Intestinal Absorption of Heavy Metals

Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 70 / 1)


Heavy metals have always been present in the natural environment; in addition, throughout history, anthropogenic sources have also contributed to metal accumulation in the human body. For nonsmokers outside of occupational environments, it is the ingestion of metal compounds which constitutes the major source of the body burden. Introduction of metals into the human food chain or water supplies thus poses potentially serious problems. A tragic example of this fact is Itai-Itai disease in Japan, attributed to Cd contamination of irrigation waters used in rice cultivation (Friberg et al. 1975). Minamata disease represents another intance of excessive oral metal exposure, caused by consumption of fish contaminated with methylmercury. Metal contamination of the environment generally tends to increase with industrial and agricultural activities, owing to the presence of these elements in fossil fuels, agricultural fertilizers, by-products of mining or metallurgical industry, etc. There is some urgency, therefore, in the search for ways for explaining and controlling intestinal metal absorption.


Heavy Metal Bile Salt Intestinal Absorption Essential Metal Acrodermatitis Enteropathica 
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