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As Be Cd Cr Co Cu F Pb Hg Ni Tl

Excessive copper absorption can occur through the skin, by inhalation or by ingestion. Copper is regularly used in agricultural chemicals for mildew prevention, and as algicides in water treatment of industrial waters. It is also used as a preservative for wood, leather, and fabrics. Workers in, or those living near mines, smelters, metal fabrication and manufacturing plants, wood treatment plants, phosphate fertilizer plants, and waste water plants may also experience excessive copper exposure. (reference)

Copper poisoning has been observed after accidental or intentional copper sulfate ingestion or in kidney dialysis patients due to use of contaminated water or leaching from dialysis membranes. Acute ingestion of excessive copper can cause the following symptoms

  • Diarrhea

  • Epigastric pain and discomfort

  • Blood in the urine

  • Liver damage

  • Low blood pressure

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Kidney failure due to severe intravascular haemolysis

Lapidaries (rock and gem polishers) have at times been sickened by absorption of copper while polishing malachite gemstones or carvings. It is possible that such absorption could occur in other instances where copper dissolved in a solvent or oil comes in regular contact with the skin. Swimming in lakes that have been treated with copper-bearing algicides, or that receive effluent from copper-treated cooling towers can also result in dermal absorption.

Airborne copper sources can include fumes from smelting operations, or dust from any of the many processes involving copper and its compounds. Chronic exposure to copper dust can irritate the nose, mouth, and eyes, and cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a limit of 0.1 mg/m3 of copper fumes (vapor generated from heating copper) and 1 mg/m3 of copper dusts (fine metallic copper particles) and mists (aerosol of soluble copper) in workroom air during an 8-hour work shift, 40-hour workweek.

Probably the most likely route of excessive copper intake for most people will be through drinking water. Although high copper concentrations are rare in most water sources, all water is aggressive toward copper, brass and bronze plumbing fixtures to some extent. In some cases the water will dissolve some of the copper, especially when it sits for long in pipes. Therefore, it is a good practice to flush any faucet not used recently (overnight) for 15-30 seconds before drinking from it or drawing cooking water. Soft water is more aggressive than hard water, because hard water will often lay down a protective scale layer that keeps the water from direct contact with the pipe. (Note, the same considerations will apply to lead exposure from drinking water)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an action level of 1.3 mg/l in drinking water. Above that level, the water utility must put in place, a corrosion control program comprising fixture/pipe replacement, pipe passivation with phosphate- or silica-based corrosion inhibitors, or pH, calcium and alkalinity adjustment. The EPA has determined that copper is not classifiable as to carcinogenicity.

Toxic Elements: Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Fluorine, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Thallium