GEOSCAN Search Results: Fastlink


TitleMetals and health: how safe are we?
AuthorPercival, J BORCID logo; Bobrowsky, P TORCID logo
SourceGeological Association of Canada-Mineralogical Association of Canada, Joint Annual Meeting, Abstracts Volume vol. 33, 2008 p. 133 Open Access logo Open Access
LinksOnline - En ligne
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20080630
MeetingJoint Meeting of the Geological Association of Canada, Mineralogical Association of Canada, Society of Economic Geologists and the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits; Québec; CA; May 26-28, 2008
Lang.English; English
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
Subjectsenvironmental geology; metallic minerals; metals; heavy metals contamination; environmental impacts; environmental studies; health hazards
ProgramEnvironment and Health
AbstractSociety's complex relationship with geology is best examined through our dependence on metals. Indeed, humans have been using metals for over 8000 years. Many of the original commodities exploited (i.e., Ag, Au, Cu, Fe, Hg, Pb and Sn) were used in making jewellery, weapons, cosmetics, and in rituals, and were often symbols of wealth. These metals were first discovered and used in their native state (except Pb from galena and Sn from cassiterite); smelting followed around 4500 years ago as a means to acquire metals and create alloys such as bronze. The potential toxicity of some of these metals was recognized in ancient times; for example, Roman slaves regularly died when exposed to Hg vapours in the Spanish mines (ca., 2400 years B.P.). Despite this knowledge, Hg was used medicinally up to the 1950s and even today Hg is still widely used in dental amalgam, in developing countries to extract Au and in certain cults in their talismans. In contrast, metals such as Cu, Fe, I, Se and Zn are considered essential trace elements.

Although we understand how metals and metalloids behave in the environment and how they can impact human and environmental health (e.g., toxicity related to Pb and neurological behaviour, F and skeletal fluorosis, As and cancer; and deficiencies related to I and goitre, Se and Keshan Syndrome, and so on), a myriad of issues need to be addressed including: understanding exposure pathways and confounding factors (e.g., smoking); determining bioaccessibility and bioavailability; and examining how geological materials become either a hazard or a health benefit. Geoscientists working with health professionals can assist in epidemiological studies. Educating decision makers and the general public on the hazards of metals and metalloids will aid in mitigation and promote a healthy environment. Geology and health is an emerging field, and in this International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) finding manageable solutions to the legacy of metals in the environment is critical. This talk examines the many faces of metals, including both their nutritional role and their potentially detrimental effects on human and environmental health.

Date modified: