the same time, the excretory function suffers: little urine is formed, its discharge periodically is absent. Later urine increases. In the study in the urine protein is detected. The blood increases the level of creatinine and urea. In case of thallium poisoning, the urine becomes green.
- With the defeat of the liver tissue there is an increase in the liver. The main changes are detected by biochemical blood tests (high ALT, AST numbers).
- Visual disorders: double vision, reduced vision.
- Other symptoms of poisoning: fever, hypothermia in lead poisoning. In the blood, hemolysis is observed (excessive destruction of red blood cells), anemia, an increase in the number of leukocytes, accelerated ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate).
- In severe cases, exotoxic shock and death develop.
When vapors are inhaled, complaints of cough, mostly dry, come out in the first place, with the appearance of sputum, blood can be detected, fever appears, pneumonia and pulmonary edema develop.
If the poison enters the body by contact (through the skin), for example, when poisoning with mercury ointment, toxic dermatitis develops. Itching, papular-petechial rash, folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles), hyperthermia appear at the site of application. After some time, general toxic effects appear as a result of the absorption of poison and its ingress into the blood.
Sensitive disorders, muscle weakness (especially in the limbs), and hair loss are characteristic of thallium poisoning.
A feature of chromium poisoning is the perforation (through hole) of the cartilage of the nasal septum.
In case of poisoning with heavy metals, the diagnosis is based on the data of the anamnesis (under what conditions the poisoning occurred), the clinical picture, its features, the data of instrumental and laboratory research methods.
First aid for poisoning with heavy metal salts
To provide first aid in case of poisoning with heavy metal salts, the following measures should be taken.
- In case of ingestion of a poison by inhalation, remove the victim from the danger zone.
- For contact admission - wash the affected skin.
- If the poison got into the digestive system - it is necessary to wash the stomach. Independent implementation of this procedure is not recommended, especially if poisonous, having a cauterizing effect, is inhaled into the digestive system. You must use a probe. At the same time, at the beginning of washing and at the end of the procedure, a 5% solution of Unithiol (up to 300 ml) is introduced through a probe. In case of lead poisoning, preference is given to 2% soda solution. You can use saline.
- You must give the victim a laxative: petroleum jelly or castor oil.
In all cases, the victim should be hospitalized in the toxicology department.
Treatment for heavy metal poisoning
Further treatment of poisoning with heavy metals is carried out in a hospital.
- Forced diuresis: the introduction of significant amounts of fluid and drugs that have a diuretic effect. The purpose of the procedure is the rapid elimination of poison from the body, the prevention of acute renal failure and liver damage.
- The introduction of antidotes: EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) for lead poisoning, Unithiol and sodium thiosulfate.
- Symptomatic therapy is to maintain the basic functions of the body in order to prevent and treat exotoxic shock: analgesics, including narcotic, antispasmodics, infusion therapy, glucocorticoids.
- For the treatment of burns are used enveloping drugs and antibiotics.
- Treatment of toxic liver damage: vitamins, hepatoprotectors.
- If necessary, carry out blood purification using hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis.
Treatment takes from 10–18 days for mild to moderate poisoning, and up to one and a half months in case of severe condition of the victim. The rehabilitation period is time consuming. The function of the kidneys, liver and nervous system may not be fully recovered.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the possibility of poisoning with heavy metals must be taken very seriously. Chronic forms of intoxication are becoming increasingly common. This can be an occupational disease in people working in hazardous conditions. But, perhaps, the development of both acute and chronic poisoning in any person in the most ordinary situations. Take care of children especially!