Thallium Poisoning

Thallium is the element rat poison and industrial waste.

Thallium is released into the environment through its use in rat poison in the manufacture of special glass, fluorescent colors and synthetic gemstones. Thallium poisoning is associated with these environment exposures. Thallium poisoning begins mildly involves nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, followed by a symptom-free period of 2 to 3 days. After this, serious gastric illness (vomiting and diarrhea) reappears a accompanied by kidney damage. As poisoning progresses, nerve damage develops (toxic polyneuropathy)which affects the legs in particular. A complete loss of hair is characteristic and occurs after the 13th days of poisoning at the earliest. Pubic and underarm hair may also be affected. In less severe cases, general hair loss may be the only noticeable symptom. After 3 to 4 weeks, vertical stripes of a half-moon shaped typically appear on fingernails and toenails. There is a fast and simple cure for thallium poisoning.

Thallium Poisoning and Your Body

Thallium salts are absorbed well in the intestine and tend to accumulate in hair and skin, this can lead to thallium poisoning. With a half-life of 14 days, they are eventually excreted through the kidneys and intestinal tract. Poisoning can also affect animals for example, if the rats that have been poisoned by thallium are eaten by cats. An incident in 1988 still serves as a cautionary reminder today. The media published headlines “Soviet children suffer from environmental illness” and described an illness that affected about 120 children in the Soviet Union. Beginning with flu-like symptoms and hallucinations and ending with hair loss, this illness brought panic to the Russian city of Tschernowizy. Thallium poisoning was eventually identified and acid rain region was suspected to be the cause. Fortunately, all children recover completely.

Thallium Poisoning Case

Heidelberg-Emmertsgrund is a relatively well known residential area in Germany only 4 miles from the city of Leiman where the tennis star Boris Becker was born. Many years ago, industrial wastes of the nearby concrete plant had been deposited in Heidelberg. Frequent large-scale psychological disturbances, including high suicide rate, were observed in this area. Alexander Mitcherlich, a renowned psychologist, conducted intensive studies. At first, the situation was explained by psychological and social factors pertaining to a ghetto lifestyle. However, it was discovered that the soils in this area contained levels of thallium so high health apartment authority should never have allowed residential development. In retrospect, high thallium levels could be associated with psychological problems.

In Europe, occupational thallium poisoning is covered by workers compensation.

These previously existing contaminants (and other toxins) will likely not be limited to isolated cases. Radioactive substances and spreading landfill sites many of which include industrial waste will also continue to threaten our environment. The maintenance requirements of nuclear power plants are increasing faster than the risk awareness among the public. Current sanitary and protective measures associated with these industries are costly and will become even more expensive and extensive in the future.

General environmental protection measures are important not only for thallium, but for many hazardous substances. Protection measures include reducing waste and environmental pollution. Batteries for example can now be produced without mercury. Use rechargeable batteries to reduce the total number batteries that require mercury. Batteries will often contain lead and cadmium. Newer lithium batteries are effective and more environmentally friendly.

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