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What are Heavy Metals and how dangerous they are?

Updated on April 5, 2015

What is Heavy Metals

Heavy metals are dangerous because they tend to bioaccumulation. Most often these heavy metals are highly accumulate in the end of food chain in high concentration. These heavy metal are mostly lipophilic that means they have high affinity to bind with lipid. Therefore these heavy metals may highly affect for mothers milk. Many papers proved that the first child get high amount of heavy metal impacts rather than other childrens. So be careful on heavy metals must be an advantage to have a healthy children.

Toxic Effect of Heavy Metal

These heavy metals cause toxic effect, because it can cross through the cell membrane. And also metals like cadmium can bind to the proteins. So it can easily get in to the cell normally by endocytosis. When these metals enter to the cell it causes many toxic effects.

In what medium is the most heavy metal contamination effect ?

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Common mechanism of toxicity

Following are Common mechanism of toxicity which is use in heavy metals.

1. Enzyme inhibition

2. Toxic effects on sub cellular organelles (inhibition of mitochondria)

3. Nephrotoxicity- toxic damage to the kidney is a common effect of metal (like Cd) toxicity, especially in inorganic form (which can easily dissolve in water)

4. Nervous System Toxicity-because of the lipophilicity these metals can cross blood brain barrier. (E.g. Pd, Cd) and damage nervous system

5. Damage to the endocrine system- these heavy metals cause serious damages to reproductive organs. Due to the result of exposure to high level of cadmium can cause testicular injuries.

Effects of Heavy Metals

Marine and freshwater plankton, especially diatoms are very sensitive to these chemicals and higher plants like kankun which grows in polluted water has high concentration of mercury. To remove these metals can grow plants which are not consumed by people, and after they grow they can be removed. This mechanism is known as photoremidiation. Also proper waste management and awareness help to control this heavy metal pollution. long term mechanism such as delayed context of toxicity (A property of a pesticide in which the effects of the pesticide do not occur immediately after exposure) have to be implemented be respective authorities and governments.And also environment protection agency has done many contributions to control this heavy metal pollution.

Introduction of Heavy Metals

Solution for Heavy Metal Contamination

Occupational exposure can reduced by engineering solutions that address the manufacturing process, collecting and removing fumes, reducing dusts, and substituting other materials when possible. For example, in recent years, the pottery industry has replaced certain lead compounds in their products that used as dishes or food containers. In most countries, laws which pass to protect workers, setting limits of exposure, requiring monitoring in the workplace and medical surveillance of workers, and making recommendations like No smoking, eating, or drinking in work areas, Providing appropriate protective clothing that will stay at the facility, Providing showering facilities as needed and Work clothes and street clothes will not kept in the same area.

Place where garbage collect to river

Status in kelani river (Sri Lanka)

When applied pesticides to paddy fields 99.6% will get evaporate and 0.4% will flow to rivers and other water bodies in water 0.3% get evaporated and all heavy metals accumulated in water and get concentrated 1% of heavy metal in aquatic animals. Therefore one way of getting heavy metals in to our body is applying pesticides. In street person, traffic police men, three-wheeler drivers and motor cycle drivers are most often exposed to this toxic heavy metal (vapor). Disposal of garbage is another source of heavy metal accumulation. For example Orugodawatta garbage disposal site flow in to the Kelani River. Some families live around the Kelani River have high mercury level (0.514) in their body

Heavy Metal Pollution in Sri Lanka

Heavy metal pollution in Sri Lanka happens basically due to the poor management and this heavy metal situation is not much considered and studied here. In Sri Lanka garbage just collected and dumped without sorting. Therefore metals coming from industries, houses (mercury bulb) and various other sources are getting accumulated in garbage.

Colombo city situated on the water table. Therefore it is very important to protect water table from contaminates. People in Colombo city dispose 1500 metric tons of solid waste per day. Studies done in Navinna area revealed that mercury, a cadmium and chromium level in well water is greater than the standard values of drinking water. But fortunately no heavy metal poisoning recorded in Sri Lanka up to now.

By considering above facts you can imagine the risk factor of the heavy metal contamination. So keep environment safe is one of the major duties of humans otherwise there will no earth to stand for human or any living species.So by protecting the environment will keep us survive for longer time with no harassment.


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