Heavy metals can enter the body through the skin or by inhalation or ingestion. Toxicity occurs when the metals displace the essential elements in the body and begin to affect the normal function of various organs. Most people will never be sufficiently exposed to be harmed or require testing.
The majority of acute and chronic exposures occur in the workplace, especially in industries that use metals to manufacture products; such as the cadmium, lead, and mercury used in batteries and the arsenic used in some pesticides. Exposures can also occur in agricultural workers, in people whose job it is to clean up contaminated environmental sites, in those who work with certain products such as auto mechanics working with car batteries, and in those with hobbies that involve the use of metals such as the lead used by stained glass artisans.
Most exposures to excessive concentrations in the general population are primarily due to increased levels of metals in food or water, products that they use, or soil contamination in or near the areas that they work and live.
This article was last reviewed on May 30, 2013. | This article was last modified on May 30, 2013.
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