Toxic Lead

Lead toxicity is an important environmental disease and its effects on the human body are devastating. There is almost no function in the human body which is not affected by lead toxicity. Though in countries like US and Canada the use of lead has been controlled up to a certain extent, it is still used vehemently in the developing countries. Lead is highly persistent in the environment and because of its continuous use its levels rise in almost every country, posing serious threats.

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Heavy metals, including lead, create reactive radicals which damage cell structures, including DNA and cell membrane. Lead also interferes with the enzymes that help in the synthesis of vitamin D and with enzymes that maintain the integrity of the cell membrane. Lead was also found to interfere with DNA transcription.

5 Common Foods loaded with lead

How are people exposed to arsenic?

There is no safe amount of lead intake for the human body, especially for children under the age of 6. Although it’s impossible to completely avoid consuming any lead, it is very important to be aware of lead levels in certain foods.

Mercury

Mercury occurs naturally in the earth's crust. It is released into the environment from volcanic activity, weathering of rocks and as a result of human activity. Human activity is the main cause of mercury releases, particularly coal-fired power stations, residential coal burning for heating and cooking, industrial processes, waste incinerators and as a result of mining for mercury, gold and other metals.

Once in the environment, mercury can be transformed by bacteria into methylmercury. Methylmercury then bioaccumulates (bioaccumulation occurs when an organism contains higher concentrations of the substance than do the surroundings) in fish and shellfish. Methylmercury also biomagnifies. For example, large predatory fish are more likely to have high levels of mercury as a result of eating many smaller fish that have acquired mercury through ingestion of plankton.

People may be exposed to mercury in any of its forms under different circumstances. However, exposure mainly occurs through consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury and through worker inhalation of elemental mercury vapors during industrial processes. Cooking does not eliminate mercury.

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How are people exposed to arsenic?

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, as well as being present in some man-made products. We normally take in small amounts in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Most arsenic compounds have no smell or taste, so usually you can’t tell if arsenic is in your air, food, or water. People who live near current or former industrial or agricultural sources of arsenic can be exposed to higher levels by inhaling fumes or eating contaminated food. People can also take in higher levels of arsenic if they live in areas where arsenic levels are naturally high in the drinking water or if they eat a lot of rice or seafood.